Martina Cox

Jo Rosenthal
David Thompson

Martina Cox is cool, calm and collected. Probably because she’s a New York native, but also because she’s fabulous. Since graduating Cooper Union in 2017 she’s gotten her designing down to a tee and has continued to make the mouths of fashion girls water. Incredibly tattooed and able to pull off any hairstyle, Martina has won the likes of the NY art scene with her unique pieces that are all lovingly made with attention to detail and a passion like no other. Martina is definitely someone you’d want to go to a party with. PUSS PUSS had the honour to catch up with Martina to pick her brain on everything from her art practice, how she occupied her time during quarantine and how she’ll forever be inspired by her older work to make new, exciting work.

JR: What is your New York Story?
MC: My New York Story goes back 24 years because I was born and raised here, and because of that, it’s shaped me into the person I am today. When I was younger, I had a babysitter named Lori Ellison who fostered my interest in art and encouraged me to face my creative inclinations. At 6 years old she took me everywhere; from the Chelsea Galleries to Pearl Paint on Canal street (RIP), to the Museum of Natural History— Lori was the first person who showed me what NYC has to offer. As I got older- I took matters into my own hands: I snuck into my first fashion show at Milk Studios when I was 13, and it was there that I remember seeing Lynn Yaeger for the first time. My idea of how one could look and dress was shaken to its core. I began approaching the way I dressed in a really sculptural and conceptual way. I remember sometimes walking into the front doors of my middle school with my heart racing because of some crazy outfit I had thrown together, which could involve anything from attached electronics, fabric scraps, and wire hangers to drawings on my face. In high school I started thrifting at an insatiable pace and I got the opportunity to intern with Nicole Miller. Working for her was an incredible experience because of the trust she placed in me, and her genuine interest to see and listen to my creative input. From there I entered art school and began looking at what fine art in an institution looked and sounded like. I felt way more comfortable speaking in a language of clothing and fashion, and it took a couple years to realize that no matter where I was, I was always gravitating back to some form of infatuation with dressing and all that it has to offer as a creative outlet.
JR: Talk to us a little about your art practice?
MC: I really feel comfortable saying that I am an incredibly hard worker, especially when it comes to the hours I put into my clothes. I approach each facet of designing differently, this is subject to change over time. Making the ‘clingy men’ that are frequently seen on my clothes has become something very performative for me. They take hours to make and involve creating a fortified wire skeleton by hand, and then sculpting a polymer based air drying clay around it. I sit on my couch with a vintage floral tray on my lap and sculpt each one very lovingly by hand while watching different movies. It feels really performative in that way.
JR: How would you describe the NY art scene and your place in it…
MC: I feel that since the 90s, there has been this beautiful relationship between fashion and art, specifically with the designer and the gallery space. I want to continue exploring this idea in new ways while creating spaces for my work to exist outside of a retail space; that’s something I’ve been wanting to do since graduating art school.
JR: How did you occupy your time during quarantine?
MC: While I self-isolated for two weeks I indulged myself in watching 2 – 3 movies a day. It was lovely and I would do it all over again. That was very short-lived, as I picked up a day job working at a COVID Testing site in Brooklyn. It was totally random, but an experience I do not regret. I did not feel like I was in the right headspace to be making clothing with all that was going on, and working there felt like a really great way to help out and put my energy into something that I felt was more necessary at the time.
JR: What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
MC: This changes quite frequently, but right now it’s about seeing how people react and interact with my clothing. I’m always approaching my work with specific intentions in mind while listening to what others say in response to specific pieces. I love how the creativity I put out somehow finds its way right back to me in the form of photographs, messages and new work.
JR: What is the best advice you have for someone who wants to be you and do what you do?
MC: I really came into my own when I stayed true to what I was naturally drawn to, both physically and conceptually. Trying to fit into a mold of what you think people want to see and talk about when making work can result in setting yourself up for painful experiences. Not being true to yourself with something as vulnerable and personal as your artwork can cause a lot of inner conflict.
JR: What are you working on?
MC: The entire summer I completely shifted gears, and spent most of my time using my brand to help raise money and awareness for anti-racist and Black led organizations that are in support of the BLM Movement. I am still tinkering away at making 60+ party favor bags that raised money for 15 different bail funds across the country. I also helped raise $2000 for G.L.I.T.s NYC. I haven’t had time to focus on any other projects that are on my back burner, but I know when I eventually do, I will strive to create a balance between making work of my own while consciously ensuring that a space and platform is maintained for my BIPOC peers in fashion. I want this to remain a central topic in fashion, as it’s something deeply rooted in our history that needs lots of effort and constant conversation to create the shifts that need to happen.
JR: Who are some people you’d like to shout out?
MC: I would LOVE to shout out my best friend Mirella Miville. She is such a creative force, and I’ve been so proud to watch her pour her energy into her vegan cooking. She’s been exploring the process of making vegan cheese, and the process is so complex and beautiful to watch. I’d also like to shout out my roommate Samuel Shanahoy, a filmmaker/photographer, who has done a really beautiful job capturing the summer on his 35mm point and shoot. From the protests to the NYC CHAZ to the beach and our job at a COVID testing site, it’s so nice to see the entirety of the summer documented this way, especially as it draws to an end. Lastly, I would love to shout out Ayqa Khan, who apprenticed under me during summer. She is incredibly talented, and her work challenges beauty standards and reverses the roles of subject and viewer in uncomfortable ways that I feel really connected to.
JR: What is one thing no one knows about you?
MC: I’m an Italian American! Like in the movies…just kidding, but my favourite show will forever be The Sopranos. I speak fluent Italian; my mom moved to NYC from Italy in the 80s. My grandmother sparked a lot of inspiration and interest behind the subjects of my clothing because I was around her a lot when I was young. She lived in Milan in the 60s, and my great aunt was a stewardess for Alitalia and got to wear the uniforms that Pucci designed for them… I’m forever in awe.
Words: Jo Rosenthal 
Photography: David Thompson
Styling: Andy Polanco
Model: Sam Knoll