It’s nine o’clock on a grey London morning and Lara Bohinc is striding through Hardy’s, a quiet brasserie in the heart of London’s Marylebone. The Slovenian-born designer cuts a striking figure, dressed in a grey tweed Alexander Wang skater skirt, a butter-soft grey Julien Macdonald leather jacket and killer heels (her own label) that would hinder a lesser mortal. Her wrists and fingers are bejewelled with her own designs and a vintage fur jacket is thrown over her shoulders.
A walking endorsement
‘I’d say my style is Rachael from Blade Runner goes to Glastonbury,’ says Bohinc. Like other effortlessly chic female designers such as Roksanda Ilincic, she clearly understands that is she is a walking endorsement of her brand. Her modern take on 1940s glamour helped make the accessory designer a darling of the London social scene when she launched her label in 1997, but as well as creativity, Bohinc clearly possesses a strategic business brain. In an industry where new designers often burn bright but fade fast, Bohinc has successfully evolved her business to become an enduring member of London’s cool designer set, alongside the likes of Giles Deacon, Preen and Erdem.
Bohinc lives in Marylebone with her husband Ben and six-year-old daughter Coco but works out of a studio in the edgy East End district of Shoreditch. She moved to London in 1994 to study for an MA in jewellery and metalwork at the Royal College of Art. ‘The British are very open to new ideas,’ she explains. Her designs are strongly influenced by her 1970s childhood. ‘I grew up in Slovenia, where there was a huge Brutalist movement symbolising the new world of communist countries – modern, almost space-like, architecture. Gymnastics was also a big thing, along with synchronised swimming.’
Timeless design for the future
Bohinc works with precious metals such as gold and silver, as well as earthier metals such as brass and copper, and combines them with precious and semi-precious stones. The UK’s jewellery industry is now worth over £5bn, according to a recent research by Key Note, and Bohinc is a key player in the market. She also produces scarves, and bags made from the softest jewel-coloured calfskin and snakeskin, all featuring jewellery-like clasps.
Her jewellery collection for spring/summer 2015 is called the Eye. ‘I’ve been obsessed with the idea of timeless artifacts for about a year. The ancient eye has been used throughout history,’ Bohinc explains. The designer’s fascination with the way films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Metropolis, Solaris and Blade Runner interpret the future through design is also reflected in her work.
Designing without limits
The designer sees her jewellery and her latest venture into furniture as interconnected. ‘Jewellery is an object for the body and furniture an object for the home,’ she says. The Solaris Kinetic table, designed for Wallpaper magazine’s 2014 Handmade exhibition, has now gone into production. ‘The Solaris Kinetic table was inspired by the movement of the planets,’ explains Bohinc. She had, for a while, wanted to create bigger pieces that weren’t limited by size and cost, as jewellery can be. The result is the brass and stone table, made up of four stacked circles of marble which move when touched.
She also recently created the London Collection, a line of candleholders, for Swedish interior design company Skultuna. The candleholders’ patterns, designs inspired by the movement of a bird’s wing and the highways of Japan, draw on jewellery techniques such as photo etching, where acid is used to eat around fine lines printed onto a sheet of metal. Bohinc also has a line of desk accessories for Skultuna in the pipeline.
The designer was appointed MBE in 2012 for services to the fashion industry. Is this Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire building an empire of her own, in the form of a global lifestyle brand, to hand on to her daughter? ‘It takes a long time to build a big brand,’ Bohinc ponders. ‘They say the first generation builds, the second establishes and the third reaps the rewards. Or destroys it.’ She breaks into a smile. ‘I asked my daughter if she wanted to inherit the business and she said, “Yeah, okay.” But she’s only six – she can still be whatever she wants to be.’ And so it seems, can Lara Bohinc.