An interview with the wonderfully talented millinery designer Jennifer Martin.
With the Scottish Fashion Awards on the horizon, it’s a time to show our appreciation to those Scottish Designers who have captured our imaginations, as well as our hearts for many years. Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Holly Fulton and Louise Gray are only some of the big names being nominated for awards this year. However what I think makes the SFA really exciting, and gives it that fresh, youthful kick encouraging us to look forward and embrace the fashion royalty of tomorrow is the recognition it gives to those up and coming designers who have shot up onto the scene in the past few years. One of those designers is Jennifer Martin, the brains behind the explosion of colour that is Jenevieve Berlin Millinery. The brand re-introduces the art of elaborate millinery to the younger generation, it does this by combining an old fashioned theatrical flair, somewhat like that of the “My Fair Lady” ascot era, and throwing in a bit of 80’s and 90’s hip hop culture, some neon and really creating sculptures more than just hats, encapsulating the energy of today’s youth culture.
I spoke to her over the phone, she was welcoming and engaging and being based in London now, started the conversation with a comment on how comforting it was to hear a Glaswegian accent, there’s no place like home I suppose. I asked;
So what made you want to become a designer, is it something you always wanted to do or did it find you?
I’ve always loved fashion, principally costume design. I can remember being attracted to bright teal and sequins when picking fabric in Remnant Kings on Byres Road. My mum used to make my costumes every Halloween and I still have her old sewing machine. My Nana taught me to knit and sew, and my Aunty taught me to draw, illustrate, and paint. I started off making me and my sister’s dancing costumes to save money, and the head pieces went with them. I then started to make them for others in the dance school, and JBM grew from there.My mum calls me Jenivieve, and I love Berlin. I feel the city encapsulates every aspect of the brand. The revolution of Berlin echoes my mission to develop millinery and bring it to a younger audience.
Jenevieve Berlin has been nominated for the Accessory Award at The Scottish Fashion Awards, I asked her how she felt about being nominated for an award at such a prestigious event; “I’m thrilled to bits.” She said “A Scottish fashion awards nomination is an honor to any Scottish designer. It is a high profile event and allows up and coming talent to be exposed to a wealth of publicity. Brushing shoulders with major fashion designers, photographers, and communicators is an invaluable experience, and I can’t wait to get involved yet again!” You see, despite the fact that Jenevieve Berlin is really still very young, it is already wiping out the competition having been nominated for multiple awards, two years in a row.
What piece of work are you most proud of?
I am proud of all of my collections, I can’t single out one piece, it’s too hard. However, the pieces I am proudest to have worked on belong to the most famous milliner in the world. Last summer I interned with Philip Treacy for four months. During this time I was park of the artistic and workshop team that produced his SS14 show during London Fashion Week. With Michael Jackson’s clothes and a Swarovski sponsorship, the show was deemed the biggest during fashion week.
It certainly does pay off then. Surrounding yourself with inspiration really does push you to harness that inspiration, challenge your imagination and get your teeth into your own work. I know this because the more and more I spoke to Jenni, the more I wanted to get home and just start making things. On that note, I asked Jenni who her favorite designers featuring in the Scottish Fashion Awards this year were.“I love Christopher Kane” she said
“I can remember him coming out of our dance studio when he was still at Central St Martins. He was a childhood friend of one of my close friends and I still remember him admiring my head pieces. He was encouraging and complimentary. Louise Gray is another favorite, I love her bold ostentatious shapes and patterns. Also the accessories she uses are in your face. Very JBM!”
Her darlings however, and ours here at Glasgow University Magazine after our super successful shoot for this issue are of course “her Obscure Couture Ladies”. “They are amazing” she exclaims. Having collaborated with them on a few occasions she talked of how creative they were “They keep me on my toes” she says, “and being Glasgow girls, we’re not wilting flowers”
We ended our chat with Jennifer’s words of encouragement and wisdom to any aspiring designers out there, poetically she preaches
“I think it’s important to do something unique, but I’m a little biaeds. I’ve always liked to stand out from the crowd and this is mirrored in my work. Young designers, always do as you please, create what you want and never listen to peeps who put you down. I was told by my art teacher I’d never get anywhere in fashion, and JBM proves that teachers don’t know everything”
On that rebellious note, reflective of the raw edgy energy of her designs I thought, she then told me that the brand will be opening up a boutique on Asos marketplace. You can also vote for Headwear by Jenni Martin to win Stylist magazine and Triumph Lingerie’s maker’s competition.
-Megan Duffy Black Gallcher