Lets celebrate the spirit of summer and independence by getting an up close look at one of my favorite new company’s laCalifornienne.
Their fresh take and restoration of vintage timepieces is unmatched and currently one of my favorite things. I’ve had the honor of meeting with the husband and wife duo, Leszek Garwacki and Courtney Ormond, during a trip to Miami this past spring. While visiting The Webster, which has a great curated selection of designers, I spotted the case and couldn’t believe the mix of classic watches. Rolex and Cartier with the coolest leather straps that are hand painted in gold, pinks , blues ….it was a match made in heaven for me & many others.
Their like is one that merges the beauty of classic timepieces with the quintessential LA vibe and color scheme of today.
So cozy up and be inspired by these two and just what it is that makes them…tick?! 🙃
RG: I love the concept of taking something that’s a vintage classic piece and making it fresh and modern…. How on earth did you think of that?
What was the first idea that inspired you to move forward with it and how did you execute?
Courtney: As a couple, we were always rolling around ideas in our heads about working together. Leszek is an entrepreneur at heart and I have always worked freelance. Years ago Leszek gave me a watch as an anniversary gift. He chose to get a Cartier Tank since he thought of it as the most iconic watch to have. But the same reason why he loved the idea of getting me a Tank, was the reason I grew tired of it after some time. Like just about every watch, it came with a white dial and black leather band and I wanted something a little out of the ordinary to fit my style. I started looking into buying a more interesting leather band for it but there were no options for women’s watches. I like stripes, so it struck us that we could design our own leather band with hand-painted stripes to brighten up the watch and make it a unique piece. We then went further and decided to refinish the dial to go with the leather band we made.
RG: How do you locate your pieces?
Leszek: We find our donor Cartier and Rolex watches mostly from estate sales. They always need to be restored and brought back to original factory specifications. We like to think that by reimagining we give them a second life.
RG: How did you know it was going to be a beautiful mix and people would want it?
Courtney: We didn’t know! Whenever I wore the first watch we made, which was not even a prototype, it was just my personal watch, I received so many compliments. That really is the reason we decided to turn this idea into a company.
RG: Who is your ideal customer?
Leszek: Someone that loves watches and fashion and can appreciate a vintage piece and the value of the work we put into it to turn it into a laCalifornienne watch.
RG: What did you do creatively prior to starting laCalifornienne?
Courtney: I was a wardrobe stylist for many years. I worked on television and movies as well as commercials and print.
Leszek: I used to be a classic car specialist. We produced videos showcasing the cars we restored and that would eventually go for auction.
RG: How did you come up with the name?
Originally the brand was short for ‘la fille Californienne’ – since we also make men’s watches, the name needed to be more inclusive so now it is short for ‘la montre Californienne’. The California Watch.
RG: Who’s your inspiration in design or in general?
Courtney: Our color ways are inspired by our environment here in Los Angeles and also by the California landscape.
Leszek: In general, I like the idea of design from the 1950’s through the 1960’s. I like the simplicity of mid-century modern architecture as well as industrial design from the era. I personally like how things used to be much more colorful and how color influenced the design.
RG: What’s your personal favorite time piece?
Leszek: From our collection, this week I really like the olive drab dial with black print.
Courtney: Mine changes from day to day! Every time we create a new color way I think that’s ‘the one’…
RG: What’s your favorite thing to eat?
Courtney: Jeni’s Ice Cream in Los Feliz is my favorite sweet indulgence
Leszek: Seascape Strawberry & Rose Geranium Jam from SQIRL in LA
RG: What’s your favorite unwinding ritual?
Courtney: Taking a bath with a charcoal face mask.
Leszek: Going for a run in the canyon
RG: Where is your favorite place to travel?
Courtney: I will never stop visiting London
Leszek: Big Sur, the Post Ranch Inn is my favorite place
RG: Favorite mens scent
Leszek: Dzing! by L`Artisan Parfumeur – smells like going to the Circus – scents of hay, tobacco and leather…
RG: Favorite pair of jeans
Courtney: my vintage Levi’s 501 jeans.
Leszek: ACNE jeans
RG: Favorite pair of sneakers
Leszek: New Balance 998. I like that they are made in the USA. I love the 1990’s design and how different color ways give them a completely different look. Endless possibilities.
Courtney: Checkered Vans slip-ons.
RG: Favorite movie or series
We are currently watching (and loving) the Young Pope on HBO.
RG: What motto do you find yourself repeating most?
Courtney: Life is short and you only live once. So simple, true, clear, and concise.
Leszek: “Il faut d’abord durer” It was Ernest Hemingway’s mantra. A dear friend – who was also our first client – inherited his father’s Rolex and it has this motto engraved on the back case. Above all, endure!
RG: What’s your favorite piece of jewelry and why? Duh 🙂
Leszek: a laCalifornienne watch! ha ha. Courtney likes the Cartier. I like Rolex!
RG: How would you describe your creative process to someone that’s starting out?
Courtney: There was a lot of brainstorming and throwing out ideas. Leszek and I each bring something different creatively to the table and it works. We don’t always agree at first, but we always get to where we want to go, together.
Leszek: Conceptualizing and idea is easy. The execution part takes time and effort and a lot of trial and error. It takes multiple tries (and fails) to get to were what you are trying to create, to look how you originally conceptualized it.
RG: Where do you see La Californienne going and do you plan on extending the line?
Leszek: We plan on officially launching a men’s line. Our goal is to continue to partner up with select boutiques around the world. We love to travel and do trunk shows and meet our clients and talk about the design process and the watches in general.
Be sure to check out their wonderful line of restored timepieces at www.lacalifornienne.com