​marta jakubowski is the designer fascinated with life and death

As NEWGEN designer Marta Jakubowski prepares for her first standalone LFW presentation, we chat hospitals, asylums and the circle of life with our fave new one-to-watch.

by Felicity Kinsella
13 January 2016, 10:50am

With a collection taking the cleanness of hospitals, the uniformity of prison and the straight jackets of mental asylums as inspiration, Marta Jakubowski's spring/summer 16 creations are a sight to behold. Mostly because she manages to take this dark subject matter and turn it into something dreamy and hopeful. Using a similar colour palette and the loose, floaty draping from her graduate "human centipede" collection in which her models were all connected back-to-mouth via lengths of cloth, Marta's designs made her one-to-watch and she was snapped up by NEWGEN two seasons ago. The Royal College of Art graduate and her friend, fellow NEWGEN designer Sadie Williams, will show their first standalone presentations at London Fashion Week this February. We chat to the Poland-born, Germany-bred, Hackney-based Jakubowski about life, death, Edward Scissorhands, and generation rent.

When did you first realise you were interested in fashion?
I never had a particular moment of realisation. I just remember my mum took me shopping and I was always allowed to dress in the weirdest combinations. I was very interested in shopping as a teenager. I went shopping every Friday after school, it was like a ritual. I was trying to find a new outfit for the party in the weekend. I had a weekend job from an early age to pay for that.

Why did you decide to study in London when the tuition is so much cheaper in Germany?
I remember coming to London for my year out. I really enjoyed my time here and was able to compare the teaching methods. Maybe I was just very lucky, but all my tutors in London were always very honest. It felt like they wanted to destroy me and my work but at the same time they actually care. I miss that the most, the honesty and criticism I got in college.

Describe your design aesthetic in five words…
Emotional, subtle, effortless, timeless and long.

What was the best advice you received from your tutors on your MA?
"If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will," and "Making decisions is the hardest thing and distinguishes a good designer from a bad designer."

What advice would you give to young designers working on their portfolios and hoping to get into RCA?
Try to be as honest as you can. Your portfolio should reflect your personality. If you can't draw or sew don't fake it. Find another way to communicate your ideas. There isn't only one way. The only way is to develop your own way.

What advice would you give to graduates who want to start their own label?
Go for it and try to find ways to make it happen. I guess a lot of creative people are so passionate about what they do, it becomes their whole life. And since their personality is so involved, there's a fear of failing. The only failure is not trying.

How did you feel when you found out you were going to be holding your first LFW show with NEWGEN?
I'm so bloody excited and happy. For the past two seasons I was showing in static installations with NEWGEN. It gave me time to develop, get to know the business side, and become familiar with the schedule and showrooms. It was really important to go through this process and made me think a lot. But I can't wait to show my collection in a presentation!

Your spring/summer 16 collection was inspired by hospitals, asylums and prisons… what drew you to these subjects?
I spend a lot of time in hospitals. My mum had to go through a lot of medical treatments when I was a kid. Going to the hospital was a bit like other families going to the church on Sunday. Even though it became a familiar thing it was still very intimidating. At the same time, I find it one of the most fascinating places. I remember sitting in the hospital park and hearing a person screaming, close to death, and at the same time a newborn baby crying. The hospital symbolises the circle of life better than any other place.

How did you translate that to the clothes?
It's a feeling, a mental state and something I find beauty in. Last season's collection was about women in mental hospitals - so restricted by others but so free in their heads.

Your previous inspirations have also been quite dark - Edward Scissorhands, Francesca Woodman, what draws you to dark subject matter?
They aren't very dark in my opinion. I think Edward Scissorhands is one of the most beautiful love stories. Francesca's work is beautiful too. It's honest and very personal, that shows strength. Strength is what fascinates me the most.

What's the hardest thing about being a young designer in London today?
Obviously the rents are ridiculously high. It's almost impossible to have a room and a studio at the same time. There is so much space that isn't used to its full potential. Something needs to change.

And the best thing?
Organisations like NEWGEN by Topshop and the British Fashion Council, which help with exposure and mentoring from the best. The CFE, which gives business support and helps you learn how to run a business. Industry figures like the team at Ella Dror PR, Stavros from Machine-A, people who support young designers and invest their time because they believe in them. And being able to be around friends who are going through similar highs and lows. You don't feel alone.

What music do you listen to in the studio?
It varies; lately we've been trying to listen to the radio. It makes me feel more organised. In the evenings I love to listen to Michael Jackson and German hip hop.

Which other young designers are you tipping for 2016?
My lovely friend Sadie Williams!

What are your New Year's Resolutions?
Just stay happy :)

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I never plan for the future.



Text Felicity Kinsella

London Fashion Week
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marta jakubowski