Interview with Marie-Lauren Romano of MLR Jewels
Marie-Lauren Romano is a multi-talented Melbournite who takes a sculptural approach to jewellery design for her label MLR. We spoke to the designer about her inspirations, process and hopes for the future of MLR.
We’d love to know how your jewellery design journey began. Were you involved in any formal training for design or art prior to starting MLR?
It was during my time at RMIT (Bachelor of Arts in Textile Design) that I discovered the art of silver-smithing and lost-wax casting. These are processes I now practice on a daily basis.
After graduating in 2012, I went on to complete a Masters of Management (Marketing) from Melbourne Business School. With the design and business skills garnered from those studies, I ended up in #AdLand. I was creating advertising campaigns for multinational brands, which I was passionate about – but the endless hours spent in an office left my creative soul wanting more. This led to the birth of MLR.
What inspires your jewellery design?
MLR pieces are inspired by a range of facets in my life. Melbourne and its creative aura and people are a huge inspiration. Fashion – whether tattoos, clothing, making, jewellery or cultural rituals – another. Decorating surfaces and dressing the human body inspires MLR creations, as do the material and stones themselves.
I’m obsessed with adorning the body in jewels that tell a story. I enjoy the experimental nature of creating, so I rarely plan or sketch a design. Instead, I embrace unpredictable outcomes. My aim is for each piece to be viewed as wearable art, taking on an individual life with its wearer.
Who is the MLR wearer?
I’d like to think MLR resonates with a range of individuals. It’s more about their personal style and appreciation for design, fashion art and beautifully crafted product.
It’s ageless jewellery design, appealing to creative souls and those who are inclined to embrace brands with meaning and personality.
What is the highlight of the jewellery design process for you?
The very beginning. Starting with the blank slate, playing with wax and stones and not knowing what the end result will be. I zone out during this stage. It’s super cathartic. I just put on a podcast and hours go by. This is the real reason why I design and make – it’s a part of my soul and being. I just start making, I go straight in, playing with the wax and stones to develop a piece. It’s a very organic process and I trust my eyes to create the balance and magic in each piece.
There’s a feeling I get when I know a piece is finished, and until I get that feeling I just keep adding or subtracting. I also love seeing people wear my pieces. When my pieces are worn they take on a personality and life of their own.
The most challenging aspect of running your own label?
During a time where retail moves at the speed of light, there are many challenges with building a brand. Fast-fashion giants such as ASOS can rip off small designers in the blink of an eye. They have the manpower, scale and revenue to turn designs around so quickly.
A classic example is when Anthropologie ripped off local Sydney maker Tara Burke. It really hit home for me – so many small businesses and creatives spend hours working two jobs trying to build their creative passion and it’s all shot down in an instant.
I also find it super challenging to find creative energy after working 4 days a week in an office – a very uninspiring space.
What are your hopes for the future of MLR?
When I think of my brand five-years down the track, I visualise MLR worn by musicians, models, designers, artists, photographers – creative souls. There’s a confidence in MLR that’s hard to come by. It’s designed with an edge, with a disregard for opinions. It’s bold, and as such, the wearer is bold. The kind of person you can’t help but stare at for their effortless beauty and confidence. If Zoe Kravitz wore a piece of MLR I think I’d die!
Any advice for those looking to get into jewellery design or budding designers in general?
You will have days filled with enthusiasm, ideas and passion – but you’ll have way more days filled with doubt, fear and total confusion. Bottle up the good days and keep those little beams of light, because they’ll keep you going. At the end of the day, if you’re a creative soul, you’ll always come back to your craft, the road will just be a little curvy.