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Photo by Kate Owen
Spotlight on Bicycle Fashion Designers - Lorenzo Martone
Lorenzo Martone with a Martone Cycling Co. men's Grand bicycle.
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Photo courtesy of Martone Cycling Co.
Martone Cycle Co.
Martone Cycling Co. women's Mercer model.
Spotlight: Lorenzo Martone
Flashy upright city bikes that make a statement.
Founded 2012 | New York City, NY
Take note of the places that Martone Cycle Co. bicycles have been spotted: a celebrity-studded launch party at Manhattan’s Paramount Hotel, the window of the exclusive Parisian design emporium Collette, the pages of Vogue magazine, and the website for Saks Fifth Avenue.
These are hardly everyday occurrences in the world of two wheels. Then again, Lorenzo Martone is no ordinary bicycle maker. While cycling apparel increasingly draws creative talent from outside the industry, Martone may be the first veteran of the luxury fashion and lifestyle-branding world to take on bicycle entrepreneurship.
The exuberant, 33-year-old native of Brazil traces his passion to the boyhood Christmas gift he received from his parents, and has relied on bicycles for city transportation and fitness while studying and working in Paris, Madrid, and New York City. Martone is drawn to the independence, sustainability, and health benefits of cycling. But it is the emotional qualities that he and others associate with riding that resonate in his design choices.
“The bicycle is such a strong object because it’s so pure and nostalgic and at the same time romantic,” said Martone, who opened his own talent and PR agency in 2009.
Inspiration for a collection of bicycles with a fashion sensibility struck in 2011 after Martone moved to Manhattan’s West Village and started collecting spare-lined Mid-Century modern furniture. He says he began looking at bicycles in context – in people’s homes, as design objects. What Martone calls a “life 101 moment” led him to recognize the potential for a bicycle that combined a bold, contemporary look with city-ready features.
“I always had the desire to create a product,” he said. “I had been in the service industry for more than 10 years and I also could see how successful some of my clients had become thanks to the image and the PR we created. I thought, ‘I think it’s my turn.’”
Martone soon enlisted the help of a business partner, interior designer David Thomas, and began focusing on the functionality, technology, and aesthetics of his product. Noting the trend toward aerodynamic design and lightweight materials in performance cycling, Martone said, “Bicycles are practically invisible. Where’s the fun in that?”
Martone’s bicycles are nothing if not striking. He manipulated the lightweight alloy frame to a bolder, thicker proportion for graphic appeal and visibility. He embraced the wide rims seen on urban fixed-gear bikes. Then he dialed up the visual volume by color-matching the components.
He chose a red chain as the signature of the brand. It’s his favorite color, but Martone also admits to a sly nod to a high-pro le shoe designer’s bid to patent a red shoe sole. The distinctive Martone logo is a stylized drawing of his beloved Shiba Inu dog. Even the names and colors, inspired by places Martone has lived, are evocative: The Regard is named for the Rue Beauregard in Paris, and its silver color is tied through the French verb regarder (to look at) mirrors.
Still, aesthetics and branding are only half of the equation. Functionality suited to city-dwellers at an accessible price is the other. Martone chose SRAM Automatix, an easy to maintain 2-speed gear hub that shifts automatically. The coaster brake is backed by a hand brake. And, with an eye toward the daily imperative to carry stuff – large handbags, laptops, and gym bags – Martone integrated a generously– sized front basket into the frame. Available in one women’s and two men’s sizes, the bikes retail for $899. On the horizon: new color collections and accessories.
The bikes are sold online and through a growing network of bike shops. Martone said even traditional retailers have been intrigued by the novelty of his product and emphasis on branding and image. “That’s the world we live in,” Martone said. “Design objects upgrade your look.”
Still, Martone freely acknowledges that his bikes might be an acquired taste for some. “It’s not a discreet piece,” he said. “It’s for someone who likes attention, design, and bold statements.”
“They’re an extension of my own personality,” Martone said of his bicycles. And so they are.