Today is the Pre-Fall debut of the still new womenswear brand by M. Martin. A sophisticated line of American sportswear designed by industry veterans. Alex Gilbert of Paper Denim & Cloth success and her business partner, former Hatch showroom director, Jennifer Noyes. At first friends, the two were so aligned on their opinions of the industry and current direction of the market, including what was missing. The advanced contemporary landscape is not as saturated as the contemporary or designer market and this is where M. Martin has landed, very strategically. With a distinct point of view, M. Martin entered the market with an exclusive launch with Japan’s Tomorrowland and US-based La Garçonne. The brand has steadily gained momentum as they have solidified their position as the brand for modern and feminine dressing.
How did the two of you meet?
I, (Jennifer) taken some time off to start a family-and had returned to work to run a showroom after having my daughter. Alex was relaunching her family business- Paper Denim & Cloth at this showroom. We became friends- instantaneously.
Jennifer, coming from Hatch showroom – what was unique about Alex and her vision for a new brand that inspired you to join the designer side of fashion?
Everything happened so organically. As consumers ourselves, we were constantly discussing the landscape of the advanced contemporary market versus the designer market, and what is out there for women vs what women want. It was clear, we were both frustrated consumers, and we both clearly saw a hole in the marketplace and one day decided we should just stop talking about it and do something about it.
In what ways does your sales experience perspective influence design decisions?
My previous experience in sales will always be a part of my DNA. It’s just how I am, and how I think! Hearing from the stores and their needs, and what consumers, these real women are looking for, is and will be always on my mind. It’s who we design for! It helps having that voice in my ear when deciding fabrications and shapes- and determining price value of each garment based on these factors.
Alex, what is your opinion of the current state of the denim market? Did you bring a bit of PD&C elements into the M. Martin denim?
It’s an incredibly saturated market. There are so many types of jeans, brands of jeans, styles of jeans to choose from!
We will always have denim, as it’s such an essential part of a wardrobe, and also our lives. However, we have brought denim into M. Martin, stylistically, very different than I had in Paper, as it’s a completely different market, and a different consumer.
Alex, does your transition to M. Martin reflect a change in dress for yourself as you’ve gotten older?
I recognized that once I reached a certain age, the way I dressed became more about utility and comfort. With the launch of M. Martin, Jen and I wanted to create a wardrobe of easy, elegant pieces that would fit seamlessly into the dynamic and multi faceted lives of women like us.
Was it intimidating entering the womenswear market with a new brand?
Because we have such a strong and clear vision for our brand we have never felt intimidated but rather very motivated to fulfill our dream of creating a business that is both creatively inspired and structurally sound.
As industry veterans with credible fashion experience – how has this impacted the response to M. Martin?
There is no doubt it’s been our very different experiences and backgrounds that has brought us to create this unique perspective and idea. I’m not quite sure our CV is the reason that has impacted the positive response we have received so far- however, we are both firm believers that without our previous experiences and steps we have taken in our lives, M. Martin would not exist.
There is so much happening in the fashion landscape- there is and always will be a new brand, so we are so fortunate and grateful to have had the response to M. Martin that we have had so far- whatever the reason!
Why was it important for the brand to launch with Japan’s Tomorrowland? What do the Japanese understand about fashion other markets do not?
The buying team at Tomorrowland has been so incredibly supportive of our vision from day one! They are such a special department store, with a reputation for finding the latest and the best in fashion, it’s an honor to be a part of their growing list of brands carried!
The Japanese market is like no other- they dictate the trends and they march to the beat of their drum. Japanese women have understood our brand from the start, and it’s been incredibly exciting to see such an exciting fashion market stand behind a new American brand in a way they have had.
I read somewhere uniform dressing is something you both aspire to – how does M. Martin speak to this sort of dressing?
Yes! It’s a running joke that I am obsessed with the Smurf closet. I want to open my closet and have everything work back together as “soft separates”- it’s our idea of a modern day suit. We both want to have the modern day uniform to go beyond the basic T shirt and blue jean- so when creating this (and every) collection, and starting out each season, we make sure we are interpreting the classics in the shapes and fabrications we love, For example: a classic T shirt. We use the same elements of what we love about a T- the comfort, the ease as well as the detail of that neckline, the arm hole, and opening- and apply the same principles into different silhouettes and how it pairs back together.
How do you split responsibilities? Are you aligned on most things?
Initially, we had a very neat and detailed plan to split up responsibilities.and Day 1 happened. We both realized life does not always work as planned. (Even if it’s organized, in neat color coordinated Post Its and bullet points…) We now try our best to divide and conquer as much as possible in the office and in our day to day, but for the most part, we are sort of stuck together and share a lot of the responsibilities.
We do have a unique relationship where we get along extremely well- and are almost always on the same page- which makes the divide and conquer jobs quite seamless.
Can you describe the M. Martin woman?
A grown up, who is dynamic, confident with a strong sense of style.
How important is it to dress one’s age?
It’s so funny for us to answer this question, because Alex and I are 9 years apart in age, and yet are drawn to the same things. Not quite sure what that says about us…BUT, it does speak to the M. Martin ethos as we have said from day 1- elegance is a mindset.