Passion for fashion

'Country boy' fabricates career in clothes

'Country boy' fabricates career in clothes

July 06, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Bob Martin calls himself a country boy from Hagerstown who used to build houses with his father and now designs women's fashions in London.

Martin said he was a quiet kid at North Hagerstown High School who let the clothes he picked out at thrift shops speak for him.

"Fashion was a way that I could find a garment that was a bit symbolic of who I was," he said.

After high school, Martin, 27, worked alongside his father, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship in Fairplay, building homes to bring in an income. Martin even started his own business, but said he got sidetracked by the money.


"I was getting a bit selfish," he said.

Martin quit everything and traveled through China, helping the poor and working with Habitat for Humanity for a year.

Back in the U.S., Martin decided to try his hand at fashion design at the American InterContinental University in London. He learned to take his garments through every step of the process.

"I learned from scratch how to sew," he said.

Martin begins with an idea, "a question of some sort," he said. Using that concept as a starting point, he sets out to gather research. Research is key to any good design, Martin said.

"Anything original doesn't come from out of your head, but from research you've collected," Martin said.

Then, he sketches, begins draping cloth on mannequins and works with his design using a small dummy.

His final pieces have "some close relation" to the sketches, but Martin said he works by "figuring out outfits as I go along."

Martin created eight head-to-toe outfits, or "complete looks," for his final show June 16 in London. Each look consisted of about three garments he made, plus shoes and accessories he chose. For one look, he also created a pair of shoes.

Martin said he works with washed-out or neutral colors and prefers velvet, silk and chiffon.

"I got a really good response," Martin said. "Some people would come up to me and compliment me."

Some people suggested he apply to the Royal College of Art.

"It's basically a ticket to success," he said.

Martin said he plans to apply in January to the Royal College, which accepts 12 students into its women's wear fashion design program each year. He would work alongside fashion houses such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

If the Royal College doesn't work out, "I'm Christian, so I've walked where God has led me," he said.

If he is accepted, he will have to raise money to attend the school. Last year, he won a full scholarship for his final year of study at AIU.

"That was desperately needed money because London is so expensive," Martin said.

Martin said he has been criticized by some for his chosen career because fashion design has a "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" stigma.

"People are beginning to see it's what I'm talented at, what I'm interested in," Martin said. "For me, it's not about that."

Eventually, Martin would like to work for a major design house such as Balenciaga.

"Fame and fortune doesn't appeal to me, but working for a company capable of seeing through my ideas is a goal of mine," he said.

After spending time in Hagerstown this summer, Martin returns to London with plans for a women's evening-wear collection inspired by tango dancers he has watched.

Martin chose to clothe women because "with women's wear, it's that longing for an attachment," he said. "It's easy for me to dream and think what I would like my bride to wear."

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