I met the lovely Hannah Martin an age ago in the Summer of 2011. In this lightening speed world of fashion an interview conducted nearly two seasons ago might seem a little out dated. That is the beauty of Hannah Martin, her work is a timeless collection of trinkets and curiosities that never grow tiresome, let alone go out of style.
Her premium jewellery has sparked interest throughout industry press and the bloggersphere. Steve Salter gushed over Miss Martin in this post and her work has been the focal point of many a feature in every major publication from Vogue and GQ to Esquire and LUXX.
What is immediately striking about Hannah’s work is the luxury. In a time where every penny counts Miss Martin makes the extravagence worth every gemstone with an escapist indulgence too exciting to resist. What’s more is that this is jewellery for gents. Hannah Martin London is a jewellery brand for the daring gentleman and Hannah is leading the way in jewellery design that blurs the boundaries between genders. She’s an Alchemist, of sorts.
I got the chance to meet Miss Martin in the loft of a Kings Street building in Manchester. She was helping Todd Lynn out with his AW11 catwalk show at the premium city centre independent store, Hervia Bazaar. (See my interview with Mr Lynn here)
fashion Rambler: The press for your brand has largely involved women’s magazines despite the range being directed towards men. Do women wear the range knowing it is a menswear range or have they claimed it for themselves?
Hannah Martin: I think it is really varies because when I first started the brand the idea was ‘it’s men’s jewellery that their girlfriends can steal’. My style has a masculine edge to it and at the time I couldn’t find anything nice for men, it was either a chunky skull ring or something that looked like it had come from a car. So that’s where I came from, I never wanted it to be a strictly men’s range because I wear men’s clothes and womenswear, I think most people that are aware of fashion do that anyway.
Its jewellery and whoever likes it, likes it. I don’t want to put a label on it. There are stores that sell more to men, others that sell more to women and some that sell equally to each gender. It is quite interesting actually, some stores we’re in the menswear department and some we’re in the womenswear.
fR: The range is sexy and youthful but the price-point isn’t so youthful. Can we expect a diffusion line or a collaborate line to pitch to shallower pockets?
HM: Totally, we’re actually working on a leather goods line at the moment. It will be small leather goods, wallets and key rings, that kind of stuff and should launch before Christmas. I started out only doing 18 Karat gold but the price of gold has gone up through the roof, it’s been going up since I started the brand. I introduced silver in the 3rd year which was a lower price-point but it is still an expensive precious metal. I struggle with the idea of a diffusion range, it doesn’t really sit with what I’m doing.
The leather goods are a good way into a lower-end market. We’re in talks with some people about collaborations in jewellery in the future but we’re not there yet. It is definitely something on the cards.
fR: Considering that your items are so unique and so far removed from other fashion jewellery lines in your market, what is it that inspires you?
HM: I only do one collection a year, so it is quite different from fashion seasons. My collections each have a story around them, for each one I create a character, a male character. The character before this line was called Vincent and he was a Russian Oligarch-come-gangster. These characters bubble around in my head and I don’t know what makes me decide which I’m going to go with. Inspiration for the designs comes from all over the place, architecture, graphics, everything.
In terms of other designers, it’s difficult because there are so many that I love. I try not to look to hard at what other jewellery designers are doing, just for my own peace of mind. I design in a bubble. I love Todd’s (Lynn) collection, Rick Owens is another. Not only do they inspire my work but it’s inspiring to see that they’re doing really interesting things in fashion.
Hervia’s Oscar Pinto-Hervia (see my interview with him here), Todd Lynn (see my interview with him here), a lovely but sadly unknown guest and Miss Hannah Martin herself.
fR: Tell me about ‘The man who knew everything’, the latest collection.
HM: He’s the first one I haven’t made up in my head, he is written about a lot. People really believe he is real. He was written about a lot in history across a couple of hundred years. He was written about all over, he would pop up in the French revolution and then in the Russian courts about one hundred years later and he was basically supposed to be an Alchemist who discovered the elixir of life and never died.
His death was reported about five times and then he would always pop up somewhere else. The idea for the collection was this really mystical and I was looking at masonic symbols and Alchemy and stuff. This new series [phase two of the collection, out for Christmas 2011] is based on the mystical twilight colours.
fR: What can you tell me about this one [Europhia of Lights Ring]
HM: The triangle is historically supposed to be the strongest structure and is used a lot in masonic symbols, it was really about the power of the geometrics of the triangle. What I wanted to do with the phases is that they have really distinct design features. This is the first time I’ve done this with a collection actually, I usually design a whole collection of like 40 pieces and the different stories are all threaded through the collection. It was a bit of a nightmare because I had this huge collection, once a year, and then we had nothing to talk about all year. It was almost too much to show people. This idea of splitting the collections makes it seasonal without it being seasonal. More bite-sized chunks.
Phase one was in March/April this year, phase two for Christmas and the last phase in May of next year.
fR: How important to you is it that the consumer understands the story behind the collections?
HM: There is a lot of store training, especially because it is fine jewellery and the stores we work with stock high end fashion and so there is a lot of training there. Obviously the story is impotant for the design process but at the same time if the customer doesn’t give a shit about the story, the jewellery still works. I’m not really precious about everyone understanding the story, if they want to they’ll know more about the collections but I’m not into that conceptual idea that art doesn’t work unless you understand it.