Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Southbank Show + Africa Fashion Week London

Back Stage Front Stage Centre Stage

London’s glossiest posse gathered at Southbank for a Saturday evening fashion show on the Riverside Terrace along the Thames. It was the catwalk of the summer. But first there was a round of turmeric iced lattés, the boisson du jour before the hard work began. Makeup artist Karen Messam explained, “It’s going to be a graphic bold story. We’re highlighting bold, glossy lips.” Karen was assisted by fellow mistress of maquillage Jade Almojera.

Organiser Anna-Maria Benedict summarised the evening, “The main show brought drama, rain, couture and elaborate accessories. Prestigious designers Kalikas Armour, Sista by Eyoro, Elfreda Dali, Adebayo Jones, Mary Martin London and Soboye showcased glamour, command of design and tailoring which all meant Southbank had never been so well dressed!”

“We continued Africa Fashion Week London’s dedication to promoting and uplifting design graduates of colour,” Anna-Maria acknowledged. “We opened the show with three mini collections from the Universities of Northampton and West London. Themes of protest were evident in both universities’ collections. Black Lives Matter and awareness of misogynoir – the unique discrimination faced by black women – featured in powerful graphic prints.”

Sierra Leonean-Lebanese model Yasmin Jamaal commanded the catwalk, rocked the runway, walked the wave of cheers, stormed the storm parading in Mary’s Gold Coast Dress. Multitalented Yasmin has launched an Afro-Middle East plant based food company, Jamaal Cuisine. She recently was invited to cook for a high society private dinner. When Yasmin arrived the hostess confessed, “I didn’t expect the model off the website to turn up!” Yasmin had to explain, “I’m the model and also your chef for the evening!” The admiring crowd included lots of well known faces from the arts world like the principal actor from the 2022 film Django, Vivienne Rochester, and Eric’s mum in the Netflix series Sex Education, Doreen Blackstock.

Star of the fashion show was… Mary Martin London. Earlier in the day she beamed, “John Fairbrother Dolls have just made The Mary Martin London Dress! I’m wearing my epic Union Jack Dress! Or rather the miniature me is wearing it!” Now there’s a tribute. Mary showed dresses from her previous award winning collections as well as new ones such as The Eccentric Peacock Dress and The Grace Jones Dress. “Grace is such an inspiration,” she recorded. Mary is of course famous for designing dresses for singers and musicians like Heather Small. “If there aren’t high vibrations forget it!” she exclaimed. Thanks to DJ Biggy C there were plenty of high vibrations. The tune maker let it be known, “That’s me playing now!”

Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Mary Martin Men


Mary Martin London Graduation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My God is my foundation in whom I serve,” declares fashion designer Mary Martin. And what God given talent she possesses – in reams! Electrifying the catwalks, flooding the fashion spreads and raining down pure glamour on clients in recent years with her haute couture dresses, all that’s left is one small step for a woman, one giant leap for mankind. Yes, the long awaited much anticipated greatly hoped for men’s collection. Tah dah! Mary Martin Men is finally launching! And you saw copyrighted glimpses of it here first. The official landing will be at Africa Fashion Week London.

Mary Martin London Best Fashion Designer Award © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

But first, it’s the Saturday morning Vernissage. Not your ordinary time for a Private View but this is no ordinary designer. The venue? Screw art galleries. Stuff museums. Why it’s Mary’s Victorian townhouse cum fashion house cum studio. A framed music award on the staircase winks at Mary’s past: she was a successful pop music manager. Rhythm is a dancer in the blood. Her brother is Technotronic’s MC Eric of ‘Pump Up the Jam’ fame. There are plenty more awards in the drawing room. More of them later. Lot’s more. A quick peak into the first floor kitchen confirms this is no ordinary house: check out the maquette mannequins and metallic cupboards.

Mary Martin London Queen Aidia Fabric © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Onwards and upwards to the top floor. Music is blasting, models are changing, agents are calling, photographers are facetiming, and somewhere in the midst of the mayhem Mary emerges, looking sublime and very summery in a wrap dress. The mercury has surpassed 30. Aidia, the Swiss top model and a Mary Martin London favourite, is on her way. The final fittings are next week. Like, hours away.

Mary Martin Men Screen Print © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Time for the big reveal. The inaugural collection of Mary Martin Men commemorates the quadricentary of the first African slaves arriving in America. ‘Slaves in the Woods’ is her principle pattern. She has screen printed it onto vintage silk which itself has an Ancient Egyptian pattern. “Egypt was where it all began,” observes Mary. The joker pattern is used for lining. “I may be the Queen of the Catwalk,” she nods, ”but I like to have a laugh!” Another pattern she uses in the collection is ‘Mary Scissorhands’ featuring female heads as scissor handles.

Mary Martin Men Bomber Jacket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Jacket Detail © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Haarlem Trousers © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Fabric © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mary Martin Men Coat Pocket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s all about original ideas,” says Mary, “nothing old fashioned. I’ve taken the Haarlem trousers to another level!” The legging material around the thigh emphasises the male form. The fly is on the outside. “This is the new 2019 fly – on – the – side! It’s amazing!” A man bag in the detachable outsized coat collar is one of many other innovations. Injecting yet more urban chic into the collection is a retro bomber jacket. No show is complete without a Mary Martin London statement dress. Mary goes for it: “The lady is going to look naked! My Slaves in the Woods print will be on a body stocking looking like a tattoo! I’m going to do her hair like Medusa. I’m using my signature fluffy tulle to give her a surreal Afro! I see the visuals in my head. I dream I’m making the freedom woman!”

Mary Martin Men Mary Scissorhands Pattern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

As always, Mary’s fashion is imbued with multiple meanings and enriched with multilayering. Take the dominant colours (or rather one colour and one lack of colour) of the collection. Mary relates, “I focussed on the art of design and print… it’s a very natural feeling. I researched the Himba Tribe in Namibia. I discovered a lot of orange face paint and hair mud. It was very exciting! Orange is for the vibrance of earth and black is for the unseen missing elements.” Later she will comment, “Orange represents the sun, the happiness outside.” It’s official. Orange and black are the new black.

Mary Martin Men Pattern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Remember those awards in the drawing room? Well, what hasn’t Mary won? Numerous International Achievers Awards (Best Female Designer; Fashion Icon 2018, International Achiever 2017, Innovator of the Year 2016), two Fabulous Magazine Outstanding Contributions to Fashion Awards, Cancel Cancer Africa Recognition Award, Inspirational Fashion Couture Special Award 2018, Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival Best Designer 2015 and Miss Jamaica UK Best Dress 2013. Her most recent prize recognises her growing worldwide status: Scotland’s International Awards Best Fashion Designer 2019.

Mary Martin Men Jacket Pocket © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“It’s been a whirlwind year!” exclaims Mary. “You should always have challenges in life!” As well as launching her first ever men’s collection, she graduated from the University of East London with a Fashion and Textiles BA. “Draw how you can draw,” advised her lecturer Emma Ceary adding, “you have a natural talent!” Another lecturer, Lesley Robertson, told her “I’m really proud of you and all of your achievements.” Dr Sian-Kate Mooney of the University said, “It was an honour to teach you Mary. You have worked hard and listened and learned and have given yourself the gift of knowledge.” Mary danced her way across the stage at the graduation ceremony.

Mary Martin Men Egyptian Silk © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“And that’s the show and that’s my excitement! Thank you Jesus!” praises Mary. She knows those who look to him are radiant. And really, radiance is key to Mary Martin Men. It’s a sumptuously rich collection. There’s more. Things have come full circle. These days Mary may be “styling high class singers” but she herself is the subject of an Afrobeats hit by Déjà Vu.

Mary Martin Men Collar © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Design Luxury People

Lavender’s Blue +

The Anticipation

Off the red eye from Barcelona, Mary Martin’s on her way. Full entourage alert! In the top London fashion designer’s own catchphrase, “This will be amazing!”

Art Fashion Luxury People

Africa Fashion Week London 2018 + Mary Martin London

Runway Success

Lights! Cameras! Lots of action! Every mid August for the last seven years, Freemasons’ Hall Covent Garden has been transformed into Europe’s largest festival of African and African inspired design talent. Africa Fashion Week London brings the second largest continent’s burgeoning fashion industry to the international market. Upon arrival, we get lost in a kaleidoscopic exhibition full of the bold and brilliant, a bazaar in marble halls. Up the marble staircase, crossing the marble landing, we’re ushered into the grandest marble hall of them all.

There’s almost as much glamour off the catwalk as on it at this year’s Saturday evening show – helps we’ve front row seats for people watching. The fairy dust of royalty also helps. We’re sitting next to His Majesty the King of Nigeria. It’s the grand finale, the last of the catwalk shows and stars:

The music show begins. Actually make that music! Afrobeats reverberate off all the marble. It gets more dancey and trancey with Mary Martin: she’s mixed her own beats. Mary did, after all, work in the music industry before taking fashion by storm. The crowd goes wild! Her handpicked models stride down the catwalk – try the Alexander Technique to techno – amidst huge applause, dresses swirling, skirts burling, scarves whirling. At the fitting earlier, she’d told us, “My mother used to sew and I just picked it up naturally. I just had a gift for design and started off making my own outfits.” And the rest is history as it happens!

As the catwalk show draws to a close, Her Royal Highness Princess of the Congo rises to speak: “We can dress very well. But we also raise proceeds for charity in our industry. I sell clothes in New Orleans to raise funds for women with no health insurance in the US.” The crowd cheers hard. “Women – we love fashion! Men too! We royal families of Africa love fashion!” The crowd cheers harder. “We Africans love to party!” On that note, with a lot further ado, the whole hall erupts into dancing: models, designers, managers, guests and of course royals. Everyone spills onto the catwalk to work their moves. The lighting gets stronger! The music gets louder! The moves get wilder!

Fashion People

Mary Martin London + Article 10 The Royal Collection

Behind the Scenes

Not many fashion designers are inspired by pieces of legislation but then not many fashion designers are like Mary Martin. In less than five years she has gained the sort of international recognition others would kill for. For her, going viral is a daily occurrence. Her name first came to the world’s attention (via Huff Post and BBC World Service if you please) when she created the Cecil the Lion Dress for Africa Fashion Week London 2015. “When I saw on TV the lion that had been killed I was deeply deeply shocked,” Mary said. She decided to make the dress in black out of mourning for Cecil. “The big fluffy bits along the top are the tulle, the lion’s mane. The back has got the silkiness and fineness of the lion’s body.” Like all her clothes, Mary painstakingly made the dress by hand, ever the perfectionist, working round the clock to meet the catwalk deadline.

Anyway back to that legislation. Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression,” is what inspired the latest collection from Mary Martin London. That, and a certain mixed race princess. She’s showing again at Africa Fashion Week London much to the thrill of her loyal fans and customers (a few well known popstars included). “I live by Article 10 values and I feel that Prince Harry and Meghan are great beacons: they’ve practised their own freedom of expression by breaking down barriers of class and race by showing us love is for everyone!” The collection is dedicated to the new Duchess of Sussex.

Article 10 The Royal Collection is a riot of colour and form and material and decoration and expression and beauty and movement and chutzpah. The detailing is incredible, such craftmanship. An international fusion of British and African influences is apt for the show and for her standing. Mary may be a real laugh but she takes her work super seriously. She’s flown in her favourite models from France and Switzerland to join London’s best. The clock is ticking again. It’s only a couple of days till she shows at Africa Fashion Week London. “The hems aren’t finished yet!” she cries, dashing round the fittings room, whipping up a frenzied buzz of excitement and pizzazz.

“I’m a fashion icon!” laughs the gregarious designer. It’s no joke: she’s just won the Fashion Icon Award at the International Achievers’ Awards in recognition of her dedication to the industry. Self taught, she’s just back from headlining the Mercedes Benz International Fashion Week in Ghana – another roaring success. Somehow in between, no time to be killed, Mary managed to collect an accolade at the Celebrating People of Colour ceremony in Birmingham. With a killer collection nearing completion, human rights legislation has never been so exciting!


Mary Martin London +

Bouquet Crochet Touché

Some girls just wanna have fun!

Fashion People

Mary Martin London + Africa Fashion Week London

Fashion Has a New

Multiple teaser. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.