The Free State | Her Bright Materials
Over numerous cups of coffee in her first floor kitchen, much laughter, and more than a few facetime calls with her numerous celebrity pals (putting the M into M People), the award winning fashion designer and creative extraordinaire shares her innermost thoughts with Lavender’s Blue.
“I’m Mary Martin London. Welcome to Maryland. My work is like an image of myself: a bit eccentric, a bit crazy, but sophisticated. It’s me, it’s my personality, it’s what I feel inside. A lot of passion goes into what I’m doing. I inhabit a world called Maryland. My inspiration is God. You know, my mother and father were ministers and I thought to myself: the first thing I learnt in the church was in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and basically God made us in his image. So I figured if God is the creator of heaven and earth, and he’s made us in his image, I am a creator as well. God is my creator and my inspiration.
Now my latest collection which I’ve done is called Blood Sweat and Tears and it’s really been blood sweat and tears and I wanted to dedicate this collection to the slaves because they worked hard for us to be here now. And you know you have to give a salute to those slaves who worked and were beaten and killed. You know we are still fighting the racism and everything else so I think to myself – I always have to remember where I came from: my ancestors were from Africa. This men’s collection is actually a salute! I did a screen print for my men’s collection called Slaves in the Field. You see the eyes coming through the trees. People are looking for them so I put the army print on the back.
Reclaiming Urban Jungle is one of my fabric patterns. It is inspired by the Amazon Rainforests. In current times we have become more aware of the effects of fast fashion on climate change. The beauty of nature of this print takes the form of abstract art in nature and surrealism. Reclaiming Urban Jungle represents the marriage of surrealism and the tropical rainforest. The lion is the King of the Jungle but in the jungle there are no crowns so the lion has a crown of bananas. I built up the leaves drawing them in layers and used special paint for screen printing.
The first collection I actually put together which was called the Fairytale Collection was big fluffy dresses. I did it all by hand couture. The reason I did it by hand was it was very therapeutic. So basically, I was working with my hands and it was helping me get through things. It was really really helping me and I thought, ok, make it the Fairytale Collection! I actually went to Ghana to do the Mercedes Fashion Week. I did the show over there and it was like – wow! – everybody was so in shock at the clothes I had brought, and that was the start. That was the key for me.
My favourite colour is actually blue. My mum’s favourite colour was blue because she always loved The Queen and The Queen’s mother and she always used to wear a lot of blue and that’s the reason I like blue. It was the only colour I used to see growing up. My mother and father came over to England in the Fifties and basically my mother wanted to be an actress and my father was an antiques dealer and he used to go around and come back with old clothes. We had a 10 bedroom house on the river and in the top of the attic my mother had a room full of beautiful dresses. I used to love the clothes up there. Me and my sister – we used to jump up and down for joy! It was like an in-house fashion show up in the attic.
Nobody knew me and my sister used to go up there and try on all the clothes and all the shoes. We loved dressing up; we loved glamour. They were big for us but we loved the clothes, the shoes. And that’s when I fell in love with fashion! Next year, now that I’m graduated, I want to celebrate and you know I really want to show people what I care about inside me. I want to show people what a show is all about. Just look out for the Mary Martin London brand!
Melba Moore is my favourite singer in the whole world.”
A few days later, over smashed avo at BFI Bar + Kitchen on London’s Southbank, following the première of her friend Director Stephan Pierre Mitchell’s film Deleted, Mary Martin shares more of her innermost thoughts with Lavender’s Blue. The fashion designer is cutting a dash rocking head-to-toe military combo gear complemented by one of her own tops. Working the asymmetric for sure.
“I just made this top this morning. It has a mustard coloured velvet sleeve and a khaki lurex sleeve. The sleeves contrast with the gold and black stretch cotton bodice. I work with the fabric – I create and just surprise myself! I see myself as a fashion artist. I’m gearing up for a solo exhibition and a catwalk show. I’m seeing tulle hanging from the ceiling and my screen prints framed as art on the walls. I’ll do my collections the way they should be. And I’ve dreamt of the dress of all dresses. All the lights will be on it. This dress is going to be magnificent!”