Lana Ogilvie on authenticity, design, and respecting the process.
Both bold and elegant, Lana Ogilvie has graced the covers and pages of countless international publications from Vogue, Harper’s and Queen, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Bazaar, and L’Officiel, and has worked renowned fashion industry photographers, including Albert Watson, Lord Snowdon, Arthur Elgort, Tyen, Stephen Klein, Hans Feurer, Gilles Bensimon, and Bruce Weber.
Having collaborated with some of the greatest innovators in the fashion world, Lana Ogilvie has evolved her creative talents, learning the craft of jewelry design. The result is SABRE, a jewelry brand that is as bold and elegant as the woman who founded it. We sat down and spoke to Lana about her career as a fashion model, jeweler, and her plans for her brand - SABRE.
LM: You have established yourself as one of Canada’s most successful models. How did you start your career in modeling and fashion?
LO: Initially I went on my own, at 17, to an agency in Toronto that agreed to represent me. However, [it wasn’t until] I was 18, and I did a fashion show at my high school, that a different agent [scouted me]. Elmer Olsen was a scout for Elite and Ford models in NYC, so I started with him after graduation.
LM: You have worked with renowned fashion designers over the years, including Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix, Issey Miyake, and Isaac Mizrahi. Can you tell us a little more about some of your favorite shows and campaigns?
LO: I loved the runway, but not the backstage. I also enjoyed working for Azzedine and spending a few weeks in the atelier with him, literally, building a collection on me. He was a fantastic artist. I did one collection for him, and there were just 4 of us in the show. Incredible! I was in John Galliano’s first campaign. John is so talented. I got to shoot with dolphins and was jumping off a scaffold three stories high onto an air crash pad, so it looked as though I was flying and I was dancing in fire. It was a crazy campaign shot by Javier Valhornrat. I was always getting booked for crazy jobs. I shot a disastrous English Vogue job, riding camels, where we were held up at knifepoint in the Atlas Mountains! That’s probably the job I will remember the most. I did a lot with Isaac Mizrahi as well, who won the CFDA award at a young age. That was impressive.
LM: In 1992 you became the first ethic model to sign a multi-year contract with Cover Girl cosmetics. Since then you have been an advocate for and worked to introduce more diversity to modeling and fashion. What type of initiatives have you worked on and how have you seen these industries evolve over the years?
LO: In the mid-90s I worked with Bethann Hardison on her initiative called the Black Girls Coalition to bring awareness to the racial disparity in the fashion industry. The visible gap. That has taken such a long time to change, and it’s different now because fashion is so much more celebrity-driven. Indeed there is more acceptance of diversity, not just racial but age, size, and gender. However, there is still a long way to go before none of those things are a factor in why someone makes a cover or gets a booking — there is still a long way to go before someone is booked just because they are.
LM: Did your exposure and experiences in the fashion industry ignite your passion for design?
LO: I never set out to be a designer, per se. I am an artist. I attended art school in Montreal and studied illustration, as well as lithography and drawing. Becoming a jeweler wasn’t so much about being a designer, as about making art, which just a happens to be an accessory. Designing alone would never have been enough for me. I had a desire to make something with my hands from the ground up. As I didn’t know how to, I studied at a trade school to become a bench jeweler. It was an ‘old-school’ education, without computer automated design or 3D printing. It was all handmade, hand set, etc.
LM: After studying to be a fine jeweler, you established Sabre NYC. Where do you gain inspiration from and how do you create?
LO: I usually don't set out with a plan. I work with wax first and see what I can make by not sculpting regularly. Most of the time I play around with the wax, melting it, carving, filing until I get something I like. It’s very organic. At jewelry school they were always telling me “that’s not the way” or “you can’t do it like that”, which is true in some parts of the process, but not when you are working with wax. So I tried everything I wasn’t supposed to do with the wax, and made some great pieces. My pieces are made with gold, silver vermeil or bronze. They are not one- offs, but limited runs.
LM: Can you tell us about the SABRE woman?
LO: Sabre really appeals to a certain aesthetic. My jewelry is not dainty and small. They are big, chunky, bold pieces but at the same time very organic and natural looking, understated even though the pieces are bright and large, and really easy to wear. SABRE is about quality, and the people who buy my pieces appreciate that aspect of craft, of something being made by hand in the old tradition. They understand and want really high quality. I believe in authenticity, so for me to even have a jewelry line, being a designer would never be enough. I became a bench jeweler. I have to know how actually to make something and be able to craft it. I don’t understand how people can design and have no idea how to actually make a piece, whether that’s jewelry, clothing, furniture — any of it. You lose a tremendous amount of credibility and authenticity if you don’t know the full process.
LM: What are your plans for the future, both for yourself and for the SABRE?
LO: I’m not sure where SABRE will take me. I would love to do a capsule line or collaboration with someone. I want to continue to learn other aspects of design - like industrial design - so that I can make furniture or cutlery or lamps - or anything. I love to create.
Interview by Linda Mateljan