The native Californian moved to Milan and launched a wildly successful fashion brand popping with maximalist prints and suffused in spirituality. Brava!
Words by KELSEY McKINNON
La DoubleJ’s founder JJ Martin sitting pretty with her spirit animal and second “baby,” Pepper. PHOTO: Amina Marazzi.
Inside La DoubleJ’s flagship store in Milan, past the racks of kaleidoscope print dresses and dopamine-boosting palazzo-wear, is what founder JJ Martin calls the “sacred grotta.” The sunken blue cave-like room, adorned with murals of divine mothers and archangels along with snakes, eyeballs, yonis, and other magical symbols, is part VIP salesroom, part New Age portal where Martin hosts energy healers and kundalini yoga sessions. If it isn’t clear by now, La DoubleJ offers much more than maximalist swing dresses. “The objective is not to just sell a woman a dress or a tablecloth, but also to wrap our arms around her, uplift her soul, and help her feel like a million bucks in all aspects of her life,” says Martin, who launched the brand in 2015 with vintage clothing and jewelry and now sells a full lifestyle range, including home furnishings and tabletop ceramics.
The company motto, “Raise Your Vibration,” is an expansion of Martin’s personal spiritual practice, which over the years has dabbled in everything from yogic, Vedic, Buddhist, and medicinal journeys to shamanism, plant medicine, ancient Egyptian mystery school, and multidimensional galactic work. Martin, however, insists that one of the easiest ways to raise your vibration is by simply wearing colors and prints. “Different chakras are associated with different colors. It’s a wonderful way to lighten yourself. Suddenly things feel sunnier. People are smiling at you. Doors open,” says Martin, who wears prints or colors almost every day.
A fourth-generation Californian, Martin was born and raised in Los Angeles and grew up in the Pacific Palisades attending Marlborough School and UC Berkeley. By the time she was in grammar school, everyone had started calling her JJ, short for Jennifer Jane, and her best friend jokingly called her “double J.” She moved to New York and worked in marketing at Calvin Klein before leaving her high-fashion gig to follow her Italian boyfriend (now ex-husband and business partner Andreas Ciccoli) to Milan, which started out as a very isolating experience. “I had no family, no friends, no job, I didn’t know how to cook. I couldn’t take care of myself,” she remembers.
Then there was the nightmare of infertility. “That was the final straw where I really left all Western medicine behind,” she says. (Despite not being able to conceive a human child, Martin refers to La DoubleJ as her firstborn and treats it as a living, breathing lifeforce.)
A collection of La DoubleJ’s retro-inspired dessert plates made in collaboration with 1stDibs. PHOTO: Alberto Zanetti.
Martin’s career in Milan eventually took off, first at the Costume National brand, then as a reporter for Fashion Wire Daily and the International Herald Tribune before becoming Harper’s Bazaar’s and Wallpaper’s Italy editor. As she was burning out from the endless cycle of fashion shows, she fell in love with a “crazy idea” and decided to flip the script.
La DoubleJ started off as an online magazine proffering vintage clothes and jewelry before Martin launched her ready-to-wear line reviving silk patterns from one of Italy’s most prestigious silk makers in Lake Como. The brand, which is now carried at Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Matches Fashion, and Net-a-Porter, never tried to conform to Milan’s old-school fashion legacy. “We pushed maximalism all the way: patterns were layered, mashed, mixed, and blended by the Vitamix of my own gut. The crazier the print, the wilder the color, the better,” she says.
The company is only eight years old, but Martin feels as though it is already an unruly teenager. “She’s like, ‘Get me outta here, I’m not really into my mom anymore. I wanna do my own thing,’” she says, laughing. “I feel like I’m still kind of a controlling mom and I need to back off and realize she’s got her own friends [meaning La DoubleJ’s 70 employees] and she’s going to just go hang out with them and do what she wants to do.” Earlier this year, former Chanel CEO Maureen Chiquet joined as chairwoman.
Martin’s second baby and spirit animal is a pug named Pepper who accompanies her to the office each day and serves as the company’s muse. Her third child is her new book, Mamma Milano, a 200-plus page account of the designer’s past two decades in Italy. It’s part scrapbook, part memoir, part New Age bible filled with advice for endearing yourself to Italians as an American and starting a business. In the end, it’s a love letter to the city that became her first spiritual teacher. “Above all, it’s about trusting that some unseen universal force always puts you exactly in the place you need to be,” she says.
Martin could have glossed over all the messy, challenging times and fast forwarded to La DoubleJ’s multitude of successes (including collaborations with Ladurée and Bulgari), her own personal triumphs (the decadent birthday soirées in Lake Como and the beautiful apartments she designed), and portraits of the brand’s high-energy “sistars,” including Christy Turlington and Oprah Winfrey. But the effusive truth-teller insisted on going through the trenches to the company’s scrappy beginnings and her own tribulations to paint the whole picture. In doing so, it becomes another tool to help women activate their own inner goddess. When in doubt, a sparkling feathered swing dress usually does the trick, too.
Each copy of Mamma Milano: An Insider’s Guide to Creative Self-Discovery, the Italian Way (Vendome Press, $60) is bound in one of three LaDoubleJ fabrics. PHOTO: Amina Marazzi.
TAYLOR HILLS wears GIVENCHY jacket, shirt, and jeans; BUCCELLATI bracelet, TIFFANY & CO. ring; and BULGARI cuff single earring. Studs, Taylor’s own.
Feature image: Martin, who didn’t even know how to cook when she first moved to Italy, is now fluent in the art of the Milanese dinner party. PHOTO: Alberto Zanetti.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2023/2024 issue of C Magazine.
Discover more DESIGN news.
See the story in our digital edition