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London Gem: Hannah Martin

Jewellery designer Hannah Martin invents Frankenstein muses and designs her hedonistic pieces around them.

At just 27 years of age it is almost impossible not to raise your eyebrows at the career Hannah Martin has forged for herself so early on.  Since graduating from Central St Martins in jewellery design, this irrepressible talent has gone on to work for Cartier, Givenchy and Tag Heuer, as well as collaborations with Jean Pierre Braganza. Retail destination Matches has picked-up her current collection while her own, recently launched, online store also a roaring success.

In her work, Martin uses only the best materials and all her jewellery is handcrafted by experienced jewellery makers in Hatton Garden, and from where she has found some of her most loyal followers. Most pieces scream hedonism, rock and roll and punk, but it is Hannah’s unique approach to design that makes her creations full of assertive and romantic expression. A stalwart designer and a great personality, Dazed racks the brain of a real London gem:

DD: What inspires you at the start of a collection…Do you have a muse?
Hannah Martin: I tend to create myself a muse – a kind of beautiful seductive Frankenstein’s monster, out of all the things and people that are turning me on at the time. I invent stories around my muse, they become the narrative of my work – and I design for them. I create myself a whole sensory world to get immersed in, and the collection springs from this.

DD: Where did the idea come to blend raw graphic shapes and objects with normally classical materials?
Hannah Martin: It’s hard to say exactly where and how this came about; I guess just in my fascination with the history of the industry I work in, but also my frustrations with its ‘stuffiness’ and traditionalism. Jewellery is a beautiful medium of personal expression – both for the wearer and the creator – but it always seems to me to lack something – a bit of sex, and a bit of rock n roll. I have a very specific taste and vision that I want to create – and I think combining that with the traditions of the jewellery world creates something pretty new. A lot of people find it pretty confusing.
DD: How do you feel being a relatively new designer in the fashion industry, but with such a growing high profile?
Hannah Martin: This is a difficult one – as a new and small brand it is really difficult to make your voice heard, and to get people to see what you are doing. It often feels like an exhausting up hill struggle – especially battling against brands with money and backing and advertising! But it is great to be starting to be noticed, and I hope that the profile I’m building will grow gradually, and strongly, to become something with longevity and authenticity. I feel I’m at the beginning of an exciting journey.

DD: What made you decide to design men's jewellery?
Hannah Martin: It really grew out of my fascination with gender, masculinity and where gender lines become blurred within our society. It is here at the border between genders that my excitement started – where things are undefined, and unrestricted. I was in the midst of writing my thesis on masculinity at St Martins, when I spent some time in Paris at Cartier. It was here that everything met and the idea for the brand came to me. I was spending my days designing these incredible pieces of fine jewellery for women, and my nights hanging out with friends in Paris watching beautiful boys play rock n’roll in grimy bars. It suddenly seemed clear to me that I should combine the two parts of my life. Women are drawn to the pieces because of the sense of strength in them, and I also think the idea that it is something slightly naughty! The idea of wearing something of a man’s, as a woman, is innately sexy.

DD: What has been your favourite project/collaboration to work on so far?
Hannah Martin: The project I did for Swarovski Runway Rocks is definitely up there! Swarovski were a great collaborator to work with – basically they give you financial backing, as much product as you need and let you run wild! There are no boundaries – they just want you to be as creative as possible! It’s not often you get paid to do a job like that. The piece was inspired by the ‘30’s fetish photographer John Willie, and made from over 20,000 Swarovski Pearls!

DD: How many of each piece do you make? Are they limited pieces?
Hannah Martin: All the pieces I make are limited edition – some I will literally make 5 or 10, others I will make 500. But never more than 500. They are all totally handmade – by true craftsmen, mainly on Hatton Garden (my studio is a stones throw away which makes things very easy). I feel that making something such as this on a mass market level would somehow destroy the spirit. I think its amazing to be able to think that the thing that you own – only another 20 people in the whole world own it too.
DD: Skype personal shop- What a brilliant idea. Why have you done this?
Hannah Martin: Thanks! When we were developing the concept of the online store the one thing that really bothered me was the fear of losing the personal interaction I have with my clients, and it becoming a cold, person-less process. I think buying jewellery cannot be about this – jewellery has a soul, a story and history waiting to happen. Whenever I work with clients on bespoke pieces or even just on private sales from the collections, I feel I learn a little bit about their characters and that helps me make something perfect for them. I wanted that service to be available wherever you were in the world – that’s where the Skype thing comes in.

DD: Do you have a following of fans and regular clients?
Hannah Martin: I do have some really loyal clients and followers; many have been so supportive from the very beginning. I have found that people will come back again and again once they have bought one thing – which is a great compliment! I like building a relationship with clients – it’s the best way to learn about your own business as well, what people like or don’t like, and what makes them return.
DD: What is next in line for Hannah Martin…?
Hannah Martin: The focus at the moment is to try to hit more international markets. I’m also beginning to seriously seek out investment – to take things to a whole new level.
I am at the beginnings of planning a couple of new ventures – one in leather goods with incredible hard-wear, and one into a highly exclusive, exceedingly mysterious erotic line that only a few people will have access too, inspired by some pieces I worked on for Coco De Mer.