LA fashion week was brimming with talent. For the full week, gorgeous collections sashayed down the runway. However a collection that stayed with me long after the show was over was a collection that was named after the designer herself, Mena Lombard, a name I have no doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future, and her collection was nothing short of exquisite.
A citizen of the world but currently based in Miami, Mena was clearly influenced by the vibrant nature of Miami with her beautiful use of color, whilst the collection had a grounded 60’s influence, including items with a chevron print, a gorgeous flared jumpsuit, and faux fur pieces. Not to mention my favorite pieces, the stunning coats that wafted their way down the runway. With exceptional construction that created a beautiful almost train like effect at the back of one; the entire collection was the perfect blend of old Hollywood glamour, with a touch of Audrey Hepburn as an influence and Parisian chic at its finest. Yet Mena ensured every piece was so wearable in real, everyday life, which is not as easy as it sounds.
After seeing the incredible collection, I just had to meet Mena and find out more about the inspiration behind her collection. The next day, I drove to the apartment Mena had rented for the duration of fashion week in downtown LA. Mena greeted me in the lobby wearing one of her own creations, a stunning colorful shift dress which looked beautiful against her long dark hair. As I enter the apartment I am introduced to Mena's lovely sister, Vicky who is traveling with her. Mena and I sit down on the couch as I tell her how much I loved her show, “Thank you!” she says with genuine excitement. I'm bursting with questions and want to get straight to it and ask Mena all about her background and how she came up with such a stunning collection.
“I come from the corporate world”, Mena tells me, “but after my daughter was born I wanted to be more creative. It was very important to me. I was born in Uruguay and it didn’t seem realistic to be in fashion so I studied business, which I don’t regret at all.” Mena continues, (but later) “I was done with the corporate world, so I started taking classes at the arts school in Florida. I have always known how to sew, my mum, my whole family knew, but I really wanted to get into the Italian way of cutting garments so that’s how I ended up in Milan. I studied cutting, pattern making and production. It gave me a huge overview. The business side, I’ve always had it, because business is business whatever the area of industry, so marketing wise and a whole bunch of things I already had, so that helps me. I am the type of person that can sketch a collection and then sit down and talk about budgets.” Mena’s background seems have helped her an incredible amount. Her collection is a reflection of the wardrobe of a chic working woman, with pieces that could take her from the office to an evening event. The collection also has the inclusion of weekend pieces that are practical whilst still ensuring her customer (as Mena’s tag line goes) "Never strays from chic!" Hearing that Mena’s background was from the corporate world doesn’t surprise me at all, but only leaves me wanting to find out more about Mena and what brought her to this point.
How did you like studying fashion in Milan? It must have been amazing!
I loved Milan! It felt like home. My family comes from Italy. They went to Uruguay because of the war; they just left Europe as it was crazy at that time. But we have always had that big huge Italian influence. I see my family as totally Italian. From the way we express our feelings, to the way we dress, to the way we talk, to the way we are always in touch with each other. My sisters are my best friends. We are very Italian in that way, so Milan felt so natural, you just fit in. I mean of course being in a gorgeous city helps! Creatively it’s very interesting. It fuels your inspiration, so of course that helps a lot. Our family comes from Selerno, which is south but still, Italy is Italy.
You are now based in Miami. How do you find the fashion scene there?
Miami is totally vibrant, the weather and the people are always happy. So I can relate to that. I am also all about color. I love colors! I love prints, I feel very good in Miami in that sense. (However) I have a very European way of dressing. I like to wear shoes, and sandals are just for the beach. I am that type of way. So I still have that European influence and I think that’s what really helped me to move around Italy.
You really are a citizen of the world having travelled so much and lived in different places. How has travel influenced you as a designer?
I think that it has really helped my approach to be very cohesive. Culture inspires style. When I get an inspiration, it doesn’t matter what it is, it could be the 60’s like this collection, it doesn’t matter. I get very involved in it. It’s not only about fashion, it’s about architecture, it’s also about what was going on in politics and socially, that kind of thing, I get very involved. I like that because I've found when you travel you really get to know so much about other cultures and other people. It’s not just about what you think you know or what is right or what fits. There is so much that can work. There is so much that you can learn and that can help you grow, so to me travel is my influence.
I think you can really see that in your collection, the color from Miami, the cut very tailored, lending itself to a European aesthetic, but mixed with old Hollywood glamour. Is there always a constant inspiration and DNA to your brand or does it always change?
The DNA of the brand is always chic!
(I quote Mena’s tagline) “Never stray from chic!”
Yes It’s so true! I always say that but it’s so very me. Never do that! It doesn’t matter where you’re going or what you’re doing. Never stray from chic! It also has to be comfortable. That’s why I wanted to go to Italy, to learn about the pattern making and how they cut everything. Fit, it has to be on point. It’s extremely important. It’s also about quality. I like to work with quality materials and of course it has flavor regarding color or patterns. But it’s always sophisticated. I like sophistication. Sophistication can be simple. It’s not about the complicated sophistication, it’s more about the timeless sophistication. For example coats are a huge thing in my line. And I live in Miami! I have a whole bunch of coats. I love designing coats. I love putting them together, I love coats! That’s something that I always do.
My favorite color combination, although I love color, to me nothing speaks more chic or sophisticated than black and white combinations, so I always have a black and white color story. I always do that. I would say it’s about being chic, but about being timelessly sophisticated.
I couldn't agree more! Congratulations on having your collection stocked in New York from February last year. How was that process for you?
It took a lot of time, to put it together and to make sure it worked took a lot of time. But I don’t mind. I’m not in a hurry. I want to do things right. I want to do it the right way. This is not only about my brand, but it’s my name. I put my name on it and I would never do anything that has my name in it that doesn’t have the best of me. So I don’t mind that it took a while.
I am selling through stores and boutiques there and I am about to launch my e-commerce site, I have my website of course, but I am working on turning it into an e-commerce site. I have had a lot of requests to do that. With social media now you can reach everyone and a lot of people will write and say, “I want to buy this! Are you in Paris? Are you in Spain?” I want to be able to reach everyone. So the e-commerce site is a great way to be able to do that.
I’ve also been talking to more stores, one in New York, and this trip I’ve been talking to some in LA, which I’m very interested in (being stocked in LA). Everything is moving so fast I wish there were 50 more hours in the day!
Where internationally would you like to expand out to?
Of course South America, it’s my hometown. Obviously it’s a goal to be there and also Europe. I studied fashion there, my heritage is from Europe, it is such a big influence so I would love to be stocked there and also Asia, it’s such an interesting market.
Photo by Jung S. Kim. Courtesy of FWLA. Copyright 2016 UCA, LLC.
What inspired this collection and specifically the gorgeous Valentina coat? (pictured above)
It’s funny, the Valentina was actually the first piece I designed. It’s called Valentina because it was worn by Valentina Ferrer, she is Miss Argentina and she was invited to the Pink Party that was here in LA and she wore that coat. I designed it for her but it has somehow become a trademark for me and when I spoke to Fashion Week LA they specifically asked me to show that coat. It’s cut and constructed in a very particular way. I wanted a coat that would naturally open when you walk and it does its job very well!
Valentina Ferrer, Miss Argentina was the face of your lookbook, how did you both come to meet?
We met at a photoshoot before she became Miss Argentina. We became friends, so when this whole Miss Argentina thing happened we spoke as she had a TV special and she needed a whole bunch of changes for that TV special so she called me and that’s how it happened. She is the featured model of the lookbook, and she’s gorgeous by the way. Excellent model and a lot of fun to be with!
Did you launch the everyday collection and the couture collection at the same time?
I launched the couture first, then the ready to wear, the idea of the ready to wear was to have another option, but they come from the same designer, so you can travel in between them. You can wear a coat from one collection and a dress from the other collection. I wanted them to be able to interact. The ready to wear is of course more for everyday. It’s focused more on the type of clothing that I really love, which is the type that you can dress up or down, so you can wear it all day. You can wear it to run errands, to have meetings, to go to cocktails. It’s very easy wear, very nice, but it just adapts to your lifestyle, and not the other way around. That is key.
Is the Couture collection only order on demand?
Some pieces are on demand, it’s couture, so it’s harder; the production is very different to ready to wear. Some dresses we will be able to have in stock, most pieces will have to be on demand.
How would you describe a Mena Lombard woman?
Of course sophisticated, independent, confident. I like the woman that has no trouble being in the spotlight because I design clothes to put that woman in the spotlight. So it would have to interact very well. She’s funny and she loves life and she never strays from chic!
You have travelled so much. Where is your favorite place?
That’s very hard. I am very emotional so I get attached to people and places. I am very attached to Buenos Aires, I love that city, it’s so vibrant. I love Montevideo, I was born there and part of my friends and family are there. I love going back home, it feels so right. I love Italy, my grandparents were from there. Everytime I go there I feel like I have them there telling me all their stories. It’s so beautiful.
I love Paris. I think in another life I lived in Paris. I am the type of person that gets lost everywhere, I am so bad at it, you have no idea, but I never get lost in Paris! So I’m sure in another life I lived there. Maybe I was even a taxi driver there! I never get lost, I know that city so well. My husband always asks me, “Are you sure you aren’t from here?” (laughing). I get very attached so I don’t know if I would choose a place. That’s why I say I am always open to people and places. Home is home.
Now that LA fashion week is over, are you already starting to think about the next collection?
Yes, my sister knows actually (Mena looks at her sister and laughs), we already started sourcing. I am always sourcing, all the time. Looking at fabrics and colors asking for swatches. We’ve already done that. I cannot help it, and I love it! It’s a sort of excitement that I get. I already have ideas and colors. I am getting into the mood for spring / summer, so yes I already started.
Can you share what any of your inspiration might be?
Well, I don’t know yet, I am not that far yet, but I did get very interested in a certain array of colors that surprisingly were not bright. They are colors but not bright colors. They are more pale so it could be interesting. More of a muted color. It would be interesting, an interesting approach to a spring / summer collection with muted colors. Let’s see how it turns out!
How would you describe your own personal style? Are you always dressed up?
I don’t think it’s a case of being always dressed up or dolled up, you know? It’s a matter of wearing the right piece for the occation. That’s why I was telling you I like comfortable fashion, clothing that can be dressed up or down. They type that really follows your lifestyle. I like to look nice, let’s put it that way. I like to fix my hair and make sure that my pants fit and my shoes go with my dress, that kind of thing. The little details. I like that, I cannot avoid looking at that and those type of details.
Does your style change when you travel?
I get very influenced when I travel, it opens your mind. You cannot help it, I think you get wiser when you travel and you get to learn so much. The world is such an amazing place and it can teach you so much. It’s all about growth and truly I believe in evolution. I like to evolve, in every trip and every collection, every year I like to evolve and look back and say I am proud of every single collection, but say that each collection has become a little bit better. It doesn’t matter what, it could be in the cut, the quality, in creativeness, in the story you’re telling. Regardless of what it is you're improving, I want every single collection to be evolving from the last.
Where would you like to see your brand in 5 years?
I would like to have Mena Lombard in different countries, not only in America. To be able to sell in Europe, in South America, in Asia. I would really like to be able to make it a global brand. Also for people to recognize the name. It’s very important, to be related to sophistication and to style and to a certain particular style that speaks about you and your own fashion ideas. I would like to be recognized that way.
Just before I leave, Mena takes me to the wardrobe to check out some of the collection and try several of the pieces on. They look and feel even more stunning up close. I tried the coats on and they fit like a glove. The material is so luxurious and the construction of the coats are out of this world. The details on the sleeves make them even more unique with their turned back cuff and the beautiful flow of the coat as they are both fitted yet flow at the back. The material and cut is pure perfection. I can't wait to see where Mena takes her brand and hope to see it grow globally in the next few years as she helps women, "Never stray from chic!"
For more information on Mena Lombard visit:
Website: Mena Lombard
Instagram: Mena Lombard