For Lilian and Iñaki, what started out as young love, turned into a life project born from the boldness of someone who doesn’t fear the unknown.
Lilian, 32, an Andalusian born in Denmark, studied jewellery in Cordoba. Her father, a Chilean exile in the Nordic country, met the woman who would become his wife on a trip to Spain. She did not hesitate to leave everything behind for love and follow her husband. However, when Lilian was four years old, her mother convinced her father to exchange the harsh Danish winters for the Mediterranean climate of La Herradura, where the little girl grew up and was able to fully unleash her imagination. “As a child my favourite game was to paint the rocks on the beach,” she recalls.
The “what if..?” couple
More than two decades later the story was to repeat itself, but this time it would be Iñaki from Madrid who worked in the audiovisual sector, who also decided that, for love, he would leave behind the bustling life in Madrid to move to this calm city on the shores of the Mediterranean: “I had been to La Herradura on holiday, and when I saw I could make a living here in the hotel industry, I didn’t think twice”.
“I dedicate myself to my dream: to make that which I carry within me, that which I want”
They met when Lilian was studying at the Escuela de Joyería de Córdoba (Jewellery School of Cordoba) and also working as a waitress in La Herradura. “What started out as friendship turned into a mutual project that would not only be a life project but also a career plan,” Iñaki explains. Inspired by nature and with a desire to experiment, they took advantage of Lilian’s academic education to hand make jewellery and costume jewellery and create a future together. “We were having dinner with friends and they would buy our creations,” Lilian says. “We were starting to have a customer base and we were motivated to sell in stores. Finally we opened our own store,” Iñaki adds.
Though they started off with costume jewellery and jewellery, their capacity to innovate took them down a path where they were working with hide and leather. Very soon and by teaching themselves, as Iñaki explains, “by thoroughly analysing bags”, they extended their creations to wallets, messenger bags, passport covers and hair ornaments for brides.
“We are a ‘what if..?’ couple. This is the way we’ve been building our life project. We’ve always faced challenges and learning while we were creating,” confesses Iñaki, the adopted Andalusian.
Nature living in each accessory
Their mutual admiration motivated them to make their dream come true in 2006 by creating Lilian Urquieta, a craft company for fashion accessories. “The first shop we opened in 2008 ended up being too small and we decided to restore a house in 2012 in the city centre of La Herradura in order to convert it into our home, a studio, and of course, into our store,” Iñaki explains.
Lilian defines herself as a restless person who is inspired by anything in any given moment. “We like nature a lot, therefore our products have a direct connection with what surrounds us, which are the mountains and the ocean.” Iñaki adds, “our products are made from natural leather, the stones are semi-precious and the hair ornaments are also made of natural flowers”. All of their creations are accompanied by a leather label with the English inscription: Handmade with love in La Herradura.
A window to the world
Nevertheless, the path to gaining a foothold in this world has been difficult. “Surviving as an artisan is very difficult, therefore we have tried to offer quality and originality with soul, determination and work”, explains Lilian, the designer. In order to reach clients in all corners of the world Lilian and Iñaki have used social networks to position themselves as a brand. Now they are going to open a shop on Amazon.es in the artisan section Handmade. “With Amazon we will be giving prestige and an international dimension to the brand, we will be giving it maximum visibility,” says Iñaki.
Lilian has no doubts: “selling handcrafts means it is very difficult to extend your customer base beyond the people who walk into your store. Amazon is our window to the world and now anyone can wear our accessories”.
After ten years, the creators of Lilian Urquieta, with a future that is full of challenges, look back and see everything they have built. “I dedicate myself to my dream: to make that which I carry within me, that which I want,” says Lilian. Iñaki concludes that “Although I would never have imagined that I would become an artisan and make a living sewing, I’ve realised that I’ve dedicated myself to what I like doing.”