. . . a woman’s story through her wardrobe. . .I feel like I’ve invented a language that turns to be their chosen form of communication. – Mena Lombard, Designer
I was intrigued to interview Mena Lombard, the Uruguayan born designer with a fashion brand of her namesake. As a witness to her runway show during Fashion Week, I saw something in her designs that stood apart from the other collections. As this interview evolved, I could see the depth in her perspective on fashion as an art form, her intrinsic view of fashion’s role in our global society, and how fashion can and should contribute to our cultural history.
Mena is on the EDGE radar because of her belief of fashion as a language of communication, a means of expression and storytelling. She is not afraid to be bold, daring, and give us something new. The real magic is that the designs make a statement where women feel a sense of confidence and empowerment.
In this interview, Mena expresses her depth and passion about fashion; the opportunities, challenges and adaptability you need in running a fashion business; and the importance of social media.
Mena, how and why did you get started in the fashion business? Tell us briefly about your journey in getting you where you are today.
My passion for fashion design began very early in life. I remember asking for my first sewing machine when I was just a little girl and I will never forget the excitement of learning how to use that beautiful green and purple tiny thing. My first models were my dolls and my first sewing teacher was my mom. When I started college in Uruguay, fashion was not an option and so I decided to pursue a career in business instead. My time in the corporate world was a great experience and I learned so much from it, but there was always a creative need that was unfulfilled. After the birth of my first child I decided to finally embrace my inner call and go into fashion, and so I went back to school – this time in Milan – and started my fashion business. Since then, I haven’t stopped.
What’s at the core of why you design fashion? What motivates and moves you?
I design because I’m passionate about fashion. I’m passionate about this way of self-expression that is so personal yet also so broad. Fashion speaks about each and every one of us, regardless if you want it to or not. As individuals, it expresses our personality, interests and character. It shows how we want to be perceived. As a society, fashion has carried us through time and tells our story through colors, lines, lengths and cuts. It has talked about advances in technology, about the mindset of people, about political views and social issues. Fashion is an art form that is deeply ingrained in our everyday life.
It deeply inspires and motivates me to become part of a woman’s story through her wardrobe. To be able to say that a woman chooses to show herself to the world with my designs is an absolute honor. To become a witness of her accomplishments, of her contributions, of her decisions… I feel like I’ve invented a language that turns to be their chosen form of communication.
With the sea of sameness and lack of innovation in this industry, how do you position your brand, how do your designs differentiate from the masses?
Mena Lombard designs are simple yet elegant and sophisticated, made with quality materials and with attention to detail. When a woman wearing Mena Lombard enters a room, she is noticeable in an elegant way. That’s always the spirit embedded in our fashion pieces.
How important is exposing your collection through the fashion show medium?
I believe that in today’s globalization it is extremely important, as it allows you to show your name and product to the world.
Designers/brands invest thousands of dollars to participate in a fashion week runway show. Do you feel that this 10-20 minute catwalk gives you a return on your investment, and how so, if it does? If it doesn’t meet your strategy in, let’s say, getting orders placed or a media buzz, then what other avenues do you use to build commercial success?
It all depends on how you define success, and that is very personal, not only to each designer but also to the moment the designer or the brand is going through. I’m sure that the goals of a fashion brand launching for their first Fashion Week show is different than the brand that is showing for the 20th time. In order to keep building commercial success, I also use many other avenues from social media and trunk shows to attention in quality production and good customer service.
With the broad exposure to fashion shows, detailed photos of the runway collections accessible on all devices and most importantly the consumer, the fashion industry is revisiting its relevance. Historically, fashion events have been business-to-business vehicles for industry professionals only, closed to the public. Today’s phenomenon [digitally accessible by the public] puts pressure on the system to respond to a “see now, show now, buy now, wear now” trend. Fast fashion brands have the ability to develop, interpret, “copy” if you will, the runway looks and deliver months before the traditional 4-6 month delivery schedule.
Given this consternation of change, what is your position and/or point of view regarding this?
With this ever-changing market and as a new designer adapting to the trends of the fashion business, it makes my brand much stronger because I have to be aware of the fashion climate changes. I need to move at a pace that forces me to be current in my inspiration and proactive in my production without sacrificing quality and attention to detail.
In marketing your brand, do you find that your social media platform meets your business objectives? If so, are you able to measure its financial benefit, if any?
Our social media platform is extremely active and we work hard in making sure that all our customers and followers get informed not only about our brand but also about the fashion business, current fashion events and fashion education among other important subjects. We are able to tell our reach and impact – that are continuously growing – translate into financial results, however, it is a boundless journey and this is just the beginning. And for one, it’s been truly amazing.
With the saturation, complexity, and competitiveness of the fashion industry, what business tip or advice would you give to emerging brands new to the industry?
I truly believe in finding your own voice first. Find who you are as a designer and show your vision to the world. And never give up, never stop trying.
What do you want the consumer to ultimately experience and express while wearing your designs?
I want women to feel special and sophisticated when wearing Mena Lombard as my mission is to highlight through my garments the uniqueness of who is wearing them. My pieces will put you in the spotlight so I want you to enjoy the attention and seize the opportunity attention gives you. I want everyone to always remember the timeless elegance of your look and I want women to know that while wearing Mena Lombard, they will never stray from chic.
EDGE congratulates Mena Lombard on her journey so far and extends continued success for the future!
All Photography: Jason Young