Fashion Becomes Her

LONDON, UK–My interview with Lara Bohinc does not get off to a good start. I have builders in, banging away, and she is in the midst of trying to get things prepared and ready for the launch of her new spring/summer 2012 collection. So instead of meeting in person, we decide to do a phone interview and with all the noise in the background disturbing my concentration and her being stretched for time, the conversation took some time to flow. “It’s never a good time to talk,” she says, sounding a bit harried, when I ask her how she is. But once we get to talking, the interview goes better and at the end, she apologizes for being rushed.

When I first met her six years ago for a piece I wrote in Newsweek, Bohinc was more relaxed, because at that time she did not have the pressure of having a store (which opened just off Sloane Street in London in 2007) nor had her brand expanded beyond jewelry. But since then Bohinc— who studied graphic and industrial design in Ljubljana before moving to London and gaining a M.A. in jewelry and metalwork at London’s Royal College of Art in 1996—has expanded her designs to include scarf, handbag and shoe collections as well writing a weekly blog for British Vogue. “Lara was one of the first people to bring that whole statement and costume jewelry back again and she has become quite a big name in terms of that,” says Natalie Hartley, senior fashion editor for the British version of InStyle magazine. “She has been clever because she [brings] the same themes and shapes from her jewelry into her in her shoes and scarves. The look is instantly recognizable. It is not like she came out of nowhere entering the shoe market where no one had heard of her. If you are into her style, than this is the perfect next taste.”

FWTJ01-Tatjana-Stiletto-Gold-py-754x1024Moving to London to pursue here career in fashion was something she says she had to do. “I simply did not have another choice,” she tells me. “In Slovenia there are really no jobs in fashion and if you are serious about fashion you need to be close to that in London, Paris or New York.” In 1997 she not only won the Marks and Spencer New Generation design award but also set up her own label, Lara Bohinc 107 and began exhibiting for the first time at London fashion week. Since then she has worked with labels including Gucci, Lanvin and Cartier and counts Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Kate Moss and Michelle Obama among her legion of fans. “The best thing about her is that her style is easily recognizable,” says Dimi Gaidatzi, who writes about fashion for Greek Vogue and the Financial Times. “Her style is unique, with hints of Art Deco, yet it’s very simple and feminine. Her work is very much copied on the high street and that is the ultimate form of flattery.”

Bohinc, whose business partner is the Swedish entrepreneur Ernst Malstron (one of the co-founders of fashion e-commerce website boo.com that went bankrupt in 2000 and was considered to be one of the biggest dot.com busts in history), also launched an e-commerce website this spring. “It was always a plan to develop the website,” she says, as her mobile phone rings in the background. “We want to branch out into America, which we really have not touched at all and also into other countries where we are not so well known. That was another reason in launching the website, it becomes a global shop.” Gaidatzi says that Bohinc was smart to move into the e-commerce direction. “E-commerce is very crucial because you can approach markets you have never dreamed of before,” she says. “I think it is important that Lara has chosen Malstron because he has lots of experience in that area and he is a well-known name. She does not have to spend money opening up a boutique in, say, New York and she will have faster access to markets where she wants to build her brand.”

F_LARA_BOHINC-high-res1-804x1024At the moment, her company is still privately owned. But she says they are hoping to expand the company—and that means investment and the possibility of being bought by a larger fashion conglomerate. “It is an inevitable part of growth unless you are personally cash rich. So you have to accept that [if you are bought] you are losing some control but this is part of the game.” For now she says they are focusing on expanding the company. “I would really like to calm down with launches a bit and focus on expanding and to be very strong, rather than push out everywhere.”

In the fashion world, of course, there is always the pressure not only to be original and but also to remain relevant in the quickly changing fashion world. “There is pressure in most jobs, that is part of the responsibility,” she pontificates. “The problem is to be creative yet also be commercially successful. It is trying to please two opposite ranges of the spectrum and it is hard to find that balance. It’s like asking a musician to write a jingle for a commercial and also to do an album that will win an NME award. That is the equivalent and I think most designers find that hard.”

These days Bohinc says she considers herself to be a London designer and believes her background is not important in the fashion world. “This question of nationality is irrelevant. It is so international these days that it does not matter where you are from,” she says. “You do not get any kind of break being from a certain country—being Slovenian, Turkish, American—it does not matter. I also do not think that because I am from Slovenia that Slovenian designers will have it any easier. If you are good, you will find it easier and if you are not, well, then you will find it more difficult to break into the fashion world.”

Photos courtesy of Lara Bohinc