MILAN — When J.J. Martin started designing products for her La DoubleJ brand, she had a clear mission: delivering items that would bring joy to people.
The editor-turned-entrepreneur is now applying the same formula to the brand’s first store, which debuts at the end of the month in Milan’s Golden Triangle luxury shopping district, on 10, Via Sant’Andrea, to be precise.
“It’s the best address in Milan, between Chanel and Banner, across from Bottega Veneta,” said Martin, who as an American living in Italy for the past 19 years is fully aware of the country’s complicated bureaucracy. “Italy’s system is not exactly business-friendly but I learn that in the end everything works out here, you just have to be patient and collaborative.”
Martin gave credit for the idea of opening a flagship during a global pandemic to her business partner and ex-husband Andrea Ciccoli, chief executive officer of The Level Group, the e-commerce partner of a range of luxury brands spanning from Dolce & Gabbana to La DoubleJ itself.
“When everybody is running away from retail, he decided that it was the right moment to invest in it. He found the store, he negotiated the lease, he really took care of that,” said Martin. “The truth is that the inspiration always comes from Andrea. The seed comes from him and then I create the tempest around the storm.”
The Milan store, which was designed by Paolo Badesco & Partners, will carry the brand’s full product offering, spanning from apparel and accessories to homeware and tableware. Founded in 2015, the company originally launched as a shoppable magazine selling vintage clothes and jewelry — one of Martin’s multiple passions — but quickly expanded into a lifestyle brand offering new collections, which are entirely manufactured in Italy.
“I really feel proud about supporting this incredible craft of artisans across the country,” said Martin, whose love for everything Italian also matured during her career as editor for publications that included Harper’s Bazaar, Wallpaper and The Wall Street Journal. “For 15 years as an editor, I lived with this mission of discovery and revealing new things. And this deeply influenced my work method with La DoubleJ.”
While at the beginning the brand was mainly delivering flattering, joyful dresses in vibrant prints from textile specialist Mantero’s archives, in time La DoubleJ began to introduce new, exclusive patterns, additional pieces, spanning from everyday separates to beachwear and activewear, as well as porcelain made in Verona, glasses handcrafted in Murano and tablecloths crafted just outside Milan.
Even if fashion accounts for 80 percent of the company’s total business, Martin said that during the pandemic the sales of homeware products spiked. “However, in the past few weeks, we are seeing a huge return of dresses,” said the fashion entrepreneur, who revealed that the company has been posting record sales online for the past several months.
While Martin declined to reveal the company’s sales figures, she said that La DoubleJ, which has 30 full-time employees and a network of 15 to 20 freelancers, has been profitable since the second year in business. “Ciccoli always says that if you are not profitable since the beginning, you will never be,” she said.
The brand, which has recently debuted a pop-up shop at Hong Kong’s luxury shopping center K11, currently sells its collections in 200 stores globally. “We are very selective on who we partner with. We look for business partners embracing our vision and which feature teams that are keen to team up with ours to deliver great, unique projects,” said Martin, who over the years also collaborated with a range of labels in different fields, spanning from fashion and beauty (Fabrizio Viti, Valextra and Acqua di Parma) to furniture (Kartell) and hospitality (Pellicano Group).
Speaking to a diverse range of women, Martin is a strong supporter of female empowerment, not only at a social level, but also at a spiritual one. A yoga enthusiast — she has been practicing the discipline for 25 years — about a decade ago Martin also started a spiritual path with an energy healer “that helped me open all my doors and boosted my creativity.”
In order to inspire other women to face their issues, engage more with their spirituality and take care of themselves at a deeper level, Martin uses La DoubleJ’s social media to host practices led by experts, including gong baths or Pranayama sessions. “The Milan store will be a great stage to host this type of live events,” said Martin. “For example, in May my spiritual teacher from Sedona will host a webinar on Dream&Achieve.”
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