Toronto-based accessories designers Marta LeClair and Monika Sammut of Marlu are stars on the rise. They launched their handmade jewellery line in 2010 and have since seen their designs on the Vawk Fall 2010 runway and on the pages of Loulou, Mudd and Filler magazines.
While the sisters did not initially set out to be jewelry designers ― Monika studied art history in university while Marta pursued filmmaking ― they seem to have found their calling with their classic designs with an edge.
Q: What is it like designing a collection with your sister? What role do each of you play in the design process?
A: Monika: We love working together! We have the same vision of what we want Marlu to be and where we’d like to see it in the future. Although I’m more involved in the practical side of the business and Marta deals with the creative, we both are deeply involved in the design and production of all Marlu pieces. Every piece passes the Marta and Monika inspection!
Q: What were some of the challenges that you experienced while designing your first collection?
A: Marta: The biggest challenge was narrowing down our designs. We want people to have an instant image pop in their head when they think of Marlu so we needed to define ourselves from the very first collection. The biggest growing pain is probably all the money we spent on materials we’ll never use. It’s part of the creative process, we know, but we’re both very budget conscious.
Q: Your jewellery pieces are named after plants, rocks, etc. in nature. Why did you decide to name them that way?
A: Monika: All the names of our pieces come from Latin. We were looking for a unique way to identify the pieces and we wanted the names to have meaning. The choice of words stems from the ideas behind each collection and the materials we used in each piece.
Q: Why is it important for you to go the handmade route with your jewelry line?
A: Monika: We wanted to control the quality and the aesthetic of each piece in our line. Making the pieces ourselves and handpicking the materials we use, like semi-precious stones, allows us to maintain the integrity of Marlu.
Marta: Plus it’s so much fun shopping and spending all that time together.
Q: How has your Polish heritage molded the two of you as designers and business owners?
A: Monika: In Poland, our parents owned a gift and jewelry boutique, so from a young age we’ve been around the business. We would travel with our parents as they met new designers and artisans. It was definitely something that stuck around in our lives.
Marta: Our logo also reflects our Polish heritage. The siren is an emblem of the city of Warsaw. To us she represents the perfect mix of the feminine and masculine; a feeling we try to convey in our jewelry.
Q: What is the inspiration for your next jewelry collection? When will it be unveiled?
A: Monika: We’re continuing to build on the Marlu signature look of metal, leather and stone. We’re adding more colour and texture and really bringing out the feminine aspect of jewelry. The collection will be unveiled for the 2012 season.
Q: You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Vawk. Any other designers, photographers, models, etc. that you would like to collaborate with?
A: Monika: There are so many creative, talented people in the fashion industry all over the world who we’d love to collaborate with. If we had to narrow it down to Canada it would have to be Greta Constantine, Denis Gagnon and, of course, Vawk anytime! We also love the photography of Mike Ruiz and John Sayer-White.
Q: What’s next for Marlu? Any plans on expansion?
A: Monika: At this time we are working on our next collection, and constantly researching, drawing and sourcing materials. Although you can purchase our jewellery pieces on our website, we have begun to place our pieces with retailers. We are also preparing to expand into the States and eventually to make our way into the European market. Stay tuned!
By: Septembre Anderson, Toronto
You should follow me on Twitter @septembreA.
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