Blurring the line between work and play, Lia Martino is both a fashion tour de force and the BFF you’ve never met. You may recognize her from our December mailer, but we know Lia as our resident fit model, and the hand behind the artwork seen in Chico’s boutiques across the country. We sat down with Lia to talk life, art, fashion and more. (We knew you’d love to meet her.)
Introduce yourself: Name, age and occupation.
Lia Martino, 49. Artist, model, designer, mommy.
Where are you from originally?
Moline, Illinois. I was born there but raised in Iowa until I was seven, then moved to San Diego, then Colorado, then Los Angeles, and then I lived in Europe for 10 years… So everywhere. And Texas.
When did you discover your love of art and fashion?
My mom says I was born with a paintbrush in my hand, and I just remember always painting my whole life. That’s what I do. I fell in love with fashion at a very young age. My grandmother used to make all my clothes so I would watch her and then I started helping, and manipulating the clothes to fit me better. She started bringing me fashion magazines, and I decided that I was going to be in fashion. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had already started designing my clothes as a child.
How did you get into modeling?
I was living in Colorado Springs and was photographed a lot in the newspaper, because I was an athlete training in track and field. I always looked older than I was, and I was tall and thin, so I had a very strong sophisticated look. I guess it was the look Chanel liked, so I booked my first fashion show for Chanel. It was by accident that I was even in this fashion show, but they loved my look. Then, I went to Milan and started modeling even more. I fell in love with Italy and with the fashion world. I studied art there and started traveling all over the world. I worked with all the major designers in Europe and became friends with them. I ended up painting for a lot of them.
It sounds like a very creative, symbiotic relationship.
I became sort of a muse or a helper. I spoke their same language because I’m artistic, so I wasn’t “just” a model. It was almost like the negotiation process for my agents of hiring me was,
Where is she going to study art? She’ll come to Paris if she can study with this person…
Fast-forward to today; now your art is in all of the Chico’s boutiques.
It was the same with Chico’s. I started fit modeling for them and I would come into work with paint in my hair or on my nails and they’d say, “Why do you have paint in your hair?” And the relationship started that way. I built some really awesome relationships at Chico’s.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired daily, by everything: music, emotion, a movie, a quote in a movie. If I smell a gardenia, I want to paint a flower. If I see a beautiful child, then I want to paint children. My favorite quote is, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” (from Gladiator.) That sparked a whole 10-painting series. It’s normally a vision that brings emotion to me, and then I have to paint it. Like I have to actually run home and paint it.