She may have ditched her lab coat and test tubes long ago, but chemist-turned-fashion designer Martina Spetlova finds the two worlds aren't as paradoxical as they first appear.

"I see subtle similarities between chemistry and fashion in the way I construct my textiles through experimentation with colours and textures," explains Martina. Take the way the designer mixes her leathers and silks, weaving and pleating them together. Her alchemy, says Martina "echoes the blending and mixing of chemicals in order to activate a prescribed reaction within the laboratory."

Martina's story – her scientific background – might be the prevailing narrative that follows this young designer but fashion in fact came first. Martina always made her own clothes growing up. Chemistry was the sensible choice until a friend encouraged her to pursue her creativity at Central St Martins instead. She quit science, cobbled together a portfolio, won a place and moved to London. She went on to graduate from the MA in 2010 with a distinction.

Establishing herself in London and carving out a reputation for luxury leathers has been a balancing act – a creative and commercial tug of war. An industry pressure to keep pieces at affordable prices is a major Catch 22 for newer designers like Martina. “As a designer making small collections, the costs are generally higher than established luxury brands due to the simple economies of scale,” says Martina. “But at the same time, younger companies are not recommended to be as expensive in the stores as the established brands.”

Despite her reservations, Martina's navigating those pitfalls. Her SS15 collection is an accomplished play with a two-way weaving techniques of small silk tape squares and leather in a bold colour palette of royal blue, blush and crimson. “I have been experimenting with smocking on soft perforated leather that created some great shapes,” says Martina. “There are still some strong links right back to the bonded and pleated leathers of my MA collection—but that feels miles away now!”

The collection is available in Dover Street Market London, New York and Japan.


Text by Libby Buck