The powerhouse Forty years after founding the Andrew Martin brand, Martin Waller still drives innovation
Forty years after its launch, this British brand still champions innovation. Here, co-founder Martin Waller discusses his global influences and the importance of staying young at heart
In 1976, inspired by the ‘magical scene setting’ at Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba department store on London’s Kensington High Street, Martin Waller (right) co-founded Andrew Martin with his former business partner Andrew Gillespie ( hence the brand’s name). Since then, it has become Britain’s one-stop shop for brilliantly bonkers, unique design. ‘I have very few rules,’ explains Waller. ‘Our look has always been about taking everything from everywhere and putting it all together.’
The pops of colour, patterns and patinas synonymous with Andrew Martin’s wares – now sold in 63 countries – owe everything to Waller’s love for travel and ‘capturing the spirit of different cultures from around the world’. In the brand’s London flagship store, he thinks nothing of mixing antiquities, such as African masks, wooden model windmills picked up on his adventures to countries as far afield as Siberia and Guatemala, Indian headdresses and Mayan and Mexican printed cushions. This artful curation of unusual pieces means that the experience of visiting an Andrew Martin store is akin to spending time in a gallery – design fans flock there to get lost in a vivid riot of colour and pattern, often stumbling across quirky finds, such as a rotating barber’s pole or a life-size resin cow.
Today, Waller is constantly called on to source pieces for film sets – his portfolio includes the Harry Potter and James Bond movies – and to work on projects as diverse as private homes in Mumbai and hotels in Marbella and Latvia. His passion for design also led to the establishment of Andrew Martin’s annual International Designer of the Year award in 1996. ‘I felt that interior design wasn’t being given its due,’ says Waller. Now, the award is the design world’s hottest ticket, propelling the careers of its past recipients – including Tara Bernerd, Axel Vervoordt and Rose Uniacke – into the stratosphere.
Waller’s playful, irreverent charm is an important driving force behind the brand. ‘Creatively, I never really grew beyond the age of 12,’ he laughs. ‘If I liked something when I was that age, I still like it now.’ He’s a firm believer that design is about having fun. ‘Decoration is an important building block of happiness – I hope what we do helps to make people feel happy and comfortable in their homes, and therefore in themselves,’ he enthuses. ‘It’s about enjoying the beauty in the things we love.’ andrewmartin.co.uk
‘CREATIVELY, I NEVER REALLY GREW BEYOND THE AGE OF 12 – IF I LIKED SOMETHING THEN, I LIKE IT NOW’