Within moments of being immersed in the colour-drenched world of J.J. Martin’s Milan-based lifestyle brand, La DoubleJ, you find yourself questioning every assumption you ever made about your dark urban wardrobe. Her sunny outlook is contagious.
The first thing you notice about J.J. is her height (she’s tall). That’s followed by whatever gorgeous, La DoubleJ print she’s wearing. It’s only when J.J. says hello that you realise that, while she may speak perfect Italian, she’s actually American. The former fashion journalist has always loved vintage, but it wasn’t until 2015 that she began to build a lifestyle brand around this passion. At first, J.J.’s site was a shoppable magazine selling vintage clothing and jewellery. However when she realised selling one-offs couldn’t sustain the business, J.J. adapted. Teaming up with one of Lake Como’s oldest silk manufacturers, Mantero, La DoubleJ issued eight dresses in archival prints. And the rest is fashion history. The womenswear is every inch the designer’s own personal style, offering timeless silhouettes in amazing, colourful vintage patterns. La DoubleJ also has maximalist tableware, girls’ dresses and, most recently, a line of must-have swimsuits and beach accessories. Across everything La DoubleJ creates, J.J.’s love and respect for vintage fashion is evident. Rather than launch a new collection each season, the designer refers to her clothes as editions. Everything is treasured. Nothing is disposable. Which is an ethos we love at Wardrobe ICONS. Here, J.J. flings open the doors to her beautiful home and shares her most treasured pieces.
Most of the inspiration for the collections comes from the vintage prints that I find in the Mantero silk archive in Lake Como. But I am a collector. Recently I’ve become very interested in crystals and their healing powers, so now the house is filled with coloured rocks.
Our guest room doubles as my dressing room. The fabric is a 1940s design by the Swedish artist Stig Lindberg. I found this fabric 12 years ago, way before finding this apartment. I ended up covering the walls with it and then hanging my great-grandmother’s paintings, which she made in LA in the 1950s.
My shoes occupy four closets in the house plus the basement, so I think I have more than enough to keep me busy for the next few years. Every once in a while I’ll buy a new pair if I see a silhouette I like, but I used to buy six pairs per season, which is a little bonkers.
I’ve been nuts about pattern since I was a small child. I was drawn to the crazy 1970s prints in my mom’s wardrobe and was always dressing myself up there. I never had a minimalist moment in my life – not even during Céline-mania. I just get great energy from bright, joyful patterns.
Does anyone ever really count how many dresses they have? I don’t wear many pairs of trousers, so I definitely have a lot of dresses. It’s my preferred wardrobe choice. I wear dresses to the beach, to breakfast. They don’t feel like a stuffy choice. I love LaDoubleJ, of course, but I also wear a lot of vintage pieces and some from Miu Miu, Prada and Marni.
When I first launched La DoubleJ, we were only selling vintage clothing and jewellery. Earrings and necklaces are my favourites, as they make an impact with very little effort. They just jazz up any outfit. I’m always on the hunt for special pieces.
A lot of my shoes and handbags are really basic looking, because it’s nice to tone down all that print. That said, I do love a jewelled sandal. Not precious ones from Manolo, but more earthy, hunky things from Marni and Miu Miu. I like the arts and crafts feel to these shoes. And I’ve been a sparkle nut since I was a kid, too.
I never, ever wear patterned or embellished handbags. It’s just too much with all of my maximalist clothing. The best handbags for me are elegant, streamlined, functional and can be used every day without having to change the contents. This Sophie Hulme bag goes with everything. That’s a number-one requirement.
I do love a long dress. I just find them so elegant. Every woman looks great in a long dress, even short women. They always tell me they don’t, but I disagree.
The cuff I’m wearing is designed by my friends, Ca&Lou, but for vintage pieces, I scour every flea market and small charity shop in every city I visit. I also go on eBay a lot. I’m really passionate about it – and if you keep at it, you develop an eye for what is magical among the crap pretty quickly.
Clare Vivier, who lives in my hometown of LA, designed this great raffia bag. We did a pop-up shop together in Hollywood last year and I think her designs are great; they’re so easy-going, well-made and cheerful.
My friend Paula Cademartori, a Brazilian living in Milan, gifted me these sandals that look like colourful peacocks – aren’t they so happy?
Printed La DoubleJ pouches have become my go-to organisers. I keep them in my big Sophie Hulme bag – a small one for make-up, and a bigger one that I use as a clutch. When I travel I bring even more, to house the computer cords etc, and then I’m able to switch them out at night as a clutch. The big one has a strap that you can use to grip the side or hang from your wrist if you’ve got two drinks in your hands!
I first moved to Milan because I met an Italian man and fell in love! I’m a cliché. But the fact that I’m still here 16 years later, with the same man, is a miracle. At first Italy drove me nuts – everything was so disorganised and difficult to get done. Now I’m under its spell. I love it here.
I usually keep accessories very plain so that my clothes can do the talking. But sometimes it is fun to mix a printed shoe with a printed skirt. In this case, the top should be plain white.
Whenever I look at these photos I laugh because it’s so clear that, from age four onwards, I was destined to work in fashion. No one in my family or neighbourhood in Pacific Palisades was remotely fashionable, so it took a while for me to find my way. I didn’t have any style mentors – I found it within myself.
I never wore tennis shoes much until Valextra sent me this pair and now I find them completely fabulous – especially with dresses. It’s the perfect run-around-town look.
We do nylon knapsacks, as well as nylon pouches, to keep all of your beach accessories in one place. Those are the same ones I keep in my purse, but they’re also great for the beach for sun creams and wet bikinis.
I design things I like and would wear. But then my team remind me we need things for shorter people too. And so now we also make shorter dresses!
All my friends had been telling me to do swimwear for La DoubleJ, and I must say that the prints are rather perfect on a bikini or a one-piece. We introduced four different styles, three prints each – I personally love the long-sleeved surf suit. I wear it all the time for yoga or even with a long skirt as a bodysuit. The deep-V one-pieces are great too.