Martin Lamothe's Knock Out Cruiser

Established designers have long had the luxury (and capital) to tap into the increasingly lucrative resort market, easing consumers into spring with accessible, palette-whetting pre-collections. While burgeoning talent has never had as easy a go, Martin Lamothe’s Elena Martin, for one, has decided to subvert the status quo. Cheekily dubbing her SS/10 collection “Cruiser,” Martin has created a knockout ode to holidays on the high seas. Playful, sporty, and sophisticated, the collection is replete with colorful flag motifs, chunky rope detail, and fisherman’s-net-patterned leather. Think less champagne-wishes-and-caviar-dreams, more multi-culti Love Boat.

A lifelong love of architecture, coupled with a nascent interest in graphic design, informed Martin’s oeuvre from the beginning, evident in this season’s bold prints and alternately soft and structured silhouettes. Following stints as a freelance stylist and costume designer, the Barcelonian saw fit to strike out on her own, ultimately launching Martin Lamothe in 2006. Armed with a master’s in womenswear from Central Saint Martins (where, at age 20, she was the youngest ever to matriculate), Martin saw her first student collection appear in the pages of Self Service. Presaging fashion’s yen for androgyny, the designer went unisex for 2007, formally introducing prêt-à-porter two years later. This past September, Martin was among the 25 fledgling designers who appeared in Edit, Topshop’s London pop-up.

Conceptually speaking, Martin’s execution has always revolved around striking the right balance between fashion and art. “Our projects with visual artists are as important as the clothes to get each season,” the designer says of fashioning a cohesive, albeit utterly unique,
brand identity. To wit, she relies upon a roster of photo and video collaborators — including icanteachyouhowtodoit’s Gerard Estadella — to ensure that the fledgling Spanish label is as appealing to the eye as it is to the touch. “It’s all quite cinematic,” Martin says of her admittedly myriad inspirations. “It’s landscapes, sensations, moments.” While past collections have been driven by everything from Martin Parr’s English coastal towns to William Eggleston’s stark American landscapes, this season Martin stayed more or less on the continent, creating a decidedly Euro collection. “It’s based on the fever for the holidays, that dump euphoria,” she says, citing the restlessness that comes with wanting to get away and the thrill of finally setting sail.

Martin’s color palette this go-round necessarily includes navy blue, put to beautiful use in resined-cotton waterproof trenches and fluid, viscose maxicoat one-pieces. As to favorites, the designer herself singles out the “Flagstaff” print smoking jumpsuit, a multihued, nautically inspired garment that simultaneously channels Bauhaus and the United Nations. Ropes take center stage in the collection, snaking (in leather, no less) around the bust of silk chiffon dresses, circling the waist of waxed cotton-jersey pants, and trimming the belled sleeves of a see-through silk organza dress. That Martin has given her looks such names as “Moby Dick” and “Blow” suggests a sense of humor — something she sees in her customers as well. “They’re in good spirits. They’re confident, fun, maybe unconventional,” she explains. In less able hands, “Cruiser” might have devolved into kitsch, or simply been lost in translation. Having seamlessly channeled both the elegant and the irreverent, however, Martin’s officially won us over. We’re ready to hop on board.

—Sarah Fones

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