Tastemakers 2013: Lorenzo Martone
September 18 2013 7:08 AM EST
February 05 2015 9:27 PM EST
Photography by Andy Ryan
Lorenzo Martone is in the midst of preparing for Copenhagen Fashion Week, yet another stop in the rollout of his unlikely new venture as a bicycle designer. But for Martone, who learned his trade in fashion, a well-designed bike fits with his philosophy that style and practicality are natural bedfellows when it comes to city living. Having moved to New York from Paris in 2007, the exuberant Brazilian gadabout was familiar with the bike share schemes that have transformed Europe's capitals, and recognized that many U.S. cities were heading in the same direction. "Here's an object we've had for over 100 years that suddenly looks like the transport of the future," he says. "It doesn't use oil, it doesn't make noise, it doesn't occupy a lot of space, and it's a great way to exercise."
But Martone was unimpressed by what he saw around him. "In terms of design, there was nothing very contemporary -- it was all vintage," he says. "That got me thinking about the various layers involved in creating a new bike." After working on sketches, he hopped on a plane to Asia to get a prototype made--but not before incorporating a few useful innovations, such as a large built-in basket, perfect for your laptop, and an automatic gear system that changes with the speed of the bike. "A lot of bikes have one gear, while others have 10 or 15," he says. "This just felt like an innovation in the industry, but no brand had taken it on."
Recently, escorting a writer from Vogue on a bike ride, Martone received the ultimate compliment. As they were stopped at a red light, a taxi driver--sworn enemies of bicyclists the world over--started honking at them. "The writer turned around to answer the driver back," recalls Martone. "But in fact he was complimenting her on the bike."
With his sleek, colorful bikes -- custom-painted in red, white, black, silver, and gold--gliding off the production line, Martone has now turned his attention to that other bane of cyclists everywhere: helmets and gear. Gaudy Lycra pants are definitely not on the menu. "The fashion industry is my inspiration, and we really treat the bikes as a fashion house," Martone says, adding that launches in Berlin, Amsterdam, and London reflect the brand's ethos. "It's definitely part of our goal to be present in places where people understand great design and want to integrate it into all parts of their lives."