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Interview: From designer men to designer bikes

Lorenzo Martone

Marc Jacob’s ex, Lorenzo Martone, is the man applying fashion savvy to two wheels

To even an inobservant onlooker it would seem apparent that bikes are having their hey-day, with cyclists out in such force that they’ve started to influence city planning, while even radio ads warn us to be more careful of our two-wheeled friends. So it was only natural that in the sped up cycle that leads from street to fashion and back to the street, bikes would be reconceptualised into essential lifestyle objects. The pioneer in the field is Lorenzo Martone, formerly best known for being Marc Jacobs’ boyfriend, is a Brazilian fashion entrepreneur and a man of many projects. Having designed swimwear for a while and been a regular on the New York fashion scene, his day has come with his line of luxury bespoke bicycles. We met up with the bike mogul to talk about cycling, the importance of having 5 colours, and to speculate on whether Karl Lagerfeld should cycle a bike or not (since he owns a Martone bike!).

How do you sell a bike to a woman? What are women looking for in their bikes? My background is in fashion and I have only worked with women until recently. So my designs are highly influenced by that. Women need to feel comfortable on a bike, but they also want the functional basket where they can put their handbags or gym bags. They want to be noticed when they arrive. They want a bike that  will make them exercise when they need to but also a bike that take them from A to B in style.  I love women and I like that we can celebrate them with Martone Cycling Co.

Where did you get the idea to make bikes fashionable as well as functional – or as you would  say, place a fashion filter on bikes? When I had the idea of designing my own bike – design that then became our trademark – I wasn’t looking for anything in particular in regards to the technology behind the gear system. I was going to purchase a three gear hub from a component maker (Shimano). It was later in the process that I was introduced to the Sram Automatix 2 gear system we currently use.  We decided to use this system because it is innovative, it is an experience. I believe our company is innovative and everything we do should have a wow factor.  The fashion filter comes from life experience, taste, influence from the city I live in and the people I hang out with.

How and when did you learn to make bikes? I never learned how “to make bikes”. Curiously, the way a bicycle works hasn’t changed in decades. So it was by observation, comparison.  I do have someone that works with us in the factory who is my sounding board and also my reality check. Some of my ideas can’t become reality sometimes because of legalities or functionality. I play with proportions, painting treatments and of course design – and then he comes and adjusts it into what’s really possible. We started the company in 2012 – so that has been going on now for over 2 years.

In the Lorenzo Martone Co you have only 5 colours – white, red, gold, silver, and black. Why those colours? And which colour do you have? The first collection initially was 17 colours! Then we edited, edited – just like in fashion – and concluded that to have impact we needed a more streamlined vision. And then it became all about referencing the fashion world: black for your “little black dress”, an all-white for your summer solstices, all red for these who aren’t afraid of attention. And then gold and silver – just like your accessories – you can match these with anything. But we are introducing now the denim blue, the orange and grey. Each year we will keep a core collection with the basic solid colours and introduce the trendy colours as we go. I personally ride the gold one. It’s very unique and I can see it from miles away!

Women and bikes, there’s something cinematic about them. Are there any films, movies or visions of women and bikes that inspired you? I collected images of iconic women on bikes peddling around Hollywood sets when golf carts weren’t around. That’s how they moved from the set to their trailers and then to their cars.  I have one beautiful image of Elizabeth Taylor while filming Cleopatra all dressed up in her Bulgari snake headpiece and amazing make up, but on a bike ! It’s so striking – if I show it to you, you will never forget.

Karl Lagerfeld has one of your bikes? How did that come about and do you think he cycles it? We launched our company in 2013 in Paris with Colette, and we were in their windows for 2 weeks. Apparently he showed up on a Saturday, a little bit after the store had closed, so the door was locked – but he knocked and of course the staff opened the door to him. He simply walked in and bought two: silver and red. But no  – I don’t think he rides himself. I hear he is very generous and always gifts the people he likes and works with. So I’m guessing he thought of someone special and thought the person would appreciate it. If I was Karl Lagerfeld I wouldn’t ride a bike – I would have a tandem bike and just sit on the back and enjoy the rid !

I love that you got interested in making bikes beautiful because of having to keep your bike inside your small apartment, so that it was part of the decor. You’re about making bikes a lifestyle accessory and choice, as much as a sweater or a sofa? Exactly, we live in a generation that can find so many objects for the house with a design touch. Imagine in New York, we keep the bike inside for 6 months due to the bad weather, if I have to look at the object for 6 months of the year in my living room it better be well designed! Just like choosing your sofa and sweater as you say, these things represent your lifestyle, your taste, your mood. I believe with Martone Cycling we deliver options that reflect that! And you look good outside riding them as well as if you keep it in your wall.  Your design choices are truly a reflection of who you are.

Martone bikes are on display at Kildare Village as part of the “Day Trip to Chic” campaign. Also on display is CAST: an exhibition of Irish Sculpture and the Kildare Village Kitchen food pop up. Visit www.KildareVillage.com for further information.

Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna

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