GET INSPIRED BY BRAZILIAN SHOE DESIGNER LANE MARINHO
I first heard about Lane Marinho back in 2016, while taking what I called a “sabbatical year without leaving the city”. It was a Thursday afternoon, and I was expecting my friend Tatiana for a late lunch and a bit of red wine (it was my sabbatical year after all :). She called and said she was late because she had to stop at Lane’s atelier in Sao Paulo, located just a few blocks from my home. I had no idea who Lane was. Well, when she arrived she was wearing this handmade, most special pair of shoes. The colors, the stones, and the shape, all beautifully finished with a little rope tied to her leg! It looked just like art to me. In my interview with her, I felt that Lane is the expression of all her experiences. She feels mature and ready to openly talk about what it takes to create a brand based on her personal values. Enjoy! PS: Interview has been edited to fit translation, format and length.
Daniela Pizetta | Matriark Contributor
You are a successful designer now, and your brand is growing nicely. What is your professional story?
My professional life started before I could ever imagine. I was born and raised in Salvador, Bahia. When I was 21 and studying Graphic Design, I read about an open call project by the plastic shoe brand Melissa in partnership with a local fashion magazine. The task was to customize a pair of Melissa’s shoe. But what motivated me to sign my project up, was the prize: one-month internship at Melissa and another month at the magazine. Different from my family, I always wanted to move out of Salvador and explore the world, so this could be my chance. I remember that the judges were amazing people, like Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch and the fashion journalist Erika Palomino. My project was selected and soon I was packing for the internship at Melissa´s factory located in the south of Brazil, which is in the extreme opposite area from northern Salvador, geographically and culturally speaking. During the winter it´s very cold in the south of Brazil, and the first thing I had to do was to learn how to dress appropriately, like wearing boots, for instance, I never wore them before in Bahia. It feels like summer all year long in the northeast of Brazil, where I am from. When I look back, I remember how innocent, introspective and quiet I was. To my surprise, Melissa hired me right after the internship was finished, and I moved permanently to the South for the next 4 years to work and finish school. So that’s how it started, in one of the biggest shoe companies in Brazil!
Francisca heel sandal
What inspired you to start your brand?
I always had this close connection and interest in doing things with my hands. I loved drawing from a very early age. My first memories from childhood was when I was 6 years old when my mother was teaching me crochet. I remember doing that while watching the other kids playing something else, but that time of solitude was very much my comfort zone. I grew up in a very simple family and all the women used to do so much with their hands, like sewing their own clothes or making the curtains for our home, or even the sheets to cover our beds. Looking back now, I realize how growing up in this environment influenced my work today.
My uncle and my brother studied Graphic Design and that influenced me, but I think I chose to pursue this area because there was “drawing” involved. I think that if I knew better, I would have studied Fine Arts, this for sure is something that haunts me still!
In 2012, I had an important shift in my career. I attended a Charles Watson workshop in Rio, and spent 40 days learning his creative process. I was drawing nonstop. I felt strong enough and creative enough to make a decision to quit Melissa and do my own work, and I started my own brand of hand-made products. I still spent 1 year at Melissa to make sure everything was organized before I left, because this is how I am. Working and learning so much from a big corporation, and the mentoring by Charles Watson made it clear to me that I needed to work with my hands.
I just read this thing on a wall recently that sums up everything that I believe: “the obligation of mass production alienates your passion to create”. I couldn’t agree more.
Photo Pedro Velloso Loreto
Tell us about your brand and what makes it unique?
I didn’t know why I didn’t want to mass produce, but the experience led me to realize that my brand must be entirely hand-made because this is just my nature. This does not mean that I don’t delegate, but I design every single style, and I always make the first pair. This is what makes it unique.
You seem to love low heeled and flat shoes. Tell us why.
At the end of 2013, I created the first pair of flats under my brand. Everyone can make amazing high heels, heels are easy! But, original and good looking low heels or flats are not easy. In the history of design, heels always look amazing and sexy, and normally, flats are a variation of that and always the last ones to be designed.
But there were more reasons I chose to design flats: I’m tall and I hardly wear high heels. I follow my own style, and I wanted to create a brand and designs that make a woman feel elegant, but also explore other elements other than sexiness. Also, I was working from home, and flats were also easier to make without risking their quality (high heels need more machinery and elements, which I didn’t have at the time). It was hard to start with such little resources!
Carolina de Jesus flat sandal
What materials do you use? Where do you find them?
I don’t know why, but even before I started my brand, I always had some materials at home. I used to buy and stock things like “talagarça” (a screen to embroider rugs) and ropes. I bought different stones to decorate them, and this is how it started. The choice and combination of materials were pure intuition, but in some ways, they are all related to the ocean and the elements around it. I tend to believe that we always work around the same obsessions we have in life, so I’m always working with the things I love, like twisting materials and making knots, these are always in my designs and I play with it to recreate them over and over again.
Are all your shoes handmade? How long does it take to make them?
Today I have a team of artisans helping me: cutting, sewing and assembling it, then it comes back to me for the last part: I embroider it. It’s all handmade, so there is no formula, but back when I used to do it all, it would take me five days to finish one pair.
What is your favorite material to work with, besides leather?
Rope and talagarça are really my favorite. But any natural and organic materials like silk and silk charmeuse are great! Anything that looks and feels very natural and has colors. I love colors.
What are your bestselling styles and colors?
My first design is called Dora, and it’s still the best selling. I name my designs after women in Brazilian music. I named Dora after Dorival Caymmi´s song “Dora”, another example is “Luiza,” by Tom Jobim. Dora is also very special because it is very elegant, it protects and covers your feet better, it also hides it a bit more, so if you don’t want to show your feet, this is perfect for you.
The Dora sandal
What are your price points? Each pair ranges between 1,090-1,790 reais (around $270 to $445 US dollars)
What do you think is the most important feature on a shoe?
I have this obsession about colors, I think colors are one of the most important assets in my designs, not only vivid colors but the colors that match your skin in a very feminine way, very delicate. I love strong colors, but I think light colors can be very sensual in a shoe.
You’ve been making jewelry – is your creative process the same as making shoes?
Yes, it is the same. I feel I´m in a creative flow and I feel creative every day, which makes me very calm.
Do you ever want to design clothes?
Yes, most definitely! I have a thousand ideas. Right now, I’m partnering with a beachwear designer and we will launch a collection together. I want to work with people from other areas, but people that think like me and want to experiment with new things. I’m a woman from the ocean, so working on this project is very much part of who I am, I need horizon, I need nature and I need the ocean, so a beachwear line is perfect!
In this process, I had found amazing people from different areas, and had great exchanges that go beyond work. People that want to listen and help. In the end, I think the word “humbleness”, regardless of my position, is what rules my life.
What is the number one request from your customers? Dora – my first design.
What is your favorite color in a shoe? Red – I adore red!
Any secrets of the trade that you would like to share with women?
You must delegate, you can’t do it all, you must learn to delegate to save energy to keep your life balanced in a healthy way.
Do you find juggling the creative side with business side very hard or do you enjoy it?
When working with a big corporation I became more of a manager than a designer. I was managing sales, people, etc. So, I don’t want this for me at my business. I have great people working with me, they are good in different areas. We can’t be good at everything and I don’t really enjoy dealing with the business side of having a brand. So, I have people which I trust taking care of it for me.
What has been difficult and what has been amazing about building your brand?
It’s been difficult to know when and how to delegate, finding the right people for each area and trust these processes. It took time, but I found my way.
And the amazing thing is that I feel like a child again! Being able to create like when I was a child with my boxes full of materials under my bed. In a different scale, this is the sensation I have every day now. Just being myself. Five years ago, I never imagined where I would be today. I never had the desire to have my brand, and I think if I had had the opportunity to be myself inside a big corporation, I would be doing that now. So, it is not about the place, it’s more like finding an “emotional place”, where I can be myself.
A painting by Siân Hopkinson, and one of Lane’s source of inspiration
What do you think might be different from your experience if you were a man?
I can’t even imagine how it would be being a man. I don’t know how a man could do my work. And in my profession, I don’t think I would have any advantage if I was a man.
If a larger company wanted to buy your business, would you sell it? Why?
No. It’s unique and creative, so I want it to keep small and in control.
What is your ultimate professional ambition?
To complement the answer about selling or not to a big company. There are some big companies which I really admire. One thing I didn’t mention is how hard it is to make my products in Brazil. We don’t have the culture of the high standards like the European brands have, for example. I had to teach these standards do my artisans, as we don’t find good professional training here. I had the opportunity to take classes in France, and I know it is a matter of learning, so I hope one day I can have the best-trained artisans on my team. Those with eyes oriented to deliver high- end and handmade quality products. This is my biggest ambition right now!
With textile designer and natural dyes teacher Lise Camoin and friends, on a recent trip to learn about pigments and colors
How would you describe your professional work style?
Experimental, because I’m not a “square” person. It´s like trying new things all the time. I revise my notes or let it sit for a while. I also listen to music, so I like to find the best music to work on a project. I tend to procrastinate around music, I really enjoy music.
What you wish you knew when you started? Do you have tips for women launching their own business/brand now?
Let the flow of your life happen. Believe the process of life. Understand that you can’t rush time and that you need to go through experiences. I have done things I didn’t like (I worked on terrible shoes before, because they sold well), but everything helped to shape who I am today. Take the best out of every experience and be humble.
The best thing about being a woman designer is:
The best thing is to do what I do with lightness, soul, and heart. It is not wearing masks of power or being aggressive. This may sound that I am against the latest women’s movements (I’m not), but I don’t think we (women) should be trying to get to where men are, or trying to be like men. We are in a good place. I think men are the ones that should try to meet us where we are.
Friend and muse Paola de Orleans e Bragança
What were you like as a child?
Very shy, introverted, very skinny. I felt fragile and I knew everyone had the same impression of me. I was very loving, calm and I loved studying.
What is your ultimate personal ambition?
This is the most difficult question. I think my ultimate ambition is to find peace, and keep living in peace. I would love to live near nature. At the same time, I think we must have the experience of the city but respect it. A friend once told me that “everyone comes to big cities to take something out of it, but we must learn to leave good things behind when in big cities”. And most of all, live simply, and get the most out of a simple life. I think this is luxury.
When you’re not working, where would we be most likely to find you?
At home or at the beach. My husband is French and loves finding secret spots around the world. He likes to organize everything, and I enjoy it very much, as traveling is great inspiration for work and for life.
Lane, on vacation in the Mediterranean
What is your favorite local restaurant or cafe?
I started to go to this very low profile place, it’s a macrobiotic restaurant full of organic food and exotic things like lotus flowers. The place is called Satori, located in Liberdade (São Paulo’s Japan Town) and I like to go alone, eat and relax.
What’s your secret weapon in life?
Cultivate good thoughts. When I learned how powerful this is, it changed my life. But don’t get me wrong, I do have moments of negative thoughts, but we can cultivate the good ones daily.
What was your last great cultural experience?
The photography exhibition of Seydou Keita at Instituto Moreira Sales in São Paulo. It is so beautiful, and I felt a strong connection with him as an artist, because he photographed real people, styled with their own clothes and things. He shows us that it is possible to start with what you have now. Just start. Don’t wait for the perfect situation or a business plan. His work and how he did it looks so strong and so impactful.
Bamako (Mali), between 1948 e 1963. Photograph by Seydou Keïta/ Contemporary African Collection (CAAC) – The Pigozzi Collection
What are you obsessed with right now?
I started to do ceramics, it is a whole universe of incredible new things. You are free to create countless forms, so I’m completely obsessed with it now. I started by replacing my objects and plates at home with my designs. It changed our life, everything was so boring before and now I have my plates, with imperfections, unique forms and they remind me of our own imperfections. I really love things that are not perfect, so I’m fascinated by it right now. It is so alive!
Where’s your favorite place to shop?
Not a favorite, but I love to buy organics produce, so I shop around my neighborhood as well as organic fairs around São Paulo. Regarding fashion, I love the designer Flavia Aranha, she is an amazing designer, a powerful woman and she really researches and studies about the fabrics she uses, the colors, the process, she is engaged with communities and connects people. While I’m more into dreams she is someone that does… She is super scientific about it. I love her brand!
Latest beauty/style trick you’ve discovered?
All curly haired women: embrace your curls!!! This is so beautiful. When you understand that your hair will behave as it wants, not as you want, you will feel free and beautiful. I’m in this moment of loving my hair! I’ve seen so many beautiful women with big hair. I caught myself many times looking at people in the street and thinking, God, that woman is so beautiful because she is wearing her natural hair!
The creative women in the world you admire the most: Flavia Aranha and all that I said about her before.
Flavia Aranha jumpsuit
Your personal heroine? The strong women in my family, not one, but all. They came from a very simple background and did great!
Favorite cause to support? I find the economic gap among our people our biggest problem. If we give people more social and economic power, they will not be excluded. Or at the very least, they will have similar opportunities, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identification etc. If all humans have the same opportunities, the world will be different.
Bahia, where Lane is from
What’s your secret talent? I play guitar and I sing a little bit.
Who are some of your male allies? My husband. Even when I was working for big corporations, he saw my potential and always supported me all the way. Everything was very genuine. He is an economist, so when I started my brand he always gave me advice in the financial aspect of my business. H does not mind my success, he supports me all the way. I see many girls with sexist partners, and it drives me crazy. I’m so glad I found him!
Biggest mistake – aka learning experience – in life? Start a business and try to do it all, all alone. It was bad and I ran out of energy. Had to recover after a while.
How do you choose to support other women? Teaching my skills and creating products to make them feel good about themselves.