the story behind
There is a story behind every brand. In our category ‘Behind the Brand’ the designers share their candid insight about their inspiration, the production process, and the people behind the brand. We sat down with JJ Martin, founder of her colourful label La DoubleJ.
La DoubleJ is more than a fashion brand - it started as a shoppable magazine. When and how did you decide to turn it into a full lifestyle label?
I started the brand in 2015, selling vintage clothing and jewelry online and showing it all on Milan's creative women. I think the website stood out at the time because the visuals and the imagery were really fresh and different. We had a tongue-in-cheek tone of voice and the vintage clothes were extremely bold and patterned. It got a lot of attention, but our challenge was sourcing the best vintage product - which is very difficult because of sizing.
JJ Martin, founder of La DoubleJ
That's why I decided to create one new dress using eight vintage patterns I found in a silk archive in Lake Como. I did that on a whim as something fun to do, it wasn't a conscious choice to turn my company into a full lifestyle label - it happened slowly and progressively doing one product at a time: one dress, one skirt, one shirt and so on. That was in 2016. A year after that, in 2017, we launched printed plates, printed table linens and the homeware label was born.
How would you describe the aesthetic identity of La DoubleJ?
Whether we're designing the swim collection, outerwear, eveningwear or porcelain vases and murano glasses, the whole world of our product comes from my own personal love for mood-boosting, heart-lifting, colourful product and bold Italian design. We always try to keep that feel, whether we are doing napkins or handbags. La DoubleJ should bring joy and uplift - it's a state of mind.
Where does the inspiration for the collections come from and how do you stay inspired?
We are always on a quest to design the perfect dress for every occasion, so we're always tweaking existing models until we get the perfect silhouette for any occasion; taking women from Monday to Sunday, sunrise to sunset and everything in between.
“We're always tweaking existing models until we get the perfect silhouette for any occasion; taking women from Monday to Sunday, sunrise to sunset and everything in between."
The collections are created with eye-popping vintage patterns - how do you find these?
We began our collections using entirely vintage prints in my own collection and archives in Italy. But now our team is growing so much, that half the prints you see are created in-house using our own design team.
What does a week at La DoubleJ look like?
It's nuts! We are a swarming nest of creative bees and our hive has over-expanded.
We're working on top of each other but we're buzzing around each other supportively and happily and there are good vibes. We're young and unstructured now, so our daily life is hectic but free from a creative standpoint.
Do you have an icon or muse in mind when designing the collection?
The Italians have always been a great source of inspiration for me, ever since I moved to Italy 18 years ago. Their level of taste and style is very high, really impressive and very motivating. The Italian women are unafraid of colour which makes them ideal muses for me. We also focused on the Sciura (a lady from the city center of Milan, who is elegant in both her behavior and style, red.) and the country's Great Gorgeous Girls to highlight women who inspired us. There's a whole section of our website dedicated to them.
How did you get into the world of fashion?
I was obsessed with fashion from a young age, but I grew up in LA where there wasn't really a culture for that. After graduating from college at UC Berkeley, I got into the only creative field that was available in San Francisco: advertising. Luckily for me, the company soon got a fashion client - Tommy Hilfiger - and from there I ended up working in marketing for Calvin Klein in New York.
How should women feel when they wear La DoubleJ?
The point of our clothes and our company is to raise your vibration. That means putting on a colourful print or an inspiring colour combination that just lifts your mood, your state of mind, brings joy to yourself and those around you.
“You can't always control creativity and so I have learned to go with the flow. It's funny how life takes you in the direction you need to go."
In what kind of item should everyone invest?
At La DoubleJ, we like to talk about degrees of maximalism. Even if you happen to be a minimalist, you can buy into the print world with something small, like a perfectly cut, buttoned down shirt in silk twill or a beautiful set of printed napkins for your all white table. From there, you can build on more richly patterned combinations by matching your printed shirt with a printed skirt and then putting on a printed coat and a scarf - the choice is yours.
The La DoubleJ pieces are mostly made of silk. How do you keep these items in the best possible condition?
Actually, only 40% of our products are made of silk and we have many different weights. All of the LDJ fabrics are made in Italy - most of them are made on the shores of Lake Como, but we also make our knitwear in Le Marche. These are all extremely high-end luxurious fabrics with the finest finishings and they do require a certain amount of attention. You should never leave a dirty garment not cleaned - a stain will become unremovable. Keep your items ironed and hung in your closets with enough space around them so they're not crushed. Check your temperature too! For example, silk can't be in humidity - if you live in Bali, you have to air it out or opt for something more durable, like cotton poplin or sable which we also make a lot of.
What is your favourite part about being a designer?
The pure act of creativity is something that is deeply inspiring and fulfilling. You can't always control creativity and so I have learned to go with the flow. It's funny how life takes you in the direction you need to go.
What is the most crucial aspect of your design process?
The selection of the prints. We always start each collection with extensive research in which I think I'm really talented at and that sets the tone for the entire collection.
What does La DoubleJ contain to sustainability?
We have made a concerted effort to produce everything in Italy using historic suppliers - a commitment to the preservation of crafts. It's really important nowadays to understand where your garments are made; not just the fabrics but also how the people who made them are treated. I encourage everyone to do more deep diving.
What is your greatest accomplishment at La DoubleJ?
It's pretty hard to start a brand from scratch these days, with no outside investment, and to be profitable. To create our own content and our own e-commerce that looks so unique, makes me proud too. We're not just another fashion company who is trying to sell clothes - we share and communicate with our community and I love that.
Any future plans you would like to share with us?
We're really excited about our new shoe collaboration with Fabrizio Vitti that's launching in March as well as our Acqua di Parma collaboration where you will see a mix of beauty products alongside the essential Italian summer vacation kit. Also, watch out for a whole new homeware collection coming up in April at Salone del Mobile.
Discover the La DoubleJ collection by Pauw here.