We asked Blacksea's creative director, New York-based Jane Lerman, about her background, inspiration, and current obsessions.
AW: Why did you decide to launch your own handbag line?
JL: I first entered the fashion industry via PR, but prior to my first internship, I was actually studying to become a doctor. I graduated Boston University early after completing a pre-med program, and went to London to do an internship. While there, I was invited to a few London Fashion Week shows, and from the first moment I saw a model walking down the runway, I felt like I had seen the light – I knew right away that I wanted to work in the field and that medicine just wasn’t right for me as a long-term career. I switched my original internship to one in PR and never looked back.
I went on to work at Ogilvy in Sydney for a little while before returning to New York to work at a mid-sized agency before then venturing off on my own doing freelance. My freelance career very quickly grew to me needing an office space and assistants, and before I knew it, I was running a PR firm – L.E.R. PR – which I still continue to run.
I love getting to work with other brands and entrepreneurs via PR, but I’ve always had a yearning to create, so in 2013 I decided to produce a few handbags locally here in New York, just for fun. I have always loved to collect designer handbags, but I was starting to get tired of spending a ton of money on the “it” bags of the moment. I wanted to create something that was truly my own and unique.
After I created a few samples, I had them sitting in my showroom and pretty much immediately they started to get pulled for editorials. When I saw that there was interest in what I was creating, I decided to pursue design more seriously and so, Blacksea was born. It was a very organic and slow process, and each step of the way has felt quite natural and right, which has been really rewarding.
AW: What is the inspiration behind the name Blacksea?
JL: I am originally from Odessa, Ukraine – a city that is right on the Black Sea, and I lived there until I was 7 years old, in the heart of the city’s center, which is located directly in front of the main port. The Black Sea was a huge source of inspiration for my childhood imagination, and I remember staring at the ships as they would come and go from the port, always dreaming about what adventures they were embarking on and wishing that one day I could travel to these exotic lands myself. The sea was a mysterious wonder to me, which inspired my first creative processes as a child, so the name is an homage to those childhood memories, my hometown, and the intense inspiration that travel brings to me and to many designers. I always try to incorporate some element of travel inspiration within the collections, since travel is something that is incredibly important to me.
AW: How would you describe the collection?
JL: Overall, I would like to think the collection is clean and effortless, with eclectic inspiration in the use of texture, colors, and prints. The leather bags are designed to be timeless and extremely functional, while the minaudieres are where I like to have a bit of fun. When designing, I try to think of every occasion a woman may need a handbag, and ensure that each collection offers something for every occasion – from glamorous nights out on the town to busy days running to and from the office.
AW: How did you go about producing it in Italy?
JL: I love that Italians are so proud of their crafts, no matter what it is they do. The leather in Italy is some of the best in the world and the attention to detail by artisans in Italy is incredible. I love the passion that the people in Italy put into creating luxury products and I always knew that if I was going to work with leather, I had to do it in Italy.
It was definitely challenging sourcing the right factory and I still face a lot of challenges in language barriers and simply not being there the whole time, but the end product is worth it, in my opinion.
AW: Who is the Blacksea woman?
JL: The Blacksea woman is one who is cool, calm and collected – she is effortless, cosmopolitan, well traveled and refined. She understands quality and has an undeniable edge without ever trying too hard or appearing flashy.
AW: You are based in New York. How does the city influence your work?
JL: I think the architecture definitely influences my designs, as I tend to use a lot of geometric shapes and structured silhouettes. I also think the creative energy that surrounds you in New York is undeniable and it affects absolutely everything you do. I definitely design for a cosmopolitan woman, so being surrounded by so many strong, powerful women is inspiring and helps to determine a lot of the finishing touches on the handbags I create, ensuring that the bags are functional for a woman who can fit 100 things into 1 day and is able to go from one thing to the next effortlessly and stylishly.
AW: What are some of your favorite places in the city?
JL: That’s such a hard question, because there are so many! I grew up in New York since I was 7, so I’ve really gotten to fall in love with every nook and cranny. I live in Tribeca, and I love Pier 26 near my house, which has mini golf, volleyball courts, and day beds to lounge on in the summer. I feel like it’s a little local secret of the neighborhood and you rarely ever see tourists venture out there, but it has the most amazing views of the Hudson River and the city, and it’s a great place to escape on summer nights.
I love the Met, I could get lost there for days. I love the Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History (I still love science & have a small obsession with space). I love the cozy wine bars and restaurants in the West Village. In the summer, I love just riding around with my fiancé on our scooter (like a Vespa, not the kind you stand on) and crossing the bridges to Brooklyn for brunch or dinner. During the holidays, I love the over-the-top decorated homes of Dyker Heights (it was an annual childhood tradition visiting those decked out homes). I could keep going on and on!
AW: If you had to pick one piece from your collection which one would it be? How would you wear it?
JL: I think I would have to pick the Fragments Minaudiere in silver. The idea for it came from looking a broken mirror and I was fascinated by how it reflected light. I wanted to experiment with that idea and I was really happy with how the final product turned out. I wear it with formal dresses and I also wear it with black skinny jeans and a leather jacket. It’s an evening bag that’s actually quite versatile, because it’s not overly feminine and it’s definitely a conversation piece – so it’s a fun one to wear out.
AW: If there is one person you could meet, who would it be?
JL: Richard Branson. He seems like he sets his mind to things and just does them, without doubting himself or questioning what the result will be. He takes risks that pay off and seems to have a lot of fun doing it.
AW: What's on your music playlist right now?
JL: Glass Animals, Beau (and all the Kitsune compilations), Marian Hill, The Attic Ends, Tove Lo, Sam Smith, Drake