Bohinc could never be accused of that. Though not as publicity shy as Martin Margiela (the Belgian designer who makes a point of never being photographed), and a recognisable face in the party pages of Tatler and Vogue, the Slovenian-born 37-year-old has always avoided giving personal interviews, content to let her discreet but identifiable designs do the talking for her.
Two celebrity endorsements this year, however, have challenged that “elusive” dynamic: first, Cheryl Cole wore a Lara Bohinc Statement Necklaces on the X Factor (Harrods sold out the next day); then, at the G20 Summit in April, Samantha Cameron gave Michelle Obama one of her woven Fashion Cuffs as a present. In a matter of months, Bohinc went from being a name only women-in-the-know, knew, to the most covetable accessories designer in the UK.
Ensconced in a banquette at the Dorchester, her slight physique toughened by a geometric black top, Margiela leather trousers and chunky, art-deco inspired pieces of her own jewellery, Bohinc looks more like a fashion student or off-duty model than a successful businesswoman and award-winning designer.
“The first I knew of the whole Michelle Obama thing was when I read it in the papers,” she shrugs. The Tory leader’s wife didn’t come in personally to buy the bracelet, she explains, but the emissary was overheard saying: “These guys have no idea what fantastic product placement this is.” Which is true, of course, though Bohinc appears underwhelmed by the celebrity sanctions so many designers crave.
“I’m flattered that Samantha Cameron has some pieces of mine because she always looks great, as does Michelle – so warm and strong – but I don’t understand why people get so hung up on famous people wearing their stuff. These people have stylists, generally, so the whole look is very worked-out, whereas I love it when I see individuals in my stuff because they tend to think about what they buy a lot more.”
It must pinch though, surely, when an undesirable is pictured wearing something of hers? She nods, stifling a laugh: “You can’t always control it. But obviously if people come to you to borrow something for a shoot or a film you can say no. Actually we have a black-list pinned to our office fridge – and no, I won’t tell you who’s on it.”
Bohinc’s refreshing outlook may, in part, be down to her atypical background. Born in Ljubljana (a city of less than half a million people, once voted the fifth most idyllic place to live in Europe) to a judge mother and civil engineer father, she trained in industrial design at the local academy of fine arts before moving to London, where she completed an MA in jewellery and metalwork at the Royal College of Art.
After stints designing for Gucci, Costume National, Lanvin and Julien Macdonald, she started her own business, under the aeroplane-inspired moniker Lara Boeing 747 – but had to change it after Boeing objected. Though her references are jumbled between classical and contemporary, there is something searingly modern about her bold use of precious metals and unbranded, knotted leather handbags that has struck a chord with British women.
“We’ve never been about vulgar ostentation, which thanks to the recession, is now dead anyway. Nobody wants to be seen as recklessly spending money on very expensive brands when people are losing their jobs, so people are buying into quality craftsmanship and unique design a lot more.” What attracted Bohinc to London, she admits, “was the very kooky way you guys dress. No one puts things together like British women do: they’re daring and accepting at the same time. In Europe if you wear anything in the least bit different they whisper about you, but in England you could walk around naked and nobody would care.”
After 15 years, London feels more like home than Ljubljana. It helps that her boyfriend, advertising producer Benedict Cooper, is British and that her one-year-old, Coco, was born here, in Fitzrovia, where the three of them live. Aside from acting as a freelance consultant for Cartier International, and designing a one-off collection of crystal martini glasses for Tanqueray No Ten, Bohinc has ambitions spanning beyond the two London boutiques and international concessions she heads.
“Up until the age of 18 I used to make all my own clothes, so one day I would like to branch out into that and do homewear, too. My style evolved through knowing how to do practically every craft you can imagine – and mixing them all together. I can sew, knit, crochet, cross-stitch and do mosaics – all those things they don’t really teach kids in the UK. Don’t forget that I grew up in a socialist country where women were on a par with men, working and producing things just like they did.
“I love designing and I love my daughter, so if I want to have it all I have to juggle. Working mums learn pretty quickly to become super efficient: I do the same things I did before, only faster. I’ll be holding the phone on a really important phone call and playing with the baby with the other. When I was little I always wondered why my mum spoke so fast,” she laughs, “and now I realise that it was just to pack it all in.”