The Men’s Collection
More Than Many Sparrows
Multi award winning fashion designer Mary Martin took the capital by storm at this year’s Africa Fashion Week London. In a truly electrifying performance – for performance it was, combining art, design, choreography, fashion and music – she set Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden alight. It may have been Mary’s inaugural men’s collection but the Queen of Couture couldn’t resist adding a showstopping feminine finale. Wrapped in a body stocking covered with one of Mary’s own prints, ‘Slaves in the Woods’, Aidia strutted her stuff to thunderous applause. The crowd went wild!
Only Mary would have her very own soundtrack. Music’s in the veins: her daughter Celetia is a singer songwriter (vocals for Groove Armada; lyrics for Janet Jackson). Freemasons’ Hall rocked hard to an Afrobeats hit by DeJavu. The song? ‘Mary Martin London‘. She acknowledges it’s been a lot of work designing and making her first ever menswear in the space of a few months. “Blood, sweat and tears!” The raunchy collection is dedicated to the 400 year anniversary of the first African slaves landing in America.
One of the designer’s favourite models Howey Ejegi closed the men’s show to yet more thunderous applause. The crowd went even wilder! Mary Martin Men, both on and off the catwalk, is brave, bold, brilliantly conceived. It somehow simultaneously captures movement and silhouette, definition and intangibility, light and shade. Just as she revolutionised the couture dress, so Mary has produced a collection that celebrates the male form through novel and exciting reinventions. The interplay is very very sexy.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!”
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.
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.
“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.
“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.