Cloth kingdom

Martina Bílková

It’s difficult to classify clothing and textile designer Martina Bílková’s style. In any case, it’s bold, ample, and different.

IF YOU VISIT MarLen, Martina Bílková’s store in Prague, you’ll be surprised by how much textile diversity can be found in one place. The shelves are overflowing with pieces of material, silk saris from India, rustic woven materials, plastic textiles, and hand-painted materials and batiks. When Martina completed pharmaceutical school in the ’80s, she countered all expectations and started spending all her time on her hobby – sewing, knitting, and handwork of all sorts. In a stroke of luck, she managed to purchase a machine for processing yarn directly from Benetton, which allowed her to start applying her own original yarns. “I had no education in textile processing, so I used trial and error. I was able to come up with entirely new, unusual procedures. When I was twenty I was already visiting trade fairs with balls of our yarns, so they wound up in nearly every galanterie (haberdashery) in the republic,” Martina recalls.
Together with her sister Lenka she opened a MarLen shop in Brno and later in Prague as well, where they gradually added materials by the meter, and they also began designing their own clothing. “We bring materials for yarns from all over the world. We also buy material by the meter, which we then alter by printing, dying, hand-painting, and embroidery. We create special items by means of various combinations of these techniques,” the designer says. But the MarLen brand’s greatest specialty is original textiles woven on manual looms, where Martina uses effective combinations of silk and mohair, shiny yarns with matte yarns, and so on. This leads to variations that can’t be repeated. You can buy material for a dress that no one else will ever wear for CZK 600 to 850 per meter. The sisters are also able to “dress” interiors with their materials in very original ways. “We combine materials of different thicknesses and structures, which always results in interesting sculpted effects. I just used a combination of clothing textiles in a new collection for Le Patio,” she says.
Martina produces many fabrics and costumes for the theater and films. “We can do absolutely everything, from knitting stockings to textiles with patinas to match period materials.” She did what was nearly restoration work when she recently was involved in the production of costumes for the film Tristan and Isolde. Martina also made the costumes for the musical Rebelové based on designs by Kateřina Mírová.


collector’s passion

Enthusiasm for the Art Deco style, which is the cradle of modern design, is on the rise, and it could be a good investment. Exhibits have long been in museums, but you can also have some of them in your living room.

Cubistic coffee set, P. Janák, reproduction, pot CZK 4,790, sugar bowl CZK 2,850, cup CZK 1,850

Beverage set by Palda Nový Bor, 1930s original, CZK 18,500
Soldered brass container, V. Hofman, reproduction, CZK 9,950
Hand-painted vases, P. Janák, authorized reproductions, CZK 1,590, 1,990, and 2,490

Modernista, Konviktská 5, Praha 1


shop of the month

DRESSING FURNITURE: Zebří oko (The Zebra’s Eye), a specialty upholsterer and sales outlet for upholstery materials, carries interesting fabrics from the Republic of South Africa with animal, abstract, and geometrical motifs. You can not only have your favorite sofa or antique chair upholstered in wild patterns, you can also have furniture with atypical upholstery custom-designed and produced.

Zebří oko, Chlumova 23, Praha 3






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