JJ Martin on the Importance of Spirituality & Finding the Beauty in Everything
La DoubleJ’s founder on what we can learn from the Italian way of life.
Working from home takes on a different connotation depending on your definition of “home.” For some, this means an apartment in a city; for others, their parents’ house in the ’burbs; but when we caught up with La DoubleJ’s JJ Martin to discuss finding spirituality in Italy, she was lounging in the Hotel Il Pellicano, overlooking the Tuscan coast, with her dog nestled in her lap. Anyone else want to trade?
Since Italy’s restrictions relaxed a few months ago, the designer has been hopping around Italy, indulging in the beauty of the country. A fashion journalist transplant from New York City, Martin arrived in Italy in 2001. Her job was to cover Italy’s fashion scene, which, she says, “introduced me to all of Italy's wonders. Its creative people, its most gorgeous places, buildings, architects, past, present, future, the food.” She has since evolved from selling vintage into a brand that works with historic Italian manufacturers, collaborating with historic brands in Italy to bring a full 360-degree product offering—everything from accessories to swimwear, RTW to evening gowns, and even some home ware.
Despite all her successes, the transition wasn’t exactly a smooth one. Martin, who describes her past self as the quintessential New Yorker, had a hard time adjusting. Her type-A personality clashed with the laid-back Milanese mentality, and because of that, she counts Italy as her “first major spiritual teacher.”
“It’s really about learning how to enjoy the being state,” Martin further explains, “which, for a New Yorker and for many Americans, is an uncomfortable place to be.” She believes Italians possess “natural inherent gifts that allow them to live their life already in quite a conscious way in terms of being connected to feeling,” which she was able to learn greatly from.
“It’s maddening to us New Yorkers until you start living this lifestyle and understanding, and this is another really important tenant of spiritual practice, that you are the creator of your own existence and your own reality,” she says. “If it’s a shit storm, you made certain, active, conscious decisions to get you there, and you need to be really conscientious of that.”
After an ongoing battle with infertility between 2010 and 2015, she realized that “our physical body is such a manifestation of our thoughts, our own emotions, the blocks that we have.” This isn’t about playing the blame game, but instead is focused on “taking responsibility for your own realm, your own energetic field, your own sense of well-being, and once you do that, things really start to shift,” says Martin. “The minute I started working with this energy healer, who specialized in fertility, nine months later I gave birth to my company,” she adds matter-of-factly.
Without this inner work, Martin doesn’t believe her company would look like what it is today. “I would have had too much of the perfectionist streak, I would have been too critical, too judgmental,” she explains, which is something most Americans can likely relate to.
It boils down to trusting that everything will work out the way it should. “That’s easy to say when your life is rosy, and it’s really difficult to say when the shit hits the fan and COVID cuts all of your orders and suddenly you have no money and other people are dealing with anxiety or depression at home.” These are messages from the universe that things are not as they should be.
It’s a fine line to walk, though, to take responsibility for yourself but to also yield to the roadblocks life throws at you. “That’s really one thing that I learned with my business was you have to move forward and you need that sort of masculine drive and that push, but you need to go with the flow.”
All of this sounds a little unapproachable at first glance, but Martin quickly explains that the first steps are easy. “Honestly, you just need to bring a little more kindness into your life and acceptance and mercy and compassion.” In a world where the news cycle constantly spits out atrocities, it’s important to focus on yourself and how you can stay energized. “I’m way more concerned with bottom-of-the-barrel spiritual concerns, which are getting your emotional and mental pipes cleaned.”
Nature actually plays a huge role here, as well. “Everyone has a park or a patch of grass or a tree or something. Buy some plants. Put them in your house. Take care of flowers on a tiny balcony. Go sit in the park up against a tree, take off your shoes and socks, and put your feet inside the raw soil and ground yourself.” Reconnecting with nature helps you to then redirect that energy into reconnecting with yourself.
Martin didn’t just go from New York to Milan, she went from the New York fashion industry, an industry steeped in stereotypes of mean-girl culture and materialism, to Milan. “I am the first one to admit that I work in a very superficial industry,” she explains. “So much of fashion is smoke and mirrors and fake power, but so much is about creativity and beauty. These are the things we love, and these are the things we care about.”
Beauty is such a layered word. You can find it everywhere both inside and outside yourself, the former repeatedly emphasized by Martin. “Remember, energy has a vibration and colors have a vibration,” explains Martin. The brighter the color, the higher the frequency of the vibration. Unsurprisingly, she adds, “my whole life I’ve just been really attracted to color, prints, sparkles, shininess, light.”
“DoubleJ doesn’t really need to be the next cool fashion brand,” she says. “We have so many cool fashion brands done by so many cool designers that went to design school and are anointed by the halls of fashion, of high fashion. That’s not what I’m doing. I just really want to make an uplifting product to inspire and bring joy to women.” And isn’t that what we are all so desperate for right now?
Her pieces embody the splendor of dressing like a lady. “This is what I love about wearing my clothes is watching what other people do when they see me walking down the street. It’s a moment, it’s a reset.” And while she notes that, as multifaceted women, there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting excited over your DoubleJ plate or your CHANEL jacket, just make sure that’s not your only source of joy.
Martin combines a lot of contradictory elements that make her more relatable than your typical guru. She believes in the power of crystals, yet she runs a very successful business. Her tenants of kindness and compassion are propelled by her New York bluntness. All of these layers make her a little more real.
I pretty much fit the bill of how Martin described her younger New York self, including the job description, and on top of that, I’m not typically one for spirituality, but she had even me subscribing to her eat, pray, love mentality, all three elements of which, it seems, she discovered in Italy. I guess we will all have to stay tuned for her book.
Top photo: Alberto Zanetti
Want more stories like this?