Monday, 22 February 2010

Style Salvage Speaks to... Hannah Martin

With a prestigious Central St Martins design education and a handful of awards behind her, it comes as no surprise that Hannah Martin is shaking up the world of luxury jewellery as we know it. We have heard so much about her since we've been blogging but our visit to The Modern Gentry back in December provided the first opportunity to inspect her designs in person. It is difficult not to be blown away. Her luxurious and decadent collections are described as ‘jewellery for men, that girlfriends will steal’ and if Steve had a piece in his possession he would certainly sleep with one eye open from fear of Susie pilfering it. The look is elegant, sexy and decidedly rock n’ roll. Soon after this visit we set out to learn more about her and the craft of jewellery design and what better way than to visit Hannah Martin at her studio for a cup of tea and a chat. Here we talk to the designer about her work placement at Cartier, Russian gangsters, the influence of Count Saint Germain on her next collection and seeing her at LFW through her collaborations with Carolyn Massey and Hannah Marshall...

A look at Hannah Martin's work bench...

Style Salvage: What were your inspirations, your dreams and the driving catalyst behind launching your own line?
Hannah Martin: I really started the idea for my brand in my final year at Central Saint Martins. I'm not sure what started me off on the idea of designing men's jewellery specifically but I was extremely interested in ideas of gender and wrote my thesis on it. I was super interested in the idea of swapping, I focused on masculinity and how it has always had this arc and it is the bits at either end which sees a mix with femininity and this for me is the really exciting part.

SS: And it is always evolving as well…
Hannah Martin: Absolutely. When I was doing this five years ago, it really opened my eyes and I guess it was then that I began to want to dress men and explore the boundaries of where I could go. I had a thing at college whee I wanted to make pearls that men would wear and I think I managed it with the black pearls. The other thing that really influenced me was I had this amazing work placement at Cartier for a couple of months before my final year and that totally swung me as well. I was working on such amazing pieces and I learnt so much, everything was incredible and glamorous. I soon realised that I had to work in luxury but at the same time it wasn't really me. At the time I was hanging out in these dirty rock bars that the French do so well with Hedi Slimane types in Breton tops but then going to work in a formal setting making beautiful these which had no real relevance to that. I went back to college with the idea of mingling these two worlds. All the while asking why can't men have beautiful things like I had been designing for women, why can't you make it more accessible? I looked at the options for men's jewellery and there was nothing unless you want to wear a skull or something resembling a car part. However now I like the fact that I don't really see it as menswear menswear, of course it begins with a male muse but I love the thought of women wearing it too.

 It is fun blurring the boundaries.

Martin's desk: A hive of activity.

SS: Which menswear designers do you love and which designers could you see the Hannah Martin man wearing?
Hannah Martin: I really love quite a few of the obvious ones, I love Raf and I've always loved Margiela, I think it has to be someone a bit edgier. I used to like Rick Owens but I'm not so sure anymore. Obviously, I love Carolyn's designs. The majority of my pieces are styled in quite a punk way so I love working with Carolyn because she isn't obviously that but her designs do have an element to them, there is a twist to her work. I've always loved the idea of working with Lanvin, making something a bit more classic. I want to make classic pieces as well as fashion pieces.

SS: Having been at the centre of London's jewellery craft and trade since medieval times, Hatton Gardens undoubtedly has a great deal of history and experienced craft. However, I have to confess that before I interviewed you for the Modern Gentry piece I knew nothing about it. What make the area so special to you? In the sense of craftsmanship at the very least, Hatton Gardens and Savile Row can be linked...
Hannah Martin: Certainly but in many ways it is not like Savile Row. It is actually just down the road from here and if you walk down it as a member of the public there is a lot of toot, it is the one jewellery street so you will see quite a few 'cheap diamond rings here' signs and I think that is wrong. Savile Row has kept some of its integrity. They've both definitely experienced a demise but Savile Row is coming on a lot stronger and quicker with people are doing more interesting things out in the public sphere. The way I link them together and why it feels like there is such great synergy between them is the production. There aren't that many places left in England where there is this level of traditional craftsmanship in such a centred way

Rings in the making.

SS: There are only a handful that spring to mind, shoes in Northampton for example..
Hannah Martin: Exactly and it is very sad. I'm not going to completely sing the praises of Hatton Gardens because it is not all of amazing quality but there are some real craftsmen there who have been there for many years, using the same workbenches in these almost, hidden world workshops. It is a shame because I do feel that is a dying trade and I wish that they would do something a bit cleverer in the same way as Savile Row has done with the likes of Patrick (Grant) who have brought fresh life to it all.

SS: You could so be the Patrick Grant of jewellery!
Hannah Martin: Hahaha...maybe. I don't think I could handle a store right now but maybe a showroom...There are some really interesting things going on around here and it is a shame that they are doing it behind closed doors. It is a really interesting place and it is a shame that people don't know more about it.

SS: How do you source the craftsmen you use?
Hannah Martin: All through word of mouth. It can be a little hit and miss. Every job is so specific. There is somebody who will do the stone setting, another for the polishing, someone else will do the finishing so a lot of the time we are running in and out of various different workshops in the area. it is great having everyone so local though!

Tools of the trade...

SS: Talk us through the first and last items you remember designing for Hannah Martin...

Hannah Martin: Oooh the first thing I did were a pair of cufflinks. That shape came from a pair of spurs that I designed at college. I've still got them somewhere. I made them out of silver and they had horns at the back, rubies set inside and Stingray skin straps. They were amazing but are an example of the type of thing that you could only do at college because I'm not sure there is a market for them. However, I managed to take the angular shape from them and apply it to the cufflinks. I wanted them to be appear like something had been stabbed through a shirt, a thorn rather than something typically ornate and classic. As for the last piece, well I've just finished off designing a new collection but it will mean nothing as yet because I've not made anything yet. The last actual piece that I've made was for Carolyn (Massey) actually but in terms of my own brand, the big sovereign rings from the Vincent collection which were some of my favourites. Actually I've expanded on this idea for the new collection, I love playing with something so chavvy and creating something new.

SS: We recently read that the new collection will be released in parts as opposed to fully to mark one season.
Hannah Martin: Yes, I'm going to drop the collection throughout the year. It is such a massive thing to create a collection twice a year so we want to drip feed the pieces so that people can actually have time to look at all of the pieces as opposed to scanning an entire collection and missing things. We want to be able to tell the complete story. The first release should be towards the end of March or mid April and then we will do something every couple of months.

A pair of hinged cufflinks.

SS: As for the collection itself, does it have a strong character like you had with Vincent?
Hannah Martin: I always have a story because it is so important to my design process. There is this character called Count Saint Germain. You don't know if he's fictional or historical, I don't think anyone has been too sure but he's popped up over a three hundred year period, coming up in Russian history during the Tsarist time to French history and the Revolution. I first heard about him when I was researching in to my whole Russian thing and he is always described as extremely well dressed but not extravagantly so...aside from the jewels on his hands. He is supposed to be an alchemist, someone who can obviously live forever because he has been noted throughout time and always described in the same way. When we began researching him on the Internet there are some people who think he is still around somewhere. With this in mind I wanted the collection to be both ancient and super modern. By bringing in lots of colour in to it, almost neon stones against a black background. I've been looking at lots of geometry and alchemy. I have this vision of an empty landscape with this man walking across it. A spooky world where you don't know which era it is. It is less specific than Vincent maybe but certainly more mystical.

SS: Your creative process and strong sense of character and narrative really lend your collections to film presentations and you worked with Ian Rodney Wooldridge in the past to help bring some of the characters to life. Is this something you will continue?
Hannah Martin: We've actually made the first film for the new collection already and it was show during the launch of Modern Gentry and it was show on Showstudio (it can be viewed here). We are going to do a few though and will hopefully release one with every section of the collection. We want this one in particular to be more like a story.

Two of my favourite pieces from the Vincent collection. The signet facet cufflinks and and the empty medallion.

SS: In recent seasons you have worked with Carolyn Massey and Hannah Marshall. How important is collaboration to the label?
Hannah Martin: It is really important. As a brand I have backed away from fashion week because it is so difficult to place ourselves in this world because our product is not as seasonal. So we decided to make our own schedule. So, the collaborations are a great way for us to still have a presence which is the more business way of looking at them but also, I just really love doing them. Creatively they are a great challenge. It is so fun to crate something for the catwalk and it is so different from what I do. Also, working with another designer is great and I have good relationships with both of them. Carolyn and I have really similar tastes and we are excited by the same things and it is fun swapping thoughts and ideas. So creatively it is so inspiring.

SS: Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?

Hannah Martin: Oh my...there are just so many! You get so used to working small scale, for myself and small designers that you forget about the possibilities of working with a huge house. Lanvin is my absolute dream. Also, I'd quite like to do something with Thom Browne actually.

SS: How do you see the Hannah Martin brand developing over the next few years?
Hannah Martin: I'd love for it to expand. At the minute we have some amazing key stockists and our business plan has always been to build up slowly, making trips to Japan and New York. We've really found that actually going to the city really helps and makes everything much more accessible that fitting it around during fashion week. We are London centric at the moment but we'll be working with a new store in Manchester soon which will stock a great mix of designers including Comme. We are looking to find another one or two stockists in the UK, New York etc to continue to build the brand slowly. We will definitely continue to work on the film collaborations and the collaborations with amazing designers like Carolyn and Hannah.

Vincent facet signet and the empty sovereign.

SS: What item of clothing (if any) do you wish that more men wore?

Hannah Martin: Jewellery in general but rings in particular. I love men in rings. I always start with rings when I design a collection. Men tend to struggle with them because it might be easier to wear a pendant, they are used to wearing a watch so things around the wrist are far easier. Using my boyfriend as an example, I made him a ring and he was completely overwhelmed by it. He had a real fear of rings but thankfully I got him over it, so the story has a happy ending. He used to have a real fear of anything on his fingers but now he can't leave the house without it. I love signet rings and anything on the little finger for men works extremely well. Rings are still something of a sticking point. That sovereign ring is quite a piece to wear but looks amazing.

SS: If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?

Hannah Martin: I love everything about the 30s. Any architecture, furniture and clothing wise because it isn't as flash as the 20s and everything is toned down.

Finally, would you be able to share a few address book recommendations to our readers (hairdressers, tailors, cafes…anything you like really) which we will duly add to our map?
Hannah Martin: I'll give you some great local places. The Eagle pub is just behind the studio and it is really amazing. Also, Medcalf is a restaurant just off Exmouth Market and it is always great.

The Gentleman Line Link bracelet from Vincent.


joy said...

I am glad to hear about her thoughts from her own mouth. I read about her a couple of seasons ago.

Joy D.

Nick Bain said...

I was lucky enough to meet Hannah when she showed at On¦Off over 4 yrs ago and got her to design my wedding bands. Have followed her ever since, think her work is brilliant and modern. Just need to save the pennies and make more investments in her work.

Festy said...

Great post!
I like your blog!

Sandra Azwan said...

love your blog!;-)
This is mine;

Dina said...

my husband would love the link bracelet!


Related Posts with Thumbnails