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Art Design Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Cat Couture

The Catwalk

Zelda Blakley is the latest top model to don Mary Martin London haute couture. So what does Zelda have to say about her new outfit? “This ballgown is simply purrfect! I’m feline very elegant. I’m like the cat that got the cream!”

“Seriously though,” Zelda purrs, “In the words of my favourite French philosopher Roland Barthes, ‘Fashion the myth… at the very moment it produces… attempts to substitute its artifice, that is, its culture, for the false nature of things; it does not suppress meaning; it points to it with its finger.’ Or rather, claw.”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Black Heroes Foundation + Mary Martin London

Matters of Fact

“Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do,” believed the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. “Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Every month should be Black History Month. But not every day can be National Windrush Day. To mark the 73rd anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship docking into Tilbury, bringing workers from Caribbean countries to help fill postwar British labour shortages, Black Heroes Foundation opened an exhibition in central London on 22 June. Chair of Trustees Joyce Fraser explains, “I set up Black Heroes Foundation in memory of my late husband. Recently, we entered a competition organised by Westminster City Council for a pop up in Piccadilly. We were one of 11 successful applicants out of a total of 120.”

The Foundation is a community based charity for the development and promotion of talent, together with cultural and artistic initiatives in the community. And as Joyce succinctly puts it, “A world where Black Heroes are acknowledged, respected and celebrated.” The Chair’s late husband, Peter Randolph Fraser, known to all as “Flip Fraser”, was the first Editor of The Voice newspaper and joint creator of the show Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame. The ground floor of the exhibition is devoted to the Windrush Collection and the Black Heroes Wall of Fame.

The Windrush Collection includes a living room, bedroom and kitchen furnished with typical West Indian items from family portraits to a porcelain book of the 23rd Psalm. A commemoration of Flip Fraser is joined on the Wall of Fame by inspirational people from the past and present: the Classic Collection, London’s Great Women of Colour and Wandsworth People. Take Harriet Tubman. She was a slave born in Maryland who fled to the free state of Pennsylvania in 1820 aged 29. She returned to Maryland over the next decade to rescue both family members and friends at great peril to her life. Harriet was buried with military honours in Fort Hill Cemetery New York in 1913. As African American civil rights activist Asa Philip Randolph observed, “Freedom is never given; it is won.”

“My heart will always be in Brixton,” Olive Morris, a heroine on the Wall of Fame, once said. Born in Jamaica in 1915, she came to the UK aged nine. Her first home was off Wandsworth Road and she went to Lavender Hill Girls’ School. As an adult living in Brixton, her activism took off. Olive was involved in many campaigns including the scrapping of Suspected Person Laws which permitted police to stop and search anyone suspected of loitering but was used indiscriminately against black people. She died in 1979.

A showcase of some of the dresses of the UK’s leading black fashion designer Mary Martin London is on display on the mezzanine level of this exhibition at 12 Waterloo Place. “I’m thrilled to have been asked to be part of this important event,” Mary confirmed. The designer is providing demonstrations each day on how her clothes are actually made: the sewing machine is clearly on overtime. Pointing to one of her pieces she exclaims, “It’s called the Death of a Queen as it nearly killed me making that dress!” Attendance has been lively. Westminster Councillors were at the opening and the flow has been constant ever since – the exhibition lasts five weeks. Heather Small, the Voice of M People, and soprano Nadine Benjamin are two of many well known supporters to enjoy it so far.

Councillor Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, pointing to Mary’s Marilyn Monroe Dress exclaimed, “A faux foxtail. Oh golly! Has somebody worn that? This is all so fantastic. I’m really pleased to see the whole exhibition too.” Councillor Louise Hyams, Deputy Cabinet Member for Communities and Regeneration, added, “I’m also really pleased to see the exhibition. It’s beautifully choreographed for the venue and so interesting. Mary’s show is great: she could easily harness her creativity into the world of film costumery.” No doubt Councillor Hyams would agree with Dr Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, who believes, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

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Mary Martin London + The Collections

The Fashion Years

“We have seen that a Fashion utterance involves at least two systems of information: a specifically linguistic system, which is a language (such as French or English) and a ‘vestimentary’ system, according to which the garment signifies the world or Fashion. These two systems are not separate: the vestimentary system seems to be taken over by the linguistic system.” So wrote our favourite philosopher Roland Barthes in his 1967 revelation The Fashion System.

It’s like the arrival of the Queen of Sheba with the beauty of Queen Esther and the wealth of King Solomon. “Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?” she cries, channelling her inner Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee in Some Like It Hot. Applying a blonde wig and beauty spot before donning a Mary Martin London little black number with extended faux fur later, she is soon standing over air vents and blowing kisses to admiring onlookers. Some like it very hot! She starts singing, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Super supermodel Katie Ice has entered the building.

Musical model Funmi Olagunju literally rocks up strumming her guitar. Lavender coloured clothes clad, she sings, “I only wanted to see you, laughing in the purple rain, purple rain purple rain…” Funmi shares, “Mary’s clothes are so crazy! They’re elegant and theatrical. They’re regal. She thinks outside the box!” Beautiful Natasha Lloyd bursts across our vision in a radiance of red. Crimson is the new black. She next models  the Queen of Africa dress. Over to Mary, “I’d just won African Fashion Designer of the Year and I felt like I was the Queen of Africa! The colourway in this dress represents brown for earth, green for grass and yellow for the sun.”

While getting ready, model Sienna Kinley advises on confidence, “You forget who you are. You go into fear mode. The mindset is to remind yourself who you are. Who you are is everything you need to be in this life. Everything you’ve been given is enough for you in this world. Sometimes you can forget that’s enough. Confidence is recognising who you are: you are a perfect being. All the gifts and talent you have are enough.” Makeup artist Sofia Mahmood adds, “Be creative. You need great patience to be a makeup artist. Patience with creativity.”

This Old Street London warehouse is rocking with a carnival atmosphere and a festival of talent. All of us are in front and to the side and behind the cameras as filming continues… yes, that film. In the midst of the mayhem and madness and fashion miscellanea, Mary emerges, as ever a human whirlwind of orders and changes and directions and laughter. “I don’t like ordinary,” she understates. Natasha reappears modelling The Hidden Queens Collection dress with its socially distancing crinoline.

The dresses of The Collections flow onto the film set amidst falling roses and oversized poppies. World class ballerina Omozefe (“just call me ‘Sue’”) performs pirouettes and shows photograph of herself with Margot Fontaine. “It was her last performance ever at the Royal Opera House! I have met Rudolf Nureyev twice. I love dancing to The Nutcracker, Carmen and of course Swan Lake.” Soon Sue is teaching model Hassan Reese some Pilates moves. “Pilates is similar to ballet – it’s about micro movements stretching muscles. You can’t get up on point unless your core being is very strong.”

Cleopatra, brought to life by model Natasha Lloyd, struts her stuff. Three times Taekwondo World Champion Carol Hudson, modelling herbaceous headgear, says with some understatement, “Mary’s clothes aren’t for the fainthearted!” Photographer Monika Schaibel agrees, “Mary has a vision and is always true to her vision. Amazing eye to detail. Her fashion shows are pure theatre – they’re art happenings.” Kiki Busari, modelling The Red Dress, adds, “I love the opulence. These dresses take you to a fantasy world. A world where you are empowered and strong.”

It’s like the creativity of King Jotham with the boldness of Queen Vashti and the power of King Xerxes. “Never try to explain your work,” once said our fav photographer of all time, Deborah Turbeville. So we won’t say we are a muse or the bridge between the bright lights or something else far more mesmeric and fantastic. Let the wrap party begin! To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, we all just want to be wonderful. “Fashion dissolves the myth of innocent signifies,” ends Roland Barthes, “at the very moment it produces them.” Super supermodel Katie Ice has left the building.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + The Collections Preview

No Ordinariness

Saints and collars. Carriage and gait. The deportment of culture. Narrative express. Mesmeric couture. Grace is grace.

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Art Design Developers Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Mary Martin London + Stuart Blakley

That Jacket

Some days you just got it. Lifestyles Magazine America is dedicating its latest issue to Mary Martin London. The renowned fashion and entertainment publication is distributed in 39 countries. Chief Operating Officer Anthony Alexander explains, “We just love Mary’s personality. And when we saw her clothes we were amazed! We’re bridging the gap between exposure in the US and the UK.” As Elizabeth Bowen wrote some 90 odd years ago in The Hotel, “Gratifying how one’s intimate world contracted itself, how one’s friends wove themselves in! Society was fascinating, so like a jigsaw puzzle!”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Heather Small + Mary Martin London

One Morning in Heaven

Ever since Heather Small unleashed to the world her unbelievable vocal range with the ultimate Eighties remix Ride on Time (accurately described back then as “a payload of pure euphoria”), she’s been forever moving on up, projecting a pure renaissance. Oprah Winfrey chose her British Olympics Games solo single Proud as the theme tune for her chat show. As well as being the frontispiece of the internationally successful band M People for decades, Heather’s own career has remained stunningly stellar. “I step out of the ordinary | I can feel my soul descending,” she sings in her extraordinary anthem Proud. In her next hit Close to a Miracle the opening lines embrace hope, “It could all be so beautiful | Like a ray of sunshine | From the inside looking forward | With a whole different view.” Today Heather is dressed head to ankle in Mary Martin London. She’s working those Jimmy Choo heels.

Londoner Heather Small is the petite toned embodiment of empowerment blessed with an orchestra of a voice and a down to earth yet megawatt presence. Yep, she’s stunning. “The love we have for each other should be regardless of colour or creed. I’ve grown up in a society that doesn’t reflect me. I’m a dark skinned black girl. I’m a proud sista! Everyone should be proud. I’m in control. I’m aware of who I am – I am very happy with that. Fashion means quite a lot to someone like me in the music industry. Fabric, cuts, the way fashion makes you feel.”

“I met Mary at a fundraising event,” reveals the legendary singer. “Mary spoke quite a lot – so do I! She’s got a wonderful brain. Mary is very very observant – any situation gives her inspiration. She reimagines her surroundings as a piece of clothing. A feeling, a vibration. That’s what I noticed about her. Mary’s clothes are ultra creative, a really good cut. It’s always about the bigger picture with her, more than fashion. There’s a bigger statement at the heart of them, what it’s like to be different, marginalised; she’s an inspiration, it’s more than apparel. It’s about sisterhood! Let’s laugh. Let’s have continuous applause by putting a crown on each other’s head! Above all have fun. Mary’s as mad as a box of frogs!”

Rising up, Heather confirms, “I do believe in God. We are put on earth to fulfil a purpose. We need to learn how to be the best to ourselves and each other. Take yourself to a higher place and touch others. I believe in the goodness of people. Always tell the truth because anyone who hears the truth whether they want it or not they take notice… Singing has been a passion all my life. Mary’s clothes represent me.” Angel Street is an address and an address and a dress.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Brenda Emmanus + Mary Martin London

An Infinite Pool of Talent

Broadcaster and journalist Brenda Emmanus OBE was the BBC’s Arts, Culture and Entertainment Correspondent for 18 years. Right now, she’s busy working on a range of projects including an ITV documentary to mark the late Princess Diana’s birthday. Brenda is a friend and client of Mary Martin. “I can’t remember exactly when I met Mary. I knew her on the scene, the celebrity community of people in my life network. Mary just appears in your life! Once she’s in she makes an impression. She’s a generous friend, an open person.”

They share a major interest in common: a passion for fashion. “As a child I cut out dolls from magazines and dressed them up. I’ve very eclectic taste. My work in the newsroom is quite formal but my role allows me to be much freer to wear more what I like. I’m mainly a lover of dresses although I do love trousers – the androgynous look – too. I love dramatic dresses that really embrace fashion. I’m up for drama on stage but go casual at the weekend. I’m stimulated by the visual, beauty and art.”

“I love the childlike quality to Mary’s apparel,” reveals Brenda. “She doesn’t use design patterns; she just creates from the heart. Mary’s impulsive – she likes to try things like a child with paints. She’s passionate and curious about everything: Pop Art, the Renaissance, music. She works as an experimental artist. Like most geniuses she’s not afraid to try and fail. She takes you out of your comfort zone. Mary allows me to pull out my inner diva, to go wholly out: she’s all bells and whistles! She’s fearless with high drama and that’s what makes her fun, mad fun!”

Brenda explains, “I host a lot of awards and red carpets. Two days before one of my events I needed something… and a ballgown appeared from nowhere! That’s what’s amazing about Mary, creating an outfit from scratch within a day or two. Thanks to her I looked great on stage presenting the Screen Nation Awards. Mary makes you try stuff you probably wouldn’t think of trying. She’s like a motor. But she values my opinion – we have an exchange of ideas.”

Mary is not a wallflower,” smiles the broadcaster and journalist. “She’s a whirlwind; you know when she’s present. I learned that Mary studied really late overcoming a challenging childhood through dreams and ambition. She’s found herself. She has a clear vision of what she is as a designer. Mary has a rightful place in the world of fashion. What she’s achieved in such a short time, going international! She sees joy in everything. A crazy but extraordinary woman! She’s very resilient. Self triumph over adversity.”

Like Mary, Brenda acknowledges her own spirituality. “Experience higher being,” she recommends. “I have learnt to trust my inner voice, my intuition. Media is so impressed by the outer world but the inner one is so important. Life is a journey. Be true to your own spirituality. Surrender to the path the universe has mapped out for you. I meditate a lot for calm and peace. Be still – there’s so much to learn. Reset who you are. Value art, love, people, creativity. We’re not on this planet for a very long time.”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Friends

Rising Up

“Fashion is the barometer of the age to accentuate the personality.” So claims high profile lawyer and President of Octopus TV Andrew Eborn. “Mary is a tornado of talent. She’s a larger than life character – she makes her presence felt! She might be loud but there’s a genuine creative side to her. She’s a fascinating individual. I love Mary Martin London clothes. They have a free style belonging to that mad crazy world of hers. I work with a lot of major stars in the music industry.” Household names. “I also host the Andrew Eborn Show on Stella Television which features people like Charles Spencer and Suzy Quatro. But the Mary Martin segment is a complete moment of escape!”

Award winning Film Director Stephan Pierre Mitchell believes “fashion reflects our time” but “I make it my own”. He continues, “I don’t think there are rules. I don’t like to conform. I rip up my own jeans. I play around with fashion hence why I get along with Mary. I met her at London Fashion Week. I immediately liked her vibe. She’s got layers. She’s not boring. She’s up my street. Mary’s clothes are spontaneous, fun, bold, colourful… tells me a lot about her. I really admire her work; she’s very special. MML is BLF. Big! Loud! Fierce! I see so many energies flying up and down.” Stephan advises, “Be truthful with yourself. When we create from a true source, we heal. Don’t think of the end result, come from a truthful place.”

Mary’s former fashion textiles Senior Lecturer Emma Carey has turned her artistic hand to interior design: “My real passion is for the print.” Emma recalls, “Mary’s life story was amazing. I found her fascinating and all the things she had been through. I was intrigued and wanted to understand more. I soon learned Mary embraces learning and new things.  She’s a powerhouse with no real self pity. She’s very creative, very excitable, brimming with energy. She says whatever she thinks, always the truth. She makes amazing prints! Mary’s clothes are like Mary, full of life, expressive, not wallflower clothes. They’re loud, out there. Her personality does come through in her clothes.”

The whole crew really has landed, an underground artists’ salon. Model and Director of Dam Model Management Hassan Reese strikes a pose outside, arms folded to reveal just a glimpse of Mary’s inaugural hand printed T shirt range. He shares, “Mary is unique! She represents tradition versus newness. She has an innate sense of Africa. Mary has African roots in her catwalk. Seriously, I feel nothing but love for her. Thank you Mary! I love that you have taken me on board. I feel so privileged and happy.” Late afternoon, model Katie Ice arrives wrapped head to toe in Louis Vuitton before revealing a Mary Martin London dress. Soignée has a new. “I first met Mary at a charity fashion event,” she remembers. “I immediately realised her clothes are so sophisticated – those fluffy dresses! – so unusual, so new, so different, then everyone copied them.” We’re rushing off to The Hoo next. “I’ll be free to pop in for some Champagne,” confirms Katie. “Life runs fast let’s celebrate it! It’ll be wonderful to see you and friends, it’s been a while.”

In the car later, much later, Mary lets slip, “You are my number one. I’m making bomber jackets every winter now because of you. I’ll use a different pattern each winter but I’ll still make bomber jackets. I agree what you say about them being so flattering to the male form. It’s all happening!” The rising of the arising over the horizon. London passes by in a fluorescent blur. All the voices of the day and in our heads and on the reel will soon fit together as a meaningful mosaic, an electrified Catherine wheel of sorts.

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Architects Art Design Fashion Luxury People Restaurants

Sexy Fish Mayfair London + Annabel P + Mary Martin London + Peggy Gou + K Style + Maya Jama + Teddy Music + Gertrude Stein + Frank Gehry + Damien Hirst + Lavender’s Blue + Love + War + Peace

Annabel’s Party

Finally the limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically disembarks dripping in diamonds. Cathedral school followed by the finishing variety has clearly paid off. It’s her role. Lavender’s Blue Directrice turned Diamonds Ambassadress turned Frontline Heroine has arrived. “Dahlings! One can never have enough class – or diamonds.” Clearly not. The doormen make way, the waitress beckoning to the best table in the house. Siberia where art thou now? “This is War and Peace!” Annabel declares scouring the wine list. “Champagne, dear Giuliano!” Meanwhile DJ Sophie ups the tempo downs the base. It’s a night off for Korean DJ Peggy GouK Style is so where it’s at right now – but Sophie is determined to bring the house down. This is going to be more disco than dinner.

Sometimes you really gotta go with it and order a pre dinner alfresco cocktail that matches the cushioned upholstery. Sea Breeze please or at least something ephemerally turquoise. Beetroot, carrot, ginger and orange detox elixirs soon cancel the boldness. For a hot minute. Annabel’s wearing Biba vintage, working it babes. Her fellow guest is as always rocking Mary Martin London head to toe. Annabel gets busy stirring up Insta Stories in between yellowtail tartar, smoked tofu and caviar followed by pink shrimp tempura. Maya Jama sends her love. Sexy Fish is after all the television presenter’s fav restaurant. Good friend Grime DJ Teddy Music of Silencer fame chimes in next. Everyone’s soon discussing menu tips. Mango and passionfruit, coconut and lemongrass or pineapple and mandarin sorbet? Decisions, decisions. “All three. Or is that six?” How does Gertrude Stein view dinner in her 1914 classic Tender Buttons? “Not a little fit, not a less fit sun sat in shed more mentally.”

Basement bound, a downward descent reverberating under a Frank Gehry crocodile past Damien Hirst mermaids before walking by those marbled bathrooms – salut Versailles – till the night relaxes into an embrace of unbelievably attractive seafood. Late call but Mary Martin London’s on the blower. “Fantastic! I cannot wait for our next interview. Let’s talk. I’m here and ready and want to talk about my amazing new dresses and fashion.” The limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically departs dripping in diamonds and fantasy.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People Town Houses

Mary Martin London Scarves +

The House of the Red and White Lions  

“We are having the best time ever!” proclaims the haute couture artist. “I’ve just won a Global Ovation Lifetime Achievement for Fashion!” Bravo! Mary is the Valkyrie of fashion residing over her very own Valhalla. This ring cycle ain’t gonna end anytime soon. Late to the game, the BBC is falling over itself to interview her and beef up its breaking news. Queue. Join. Next. The accolades keep pouring in: Costume Designer of the Year at the Global Community and Business Star Awards and Style Icon Honoree Excellence in Fashion Couture courtesy of the Global Style Icon Awards, to name yet another two.

Mary exclaims, “I would like to say thank you to the Global Style Icon Awards for awarding me the best designer – costumer designer! – for 2020 and 2021. I’d also like to say thank you to the Foreign Office for letting me do my virtual show in the building which was an amazing shoot in a beautiful place. And, yeah, thank you thank you that’s all I can say – I’m happy!” Mary explains more about that epic Foreign and Commonwealth Office shoot, “History had inspired me. I realised that Ignatius Sancho was an inhouse slave but was later set free and he was the first black millionaire in Britain. And he and his wife used to sell tobacco and everything from their shop which stood on the site of the Foreign Office on King Charles Street.”

She rolls, “I was the first black woman to do a shoot in there. What I did was reverse fashion and I put the black models on the stairs like they were the kings and queens. I wanted to show good images of black people in regal clothes – like black excellence – I’m a fantasiser! You should always be proud of yourself and who you are really.” Never resting on her many many laurels, the designer shares, “I love digital art! I started doing the art and people started to love my art just like they love my clothes so I thought why not? I’m doing some beautiful images and I’m also putting them on clothes as well as screen prints to hang on your walls.” That’s when she’s not conjuring up fluffy puffball dresses, a style Mary invented. It’s overture overload! A pressed foil wrap dress – another Mary Martin London trademark design – clings to a tailor’s dummy in the studio at the top of her townhouse, her very own Isolde’s Tower. And next season’s must have accessory is in the making: the outsized unisex bag. But her suitcases are packed: “I love Ghana! I’m going over there as soon as I can to do some fashion!”

Right now she’s busy sewing up a storm: a private commission to design and make individual scarves for an Irish mother and her two daughters. The scarves feature Mary’s signature Slaves in the Woods pattern in each client’s favourite colourway. Welcome to the undisputed territory of Maryland. Earlier, the designer was partying with R+B singer Mark Morrison. Next, Kofi arrives and before long Mary is duetting down the corridor with the legendary rock singer: “Black is the colour of my skin | Black is the life that I live | And I’m so proud to be the colour that God made me | And I just gotta sing black is my colour | Yeah couldn’t be no other oh no | Black is my colour / Yeah yeah | Couldn’t be no other | No no no.” Kofi laughs, “Everybody loves Mary!” American dance and house singer Kathy Brown of “Happy People” and “Give It Up” fame rings: “It’s going to be a good year!”

Mary has been jazzing up her atelier of late. She scrawled “And behind the smile, beneath the makeup, I’m just a girl who wishes for the future” across a Katherine Hepburn mirror in her salon. And “Life is better when you’re laughing” over a Marilyn Monroe mirror in her studio. A humongous two metre tall carnation precariously balances over her materials cupboards. Like everything about Mary Martin London, it’s larger than life, carried on huge waves of Wagnerian music crashing on the ocean floor. Not everyone has “Talking to God” as their WhatsApp tagline. Not everyone is Mary Martin London. An afternoon in her company: well, it’s like living life in inverted commas.

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Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Silhouette

She Who Dares Wins

Fashion over adversity. This season is all about silhouette. Nobody – and we mean nobody – does silhouette better than Mary Martin London. Especially when montaged against the shape of history. This lady’s for turning – heads. Form doesn’t always follow function when it’s following a flight of fancy. Headdresses are a necessary accessory when it comes to haute – and we mean haute – couture. University of fashion.

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Architects Architecture Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + The Return Fashion Shoot

Cinematographic Lives

No justice no fashion. How many people does it take to do a Mary Martin London fashion shoot? Counting. A host. A fashion designer. A fashion photographer. A fashion photographer’s assistant. A set photographer. A videographer. A lighting technician. A stylist. Two makeup artists. Two hairdressers. One headdress stylist. Four models. A ballerina. A chauffeur. A muse. That’ll be 20. Oh plus five security. Make that 25. Big wigs plus fashion’s finest. Everyone authentically leading their best London lives up a level. Forgetting fiction, correcting the truth. A September Sunday. No just as fashion.

On location at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Westminster. By 9am the collective creative energy is palpable. Ballerina Omozefe is practising her moves while classical music reverberates off the marble Durbar Court. “I’m dazzled by this space. It’s amazing!” She shares, “I started learning ballet aged four. I’m five foot six inches but I’ve an unusually long inside leg measurement of 33 inches. Resilience is so important for the amount of training you need to do to be successful. You need the ability to endure pain. It’s constant training – like being an athlete. Odette and Odile in Swan Lake is every ballet dancer’s dream role!”

“This is like a film set! The lighting is lovely!” exclaims leading photographer Monika Schaible upon seeing the Grand Staircase. More exclamations follow when half Lebanese half Sierra Leonean model Yasmin Jamaal surprises in a regal black and crimson extravaganza. “TC! Totally couture!” Yasmin responds, “I feel like a queen.” Cecil Beaton said of Tallulah Bankhead, “Her entrance is always dramatic.” Yasmin, anyone? Not content with setting the catwalks alight, Yasmin has hit the silver screen. She appears in the new James Bond film No Time To Die. Her summary is: “It’s a really exciting movie. There are a lot of stunts. Working with Daniel Craig was so interesting.”

Leila Samati is another international model. Originally from the Algarve in Portugal, she came to study International Business in London. “My favourite models are Naomi Campbell and Adriana Lima who modelled for Victoria’s Secret.” Leila can add the “super” prefix to her job title: she’s been crowned Miss World, Miss Africa Great Britain and Miss Guinea-Bissau. “Mary’s dresses have amazing details,” she observes. “You can tell the hard work that goes into pieces she produces. They’re so elegant.”

The third female model on today’s shoot is Londoner Kiki Busari. “This is my first shoot with Mary. She’s so creative. I’m loving the whole period theme. It’s like an historic costume drama!” Kiki adds, “Mary is the hardest working designer I know.” She can’t wait to show her young sons Saint and Angel the stills. Freelance stylist Joel Kerroy is here “to make everyone and everything camera ready”. When not perfecting shoots, Joel puts together look books for the likes of Jeff Banks and Burberry. He thinks, “Mary’s clothes are so elegant and extravagant. They’re eleganza!”

Fellow Londoner Hassan Reese is the male model. At 6 foot four inches he is a body double for runner Usain Bolt. It’s really a cast of Hassan that is used for the athlete’s body in Madame Tussaud. He also owns Dam Model Management. “I love modelling Mary’s clothes.” He last starred in her Blood Sweat and Tears Collection show. Mary collaborated with headdress creator Elisha Griffith. Her company is Blossom Concepts. “Mary has taught me so much,” she relates. “With no Notting Hill Carnival this year I’ve enjoyed learning new skills.”

Mary reveals, “The Georgian fashion shoot that my muse Stuart Blakley modelled in last year filled me with inspiration for the period theme. The Return Collection is Marie Antoinette meets tribal meets avant garde.” Unbelievably the outfits showcasing the collection at this shoot were all designed and made by the fashion artist in just under three weeks. By early afternoon, the shoot is in full swing. There’s nowhere grander or more entrenched with story than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and there are no grander clothes more entrenched with story than Mary Martin London.

Memorable fashion moments are fleetingly created and permanently captured. Omozefe’s tippy toed croisé,  plié and grand jeté. Yasmin working a dress of straw. Leila balancing a gargantuan Georgian wig on her head. Hassan strutting his stuff. Kiki taking a selfie with a Victorian bust. And the final memorable scene: the alternative royal family proudly descending the Grand Staircase illuminated by late afternoon sunlight. It’s as if Armand Constant Milicourt-Lefebre’s portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie have sprung to life and – joined by two Dauphines – been augmented by greater beauty, exquisiteness, relevance, and contemporaneity. High above in the golden coffered dome an inscription glitters: “Praise Thee O God Yea Let All The People Praise Thee O Let The Nations Rejoice And Be Glad”. Far below, everyone is present. Everyone is on point. Everyone is in awe. By 5pm it’s a wrap. Time to party.

“What an anointing to be filled with God’s joy!” rejoices Mary. “It gives me great pleasure to create. It’s emotional. I’ve done fashion shows and shoots all over the world. I’ve been to Ghana, South Africa, south of France, you name it, I’ve been to a lot of places. I express myself in my clothes with my moods: happy, sad, crazy, kooky, whatever it is you know I just express it on my clothes. It’s just a natural thing for me. A lot of people seem to love the eccentric clothes I make and you know I love showing the clothes and I love the catwalk. But I’ve never shown at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before. What a privilege. This is a first! It’s all exciting for me! I’m on point!” Cecil Beaton said of Tallulah Bankhead, “Her vitality is dynamic; she can sustain fever pitch ad finitum.” Mary, anyone? At the wrap party everyone agrees this is the start of something big. Really big. First comes the Black History Month exhibition in Foreign and Commonwealth Office. And there’s more, much more to come. Justice fashion.

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Architects Architecture Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + The Return Collection + Foreign + Commonwealth Office London

Power

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” croons Lisa-Marie Presley. You ain’t. And you won’t. Not yet. For Mary Martin London is busy sewing up a storm for her forthcoming fashion feat: The Return Collection. This comes hot and heavy on the haute heels of her last extravaganza Blood Sweat and Tears. This time it really is all about power dressing. And the corridors of power are about to be torn up by the thrust and throttle no room for boondoggle of a Mary Martin London show. “If our myths and truths are only another exotic blossoming, the free play of possibility,” writes Marilynne Robinson in The Death of Adam, “then they are fully as real and as worthy of respect as anything else.”

Rooftop The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Show. Not merely catwalk, for Mary will as ever be mixing decks in between directing the lighting, sound, photography, choreography, and always, laughter. There is really only one space that can hold its own for her solo show. Enter Durbar Court. “I like that the heads of the East India Company leaders will be looking down on my catwalk!” Mary howls laughing. “History and all that!” The Court was first used in 1867 for a reception of the Sultan of Turkey. King Edward VII threw his Coronation party here in 1902. Ms Robinson again, “At best, our understanding of any historical moment is significantly wrong, and this should come as no surprise, since we have little grasp of any present moment.” More recently, President Trump gave a speech here; Victoria Beckham showed last summer; Vivienne Westwood before that; but this is a first: a black female designer holding court in Durbar Court.

Downing Street Sign The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Staircase The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Statue The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Muses' Stair The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Empress Eugenie Muses' Stair The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Durbar Court The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Durbar Court Roof The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Durbar Court Arcades The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Columns The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chandelier Durbar Court The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is accessed off King Charles Street. It backs onto Downing Street. Numbers 10 and 11 can be glimpsed through muslin drapes. Architect George Gilbert Scott and the India Office’s surveyor Matthew Digby Wyatt were the dream design team. Completed in 1875, really it’s a cluster of buildings: the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial and Home Offices. George Gilbert Scott supplied the august neoclassical cloak of architecture enveloping the inner sanctum of Matthew Digby Wyatt’s grand interior which reaches a climax in Durbar Court, a marvel in Greek, Sicilian and Belgian marble. Three storeys of columns and piers supporting arches rise to the glazed roof. The ground floor Doric and first floor Ionic columns are red Peterhead granite; the top floor Corinthian columns, grey Aberdeen granite. It’s the atrium of atria, arcades in Arcadia.

Frieze The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There’s so much art and sculpture and history layered with meaning and misapprehension in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. En processional route to Durbar Court is the Muses’ Stair. An octagonal glass lantern lighting the Portland stone staircase is decorated by Canephorae, Roman goddesses of plenty, floating over cherubs representing Roman virtues. Portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie hang between red Devonshire marble and grey Derbyshire marble Corinthian columns.

2012 Olympic Torch The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Dare to be you!” Reverend Andy Rider preached in his last sermon as Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields. Over 100 years ago Lady Sybil Grant wrote in her self hagiography, “Provided that we are a star we should not trouble about the relative importance of our position in the heavens.” Fastforward a century or so and Mary is confident of her place in the firmament. And daring to be Mary Martin London. The creation of Eve. “We should be thankful that our cinematographic life in London still affords the quality of mystery and unexpectedness,” proclaimed Lady Sybil. Big statement.

Mary Martin London The Foreign and Commonwealth Office London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Big statement architecture requires big statement fashion. Another interjection from Marilynne Robinson, “It all comes down to the mystery of the relationship between the mind and the cosmos.” First there was The Black Dress: “I see through a dark cloud of black mist.” Then The Red Dress: “The tainted bride is no longer a virgin.” Next came The White Dress: “I dream of memories when I was a Queen.” There’s only one dress left. The Rainbow Dress: “It’s finally coming – the biggest and the best! The Rainbow Dress will open The Return Collection!” the fashion artist declares. “A world champion ballerina will combine Tai quan dao and African dance on the catwalk. I’m bringing it in a bit different! People haven’t been out so I’m going to give them an amazing show. The Return to Africa. I’m out of the box!” Out of the box and into the Court. “Just A Dream” mourns Lisa-Marie Presley. Not for Mary Martin London. She is all about turning dreams into fantasies into realities into myths and truths. An uncommon wealth of talent.

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

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Mary Martin London + Behind the Mask + Blood Sweat + Tears Collections

Hinterland Sound

Mary Martin London Janice Porter Stuat Blakley © Lavender's Blue

The fashion pictures. Urban chic in the country. Military cool in the city. Mary Martin wears versatility on her sleeve. “It was all very grand and very mad,” Nancy Mitford once purred.

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Art Fashion People

Mary Martin London + Behind the Mask Collection

Hugging at the Venice Ball

Mary Martin London Hoodie Stuart Blakley © Lavender's Blue Becks

Only Mary Martin London would conjure up haute couture hoodies with matching face masks in an increasingly byzantine world, introducing evanescent light into the Stygian darkness. Worthy of a Rizzoli monograph, Behind the Mask is futuristic fashion fusion taken to a whole new paradoxical level. Mary exclaims, “I just thought to myself I need to create streetwear for this time when we’re not allowed on the streets!” Face masks are the new matching fashion accessory. Socially distanced, a “drive by shoot” takes on a whole new meaning, channelling inner Fauda. Thanks Becks. Gucci velvet slippers model’s own.

Mary Martin London Behind the Mask Haute Couture Stuart Blakley © Lavender's Blue Becks

Mary Martin London Face Mask Stuart Blakley © Lavender's Blue Becks

Mary Martin London Behind the Mask Collection Stuart Blakley © Lavender's Blue Becks

Mary Martin London Behind the Mask Streetwear Stuart Blakley © Lavender's Blue Becks

Mary Martin London Hoodie Label Stuart Blakley © Lavender's Blue Becks