Lito & Lola: the Magic of Floral Craftsmanship
22 July, 2016
The firm founded by Mireia Martí has two retail outlets in Barcelona and is planning to open a third one soon in a major Spanish city.
Mireia Martí sits down for an hour with a customer on the first floor of the Lito & Lola store in Barcelona’s carrer Laforja. It’s a time set aside for the joint creation of the floral accessories that the customer is after, usually for a wedding or a party but sometimes, increasingly often, for day-to-day wear. Martí listens closely to what the customer needs. She shows her flowers, fabrics and metal pieces and together they choose colours, textures, shapes and positions to compose a unique mosaic with the selected elements in a design created especially for the woman who will wear it, fashioned from the starting point of Martí’s imagination and savoir faire and the customer’s tastes and desires.
This situation is repeated every day in the two Lito & Lola stores in Barcelona, especially between February and the end of September, the high season for the sale of the firm’s core product of floral arrangements. These are the months when future brides and women who follow the latest trends, fans of handmade details that are the outcome of many hours of work, book an appointment with Lito & Lola. They come with an idea that Mireia Martí and her team turn into flowers. “I’m all ears – I’ve learnt a lot from my customers. We’ve created some wonderful stuff working together. Our work is aimed at crafting original pieces that I won’t make again for anyone else. My customers give me a lot and I do the same for them. I suggest many different combinations and eventually we find exactly what they were looking for,” Martí explains.
The Lito & Lola founder recalls that when she got married she chose her bouquet from a catalogue. “It was very impersonal,” she says. That’s why the firm she created seven years ago takes a totally different approach for brides and anyone else who wants artisan floral accessories and who appreciates their value. “We also want people from the rest of Spain to be able to access the experience that my Barcelona customers have. Creating an accessory together with a customer is a lovely process,” she enthuses. When Martí speaks in plural she is referring to the team behind Lito & Lola, i.e., co-founder Dani García, the floral craftswoman who attends the public at the company’s second store in the Born neighbourhood of Barcelona, and the stylists from the first store the company opened three years to attend mainly a local public “from the uptown area of the city”.
The Lito & Lola team is set to grow soon. “We’re looking for a place in Madrid or San Sebastián. It’s not easy, prices being what they are, but we have made a start. We want to reach out to people from around Spain. We receive many requests and know there isn’t anyone else offering what we do outside of Barcelona”. They currently respond to this demand from outside the city via email. This is the channel through which the orders arrive, the first step in a process that includes starting a dialogue and ends with the accessory that every customer who is unable to visit the stores decides on. Email is also used to respond to requests from stores from abroad – for now, New York and Paris – which buy already-made accessories. “We cover international demand with products that are already assembled rather than tailor-making them,” Martí says.
Jewellery at the start
Lito & Lola also has an extensive collection of costume jewellery. Although artisan floral accessories, particularly flower crowns, are the pieces most in demand during bridal season and summer, this changes in winter, when costume jewellery becomes a very important part of the firm’s activity. “In fact, we started out making costume jewellery and we are keen to keep it up because it is part of our identity,” Martí says.
The year 2009 marked a turning point in the careers of many people in Spain. The figures on record indicate that the financial downturn led to a high number of today’s successful entrepreneurs who, having lost their jobs, opened their own business. The story of Lito & Lola is part of that. Mireia Martí worked in advertising, which was when she began to create the first pieces of jewellery that would later give rise to the firm she leads today. Her work colleagues were her first customers and a good source of information regarding the product’s market potential. “They encouraged me to do more pieces. I started a blog and lots of stores contacted me to place orders. Back then I was only doing customer jewellery. I had up to 40 stores around Spain on my books and it hadn’t taken long to get them. At the same time, as if it were a signal, my period in the company where I was working came to an end,” she says, still surprised at how well things worked out from that episode. Later on, to improve the product, she studied industrial pattern-making and did extensive research into the manufacturing processes behind the products which were still, at that time, only costume jewellery.
“A former colleague encouraged me to make artisan flower crowns. She said they were becoming trendy in London and was sure they would be a hit,” she recalls. This led to a new stage for the firm, characterised by focusing on floral accessories. “We work with premium quality flowers, natural flowers that are watered, dried and dyed in Spain just for us. It is a very laborious and highly creative process and consists of choosing the flower, giving it the right shape for the wire that supports it and combining it with resins, fabric or stones. We arrange each flower one-by-one and check whether the combination is aesthetically pleasing. The end result is a small floral brooch that doesn’t look like there are so many hours of work behind it, but there are. That’s why it’s very important for people to see the first part of the process themselves,” she explains.
The company had to carefully analyse the availability of the raw material in Spain and Barcelona to find suppliers who they could work with to make flower crowns. After finding it hard to buy them in small quantities, Mireia Martí began purchasing paper flowers from Thailand. “They took a long time to arrive,” she says, remembering the first floral pieces she created, “and I found florists in Barcelona who would sell me small groups of natural flowers as an end customer. However, once demand grew, this option was no longer suitable and we had to source the suppliers we have today. They are from here in the city and know that we buy small amounts due to the features of the product, but that we are loyal customers”.
Floral crowns are very popular right now and Lito & Lola is in great demand. It’s a good time for the firm, but Mireia Martí is thinking about the future. “The trend will end sometime, which is why we have to keep innovating, thinking about new products and new materials, including men in our portfolio and becoming design pioneers”. Meanwhile, however, on the first floor of the Lito & Lola store, a new customer will explain each day the type of floral crown she wants to wear for her wedding or graduation party. Special events, which the floral craftsmanship of Lito & Lola transform into magic.