We’re ecstatic when we find a brand that craves travel and adventure as much as we do, so we could hardly wait to share this epic SS14 lookbook shot by Claire Louis Thomas for La Mer Collections. The spread takes us to Iceland and features founder and designer Martine Ilana’s popular handmade wrap watches adorning the wrists of beautiful Icelandic model Vera Hilmars through mountains, farms and volcanic beaches.
Martine has come a long way since the launch of the brand in 2001. With an extraordinary ability to seamlessly integrate her two passions in life – travel and design – she focuses all of her creative energy into timepiece construction and brand development. She’s one of those business babes in the game, thoroughly involved in every aspect of the brand and still proclaiming herself as an artist above all else. Check out our interview with Ms.Ilana below!
LF: Tell us about your background, have you always been interested in fashion and design?
MI: I am a designer and artist first and foremost. I have been obsessed with design my entire life and have a degree in industrial design and apparel manufacturing / product development. As well, I love to travel ! My family is from South Africa so my earliest memories are getting to go on a two day journey via plane to see my loved ones and explore a new city or a new natural environment. I never intended to get involved in the fashion industry as my focus was on fine art, furniture design and interior architecture. But, I love form and function; so watch and timepiece design was a natural fit.
LF: What inspired you to start your own label?
MI: I founded La Mer Collections in 2001 just after I had taken a year to continue my design studies and travel overseas to Africa and Asia. I love souvenirs because once I get back from a trip I can look at an object and dream of where I picked it up. I was so inspired by my time away that when I returned home, I wanted to design and create a line of watches that reminded me of my travels. As well, I could not find the ‘Exact watch’ that I wanted to wear that was both feminine and unique and as a result my goal was to create a beautifully designed watch, that was durable and functional, but that also expressed my personality.
LF: Were you expecting La Mer Collections to be such a huge success?
MI: No idea ! La Mer Collections was always my creative outlet as I worked for larger brands and firms as a designer and merchandiser during the day, then I would go home and work late into the night on my personal designs. I poured my heart and soul into the watches colors, chain, and charm details. My intention for La Mer Collections was a personal form of expression.
LF: What the most important lesson you’ve learned (professionally and personally) since the launch of the brand?
MI: Time Management – carving out time to not only run the business but also to take care of myself. I would work for days on end and never see the light of day and then crash. Now I’m going for a balance to make sure that I’m creative and fresh for the company’s long term growth.
LF: When did you know you had really made an impression in the fashion world? Any big moments you’d like to share?
MI: Here are a few: In 2003 La Mer was on Style.com through Vogue. At the time I was fresh out of design school and working at a larger licensing company. I woke up one morning to start my day and almost fell over that La Mer’s watches were featured on their site! Holiday 2009 on the front page of InStyle Magazine’s Gift guide, this exposure changed the business completely. Additionally Bloomingdales took out an advertisement for La Mer Collections in the NY Times and this was a huge honor. And most recently La Mer Collections’ Pop Up Cart/ Store at The Grove in Los Angeles as we were amongst some of the biggest brands in the world!
LF: We love that your lookbooks are travel editorials – what made you decide to incorporate your nomad lifestyle into the brand?
MI: The original inspiration for each watch’s design comes from my travels so it only made sense to create a ‘travel diary’ styled look book for each season showing the watches in action! Each watch is unique and the natural landscapes and international nuances of each location bring out the best in each design.
LF: On your site you outline the six components of a La Mer watch (straps, charms, leather, faces, lacing, chains) which would you say is the most important, or your favorite part?
MI: Each component has it’s own importance and is one step of many to become a ‘La Mer Collections’ watch. The Watch Case is the heart of the watch, the Leather and Chains are each hand made and it takes about 10 people from start to finish to hand craft each piece. I will say my favorite part of the design process is finding unique and custom leather prints to turn into straps – I search far and wide to find these designs and have started to custom create the prints as well for our collection.
LF: What’s your favorite place to travel to?
MI: Cape Town South Africa, it is literally my favorite place in the world. There are gorgeous mountains, sparkling oceans (both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean) and amazing culture.
LF: How much of your own personality and style goes into your designs?
MI: All of it I hope! My design aesthetic is simple & sophisticated, casual & international Chic. The design intention is that each of the watches have this vibe.
LF: What is your favorite piece in the latest collection?
MI: The Venus Stones Watch is my Favorite chain style from the Spring Collection and our shoot in Iceland featured this piece on a Volcanic Beach off of the ocean, the watch’s geometric stones and colors fit perfectly with this landscape. The Montreal Mix-Up Layer is a really unique take on a simple wrap style, there are no chain nor charm detail and the colors allow you to wear this with Anything, but casual, dressy, blacks or browns. I also love the Coco Saturn All Chain wrap and our new Acetate Watches- the cases look like stones and range from Moonstone, rose Quartz and Tortoise.
LF: Describe the quintessential ‘La Mer’ woman…
MI: The La Mer Collections’ woman loves color, appreciates hand crafted designed objects and seeks out pieces that are unique to her. She is inspired by the world, not just the beauty found in her physical environment but also by the people around her.
LF: What’s next for the label? Any exciting travel/ design plans?
MI: Dreaming of the next photo shoot, Maybe in Greece? Maybe in Mexico! Also we are working on a Men’s line and a travel bag collection.
LF: How fast do you live?
MI: Lightening speed! I just need espresso and I’m good to go for a few days.
Photography: Claire Louis Thomas
Styling: Karinda Mutabazi
Hair/MUA: Gudbjorg Huldis Kristinsdottir
Model: Vera Hilmars