Meet the future stars of British fashion as chosen by the BFC’s NEWGEN initiative.
The first thing that strikes you about Marta Jakubowski is her clear blue eyes. She has the deepest, huskiest voice and is reassuringly direct. And she has an incredible clarity in her creative vision too.
Her degree show at the RCA in May 2014 was a memorable one - her models were all connected by long trains of fabric attached with metal braces held in place around their heads. It was a bold statement in red, white and black, each model strangely isolated but also connected to the one in front of her and behind her.
The previous summer, her mother had died and she had spent time visiting her at the hospital, fascinated by the clinical surroundings. Her final collection was like therapy for her - as much a manifestation of her emotional state as her mission statement.
"I wanted to create something that is 'this is me whether you like it or not, this is how I feel'," she says. She did lots of work experience, including for Hussein Chalayan in London and Bruno Pieters in Antwerp. But ultimately, she knew she wanted to do her own thing. "You only have one chance so why would you do it for someone else? It became so personal especially during the MA. I felt it was so good for me - it was like therapy. It is the only constant in life, it’s always there for me, so why would I lose it and do it for someone else?"
Jakubowski was born in Poland but moved to Germany as a baby. She grew up in Mainz, near Frankfurt, and studied fashion at college in Trier. She spent time working on costumes for theatre - covering all mediums, including ballet, opera and plays. "They are all really different worlds and are really important for what I do now. With ballet, the movement is important and how the clothes move, whereas in opera you create a strong image and it’s more like couture where you are really showing the concept of the whole thing. I found plays really important because you had to study the character of the actor and create the perfect look for the person to show their personality." All of this experience has fed into Jakubowski’s fashion work. "I have in mind a mix of characters I look up to or I’m intimidated by - or fascinated by. I always say it’s a woman but it could be a man as well."
The morning we met, her London Fields studio was basking in sunlight. She’s house-sitting for a friend and has been able to set up her work space in an airy bedroom. It was a month before her A/W 16 collection would be shown at London Fashion Week but as with most young designers, production is one of the biggest challenges. She was busy with an assistant making an order from S/S 16 for Machine-A.
It’s not easy setting up on your own straight from college, but she is getting help from the BFC’s Topshop Newgen programme. "Without it, I wouldn’t have a business. It’s like a family. You go to Paris with the London Showrooms and all the designers - you share experience and become friends. You can call them if you have problems."
Jakubowski has a very consistent colour palette. "There are so many colours but the themes I am looking at, I don’t think purple or brown symbolise the strength I want to show. I think red, black and white are really strong colours. It’s a lot about the cut. I don’t really use prints. I think these colours really support the design and the fluidity."
For S/S 16, her collection was inspired by women in institutions. "I was looking at a woman in a hospital environment - a mental hospital and prison. She’s a woman who didn’t have a choice or wasn’t really accepted by everyone else. There were documentaries I was watching and most of the women are really strong characters but misunderstood." The theme develops into A/W 16 but this time the woman is "a bit stronger." "It’s about mental strength," she says.
And then there is the clarity within the cut of her clothes. She likes a one-piece but there will be asymmetry or a slash in the fabric where you wouldn’t expect it. "I always like onesies, overalls. When I was younger, I wore tracksuits. I like things you don’t have to think about. I think that’s something I like in my designs as well, this idea of one garment."
Jakubowski has incredible energy and her strength and clarity are refreshing in a season of eclecticism. "I want to show the whole mood around the collection," she says. "It’s the first time I will have girls and boys moving around; I can have music that supports the set; maybe a smell that supports the collection. I want to create this whole world which is so important as a brand, a designer and an artist. It’s not just about the clothing, it’s about the whole world, that’s what is exciting." Marta Jakubowski has arrived.
Interview by Tamsin Blanchard