Cheerful, exuberant, curious. That sums up Jennifer Jane Martin, known to all as JJ, queen of vintage and founder of the DoubleJ brand. But taking a closer look, it’s not quite as easy to describe this American reporter and Italian businesswoman. Discovery and metamorphosis appear to be her drivers. Colour and a love of beautiful things are the source of her energy. JJ doesn’t believe in charts or standardisation, she has her own driving force: her experiences in cities as diverse as they are intriguing - Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Milan – have shaped her and inspired her to live the present with intensity
A successful freelance journalist, her career took off when she moved to Milan in 2001, as Italian correspondent for the Fashion Wire Daily, one of the first online daily fashion magazines. She was then spotted by Suzy Menkes, who invited her to work for the International Herald Tribune. Thus began her ascent through the leading publications – she was European Editor of Harper’s Bazaar US until 2009, before becoming Editor-at-Large for Wallpaper magazine, and Editor of the WSJ Wall Street Journal magazine.
In 2015, she founded LaDoubleJ.com, an online site and shop featuring a carefully chosen selection of fashion pieces, accessories and jewellery, all strictly vintage. Over time, they have been joined by objects and fabrics for the home, tableware in particular. She made her debut in the world of design at the last Salone del Mobile.
Who is J. J. Martin, in just a few words …
I’m an American who has been living in Milan for 17 years. I began my career here as a fashion and design journalist for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, WSJ and Wallpaper*. Three years ago I founded La DoubleJ.com, a website selling vintage clothing and jewellery. We have now expanded into making new clothes, accessories and homeware with vintage prints that we source from the Mantero silk archive in Lake Como.
Where does your love of vintage come from?
It’s really a two-fold love for print as well as for one of a kind objects. Since I was a child, I’ve always been attracted to a lot of colour and pattern which vintage items usually have. It’s a generational thing. No one was wearing a lot of black or pure light in their daily wardrobes or in their homes in the 1960s and 70s. Vintage also ensures a piece will be one of a kind- that’s the beauty of vintage objects and also the difficulty with selling them!
How does being a journalist influence your fashion and your design and vice versa?
My journalism background gave me a great propensity for research and digging around. You have to be curious and open minded to be a journalist. You also have to know how to communicate properly. The communication aspect of creativity is often very much overlooked. I always think when I design something new, ‘how will the customer react, what will be their experience and what kind of story can we tell about this?’
How do you find and refuel your inspiration?
First of all, my inspiration comes from Italy, my adopted home. I’m very inspired by all of the historic Italian producers and manufacturers we work with- from Mantero and Ancap to Salviatti and Kartell. Their experience, know-how and archives are remarkable. But mainly my inspiration comes from my own heart; the more I spend time excavating my own consciousness and heart space, the more amazing things bubble up to the surface. The trick to creativity is following your own intuition, I’ve learned.
How important is the emotional aspect in the production of designer clothing, accessories and objects? What about the functional aspect? How do you manage to combine looks and practicality?
The emotional component is the most important aspect of any object that is designed. The products have to come from the heart and they have to touch the hearts of consumers as well. Otherwise it’s just toothpaste. Afterwards, of course, these objects also have to be functional. There’s no sense in wearing something uncomfortable and weird like one legged pants.
What’s your design like and what will it be like?
My pieces all come from the same place: a sense of joyful, ease. These are products that are meant to make you smile, make you happy and bring some lightness to your life. Prints and patterns always do that. It’s the magic of color.
How did your project La DoubleJ start and how did it evolve?
La DoubleJ started very much as an editorial project. Although we did sell vintage clothing, the website was very content focused. This helped us a great deal when we began to launch new clothing because in today’s online world, all product needs content. I already had the team in place and the experience to do this. Now we make clothing, accessories, plates, glasses, furniture, scarves, knitwear, and jewelry. It all developed in a very natural spontaneous way.
Your place to be in Milano?
You might think I’m crazy but I love the old churches in Milan. Especially the ones with amazing, very high painted ceilings. I never go into churches when there are priests or for mass, but only when they are empty. I love to sit and write or meditate in churches. My favorites are SanMaurizio al Monastero Maggiore and the Basilica inside of Sant Eustorgio.