Live Like an Italian: La DoubleJ Founder JJ Martin’s Insider Guide to Milan

Live Like an Italian: La DoubleJ Founder JJ Martin’s Insider Guide to Milan

Los Angeles born JJ Martin, founder of print-proud label La DoubleJ, shows us around the city she calls home, Milan.

brand La DoubleJ’s eye-popping prints and
vintage-flavoured dresses made their first appearances on Italian
strada in 2015. After teaming up with Mantero – the 100-year old
Italian silk manufacturer used by Pucci and Dior – founder JJ
Martin (JJ stands for Jennifer Jane), branched out into
ready-to-wear, creating a selection of simple silhouettes in
spirited patterns.

With a line that now includes porcelain plates and patterned
linens, as well as La DoubleJ’s staple silk twill dresses and fancy
retro frocks, the American-born Milanese resident is living like an

Clad in bold, bright finery, JJ showed us around town and let
us in on the hidden gems she loves to visit.

The best day of the week to arrive in Milan is…

Tuesday. Milan is a working town; all the action happens during
the week. Tuesday is great for your first night in town, building
to a crescendo on Thursday.

What’s the best way to explore the city?

By bicycle – but it requires some balance as there are so many
cobblestones and tram tracks. If you’re not brave or agile, then
just walk around the neighbourhoods; the centre, Brera and the
Navigli are all good places to start. Personally, I cruise around
in my vintage Fiat Cinquecento car with my pug inside – this car
can be parked anywhere!

Where’s the best place to wake up?

Honestly, the hotels in Milan are not the best. I much prefer
small charming hotels over big chains, but if I were to pick one it
would be the Bulgari Hotel Milan because I’m
obsessed with greenery and its outdoor garden is wonderful.

What’s the city’s dress code?

No exercise clothes ever. That’s what I love about Milan. It’s
sophisticated, sharp and cared-for. Everyone dresses up. No one
goes around with flip flops in the summertime. There’s a real sense
of pride in getting dressed and attending to all of the details of
one’s appearance and happily there is also an appreciation for you
from the locals when you do it. They also love colour, which is
good for my business.

Coolest neighbourhoods worth exploring…

I like the 5VIE for shopping, Brera for the design shops and
tiny boutiques, Navigli for the weekend markets, and Isola is good
for aperitivos.

What key pieces do you always pack when travelling?

I love to wear the La DoubleJ printed jersey pants and matching
polo neck when I travel. It is such an easy, comfortable and yet
high-impact outfit. I love clothes that give you a sense of being
dressed but don’t sacrifice comfort. Another piece I always travel
with is our silk twill swing dress as it goes with Stan Smith
trainers just as well as elegant flats. Oh, and our Fancy dress in
double georgette which never wrinkles.

Where do you go in Milan when seeking creative

I go into old Renaissance churches that seem very plain on the
outside but offer an explosion of decor on the inside. I’m obsessed
with their soaring painted ceilings. In these interiors, which were
really ancient artistic centers, I become so calm and grounded as
well as creatively inspired. It’s not religious for me, but it is
deeply spiritual and emotional.

Do your surroundings impact your design?

Yes. Living in Milan for the last 18 years has really given me
an education on so many levels of taste – from fashion and design
to art and architecture – and even how I set my dining table. I
have absorbed all of this and put it into the designs I make for La

Tell us some historical and cultural landmarks to visit.

I’m crazy about all of the home museums in Milan as it’s so
amazing to see how the Milanese lived from the Renaissance up until
the mid-century. My favourites are Villa Necchi Campiglio, Casa Museo Boschi Di Stefano,
Museo Poldi Pezzoli and Museo Bagatti Valsecchi.

Underrated spots…

I like the Planetarium designed by Piero Portaluppi inside the
Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli. I also love the rooftop of the
Duomo di Milano. It’s magical up there.

Where should we go for a low-key lunch?

La Latteria for an easy lunch. There are very few things on the
menu but it’s always so fresh – grandma is in the dining room
taking orders while grandpa is in the back cooking.

Other food spots we should try…

For something fancy, try Cracco inside the Galleria Vitttorio Emauele II. For a
chic bite opt for Sixième Bistro which is attached to my favourite
design place, Six Gallery. I also love Ratanà
which is in the Porta Nuova, a newly developed district.

Where should we go for a big night out in Milan?

I would start with drinks at the bar at Giacomo Bistrot followed by dinner at Vasiliki Kouzina – a fabulous Greek restaurant. Later,
dancing at La Balera dell’Ortica with all the
old Italian people. It’s amazing.

Where should we head post-party?

For me, Bar Basso is great because the owners are my
friends and will shut the door so everyone can smoke and turn up
the music and dance like crazy. They will probably do that for
visitors too, but you need to be friendly and fun.

One place only locals know about is…

Davide Diodovich, the only hairdresser in town
who knows how to deliver perfect colour and cuts. His salon is
inside a gorgeous Milanese apartment designed by Storage Milano. It
is very exclusive and very chic – it’s such a gift to be there for
a few hours.

One misconception about Milan is…

That it’s grey. Just walk into any palazzo and you will be
amazed at all of the intricate detail and colour. Plus, there are
magic green courtyards everywhere you go – you just need to get
curious and be patient enough to walk around to discover them.

A great out-of-town option is…

I like to travel to Engagina. At the very end of the valley,
past St Moritz, is the most beautiful tiny town with an eight-room
B&B called Villa Flor. It’s filled with art and is run by the
lovely Ladina Florinth. Those mountains are magic.

A book to read before we go?

The Italians by Luigi Barzini.

What one thing should we bring back as a souvenir?

Chocolates from Marchesi 1824.

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