Just over a month ago, we spoke with Ania Marincek about her collection Tears of Lava and her latest business venture LARMA Studio. After blood, sweat and hopefully, not too many tears, the first collection GENESIS was officially launched yesterday. Since LARMA is a joint project, we thought it would be fitting to hear from the other half of this dynamic duo, Julia La Mendola.
Born in Montreal to a Sicilian father and half-Canadian, half-German mother, Julia and her family relocated to Geneva, Switzerland when she was five years old. After deciding to stay in Geneva for university, Julia was awarded a place at Haute Ecole d’Art et Design (HEAD), where she studied Product, Jewellery and Fashion Accessories Design – it’s also where she met Ania. During her studies, Julia was quite the jet-setter, bouncing from her exchange semester in Barcelona to Montreal for an internship in leatherwork. Finally, returning to and settling in Switzerland with a refined taste for jewellery and eyewear design. Following her graduation, she has been busy cultivating LARMA’s first collection and all of the business bits in between.
In this article, we find out more about LARMA’s launch, the collection GENESIS, and the difficulties Julia has encountered as an eyewear designer.
Œ: Let’s start by saying a huge well done for launching your first collection – I’m sure you are over the moon! Can you tell us more about LARMA as a brand – what’s the concept?
Julia: Thank you! *grins* We are very proud and excited to launch our very first commercial collection. LARMA is an independent fashion accessories brand produced with a responsible and regenerative approach. We create high-quality products made of deadstock and recycled materials. Each piece is handcrafted in Italy within a short production cycle and in limited series.
We imagined eyewear as jewellery for the first collection, with pearled and colourful acetates made out of the eyewear industry waste – combining texture, bright colours and bold designs. We created five different styles that can also be seen as five different characters. When we show the collection to our friends and people generally, I find it fascinating to observe which model people naturally draw to, it says a lot about their personality.
Œ: Tell us more about these five characters – who are they and what do they represent?
Julia: I would say that the different models do not really represent five different established characters per se, because the objective is not to confine or stereotype a style or a type of person. On the contrary, the idea was to create five models that differ in terms of shape, size, colours and treatment of volumes, so that each person can appropriate one of the models to form it to their own identity.
Œ: Deciding to name the collection “GENESIS” – I assume the choice plays on biblical connotations of it being the collection that defines the start of LARMA?
Julia: Exactly! *laughs* It can seem a bit phoney but we liked the hyperbolic feeling of it. It sounds very dramatic though mysterious, absurd and spectacular. I would love to see our sunglasses appear – and disappear – in a David Lynch movie for instance. “Ladies and gentlemen, let us present to youuu Genesissssssss.”
Œ: Are the glasses purely for fashion or are they also available with a prescription? If not, is this something you would consider in the future?
Julia: Purely for fashion! If they are available with prescription is one of the most recurrent questions we have! Unfortunately not. But we are thinking of widening our range to optical frames for future collections. The coloured lenses can however be replaced by prescribed ones by an optician.
Œ: We spoke to your business partner and the other half of LARMA Studio Ania Marincek last month. How did the two of you get to know one another?
Julia: We met during our preparatory year at HEAD. We were in different classes as Ania studied Fashion design, but we always got along well even though we weren’t that close. Our collaboration started when she asked me to design the sunglasses and jewellery for her Bachelor’s collection Tears of Lava. We loved working together and as we got close friends, we decided to pursue our studio together and grow a business with our creations.
Œ: How do you coordinate yourselves and delegate tasks as a team? Who does what?
Julia: We have quite an intertwined practice, which is not convenient every day. The design and creative direction is the part we thoroughly work together on – for this we are very lucky to be almost 100% on the same wavelength. We have very similar visions and tastes and understand each other very well in this sense. When it comes to delegating the tasks for production management, communications, and technical drawings, we split the work from task to task and are both gradually assigning ourselves fixed duties.
Œ: What made you gravitate towards designing accessories?
Julia: I grew up in a creative environment, both my parents were independent jewellers and since I was little I would be drawing all the time in their studio. I never really questioned it, as I always knew I would pursue a creative career. My studies at HEAD were very diverse, I had the opportunity to explore many different fields, such as jewellery making, casting, product design, watch design, and so on. I really found myself in the development of fashion accessories and eyewear design workshops.
Œ: What are the challenges you face as an eyewear designer that clothing designers might not encounter?
Julia: Eyewear design is pretty complex because it requires a lot of technical knowledge and constraints, and the industrial production approach is very different from the small scale production. Also, we are brought to work with many different suppliers and manufacturers, for the materials, the lenses, the packaging, the case, the cleaning cloth, etc.
Œ: Where do you see yourself and LARMA in 5 years?
Julia: Since we are just debuting as a company we decided to start small, with one typology of product, which is already a LOT to manage! But as we grow, get more settled as a business and become acquainted with the production and management issues, we would love to expand our product range to jewellery, objects, shoes, and bags… The sky’s the limit!
Œ: Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Julia: Well, the launch of the first collection! It is a big accomplishment, and we are super excited for it to finally see the light! Besides launching our e-shop, we will also be setting up a crowdfunding campaign shortly so stay tuned on our Instagram and website www.larma.studio. As for the the next episode, some cool jewellery is on the programme!
Fashion – Ania Marincek for LARMA Studio
Accessories – Julia La Mendola for LARMA Studio
Photography – Olivia Schenker
Make-Up – Mathieu Dias Jardon
Hair – Mai Bianco
Models – Dana Wolf, Carlos Valencia, Vincent Savan Panyadet and Célia Pascual