Discovering Martina Spetlova’s collections is like becoming the witness of a chemical experimentation involving textures, colours and new fabric combinations. Striking patterns on hand-cut, hand-woven leather garments constitute the DNA of her very unique signature. Martina is one of these designers fighting for a more ethical fashion world where the zero waste label is a golden rule. As a sustainable brand, exciting new collaborations are in the pipeline for Martina – like the one coming soon with Swarovski’s next ethical recycled crystals range. Are you ready for the future? Welcome to Martina Spetlova’s fashion lab.
How do you present yourself?
I am a scientist turned designer. I have previously studied chemistry but have always been attracted to textiles and colour in fashion, and so applying for a fashion textile course at Central Saint Martins was a perfect choice. I graduated from the Masters course under the guidance of late Louise Wilson in 2010 and started my own brand a couple of years after.
We can feel that your background in chemistry is kind of incorporated to your work as a designer. You experiment with textiles the same way an alchemist would do in a laboratory. How did you travel from one field to the other? How do you connect science and fashion?
It might seem like a big leap from science to fashion but, on the contrary, there are many similarities in the way I approach my work as a fashion designer and as a chemist. I start with a series of different ingredients and then experiment with them to create volume, new textures and also the shape. These ideas have then a very strong influence on the construction of the garments and are transformed into my collection pieces.
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Pieces made of hand-woven leather are what make Martina Spetlova’s very unique signature. Can you tell us the story behind your technique?
My woven leather textiles, which have become the trademark of my label, are made following a technique that I have developed and perfected over the last three years. The hides are hand-punched and hand-woven for sampling. I’m now developing the same technique on other bonded fabrics that I am going to introduce in the Spring/Summer 2018 collection. In all my leather production I work towards zero waste by 
precision-cutting the leather by CNC machines and reusing any excess. 
All my textiles are handcrafted by highly skilled women artisans, 
who are part of a refugee charity project whose profit goes back into the community.
You never stop reinventing leather by sculpting, decomposing, cutting it. What does inspire you that much from the material?
I love different colours and textures. The flat surface of traditional leather does not excite me and I always try to change it and turn it into something new, unrecognizable and exciting. I very often work in a patchwork way, where I combine colour hues and textures with certain sensibility in mind.
Your designs are like painted canvases, dyed with vibrant, structured and geometrical tones. Where does your inspiration for colours come from?
I make lots of references in my work to contemporary art and particular artists. In the beginning of the season I have clear ideas about the placement and colour story of the collection, but it always changes slightly because of the limited availability of certain colours in fabrics. Many times it is a challenge to balance what I can find with what I’m trying to relate – I want to have hand-painted leather, weaving and other textile experiments.
Who wears Martina Spetlova’s pieces?
I make the clothes for myself – in some ways – as much as I do with an ideal client in mind.
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You also play with androgyny by designing unisex pieces. Do you think that the future of fashion is gender fluid?
I truly believe it already is. Fashion has been very open-minded towards unisex, and many high end and high street companies use it to their advantage. Anything goes.
You are making conscious fashion experiments with zero waste techniques. What are the biggest challenges of being an ethical luxury brand in 2017?
There are many challenges for a small fashion company, even without sustainability in its ethos. What I find the most challenging is sourcing a great variety of high quality materials in small quantities, finding the right and reliable suppliers, and building my network of valued suppliers with the same work ethics as mine.
What is your design concept for the upcoming season?
My inspiration for this season was Beverly Semmes’ series of hand-painted porn magazine collages called The Feminist Responsibility Project, the attitude of which is reflected in the collection. The signature woven leather looks are again characterized by colourful hand-painted patchwork experiments – that expand for the first time to bonded cottons, which open up a variety of whole new avenues of experimentation. I am very excited about it.
I have already mentioned that working with sustainable materials has always been an important part of my ethos, and for this new collection Swarovski Collective selected for the launch of their range of ethical recycled crystals, which is super exciting. For this particular collaboration I have developed a technique specially to use Swarovski’s best selling hot-fix crystals directly onto the leather. As well as this, my on-going passion for sportswear brought up a new partnership with Proviz, bringing to life exciting new pieces with their unique 360-degree reflective material.
Your dreams for the future of fashion?
More experimentation and a more sustainable approach.
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