Jeweller. Model. Influencer. Imogen Lehtonen is a very modern type of Harley-Davidson motorcycle rider
Words by Jeremy Pick
Photos by Autumn Spadaro
Anyone with an interest in rock ’n’ roll culture will have heard of jewellery maker The Great Frog. Founded in 1972 on London’s famous Carnaby Street, the company has become an icon of the rock ’n’ roll aesthetic, with its signature skull rings and edgy alternative jewellery designs. Lemmy, Slash, and Ozzy Osbourne were early enthusiasts. Johnny Depp and Arnold Schwarzenegger are customers. Pieces by The Great Frog can been seen in the Harry Potter movies and worn by the Joker in Suicide Squad. Motörhead, Slayer and Iron Maiden have all collaborated with the company, and now a new generation of hip-hop and alternative music stars, including Post Malone, the Arctic Monkeys and Lady Gaga, are discovering The Great Frog’s work.
Living the brand
Imogen Lehtonen, niece of the founders, embodies the attitudes of The Great Frog: free spirit, music lover and Harley® motorcycle rider. From the store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California, Lehtonen is reaching out to a new generation through her handcrafted jewellery, her embrace of motorcycle culture and her Instagram followers.
The Great Frog occupies a unique position in contemporary jewellery design. Back in the day when skulls were a more specialised aesthetic, no one else was using jewellery craftsmanship to hand make skull rings, a point not lost on the musicians and counterculture enthusiasts who value the company’s authenticity and the way it has remained true to its roots. These are attributes that resonate with musicians as much now as they did in the early ’70s.
A shared passion
“Motorcycles, music, and tattoos have always been the circle The Great Frog works in, and they are all things I love, so it’s natural that I promote the company through what I do,” says Lehtonen. “My father was an amazing person and completely passionate about riding – he used to take me to school on the back of his bike – and he is and always will be my No. 1 inspiration. He carried in his wallet a photo of his old Panhead that he’d sold to a friend before he left the U.S. to set up The Great Frog, first in the U.K. and then in New Zealand. Forty years later, he went back and tracked it down, and now my cousin rides it in London.
“My father sadly passed away five years ago, but I have some amazing memories of riding with him. He introduced me to riding, and it became a shared passion, so now whenever I ride I feel closest to him – he’s right there.”
Keep it custom
As soon as Lehtonen moved to the U.S., she bought a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. “I love the aesthetic, the brand, and what it represents – it goes hand in hand with America, and that feeling of freedom and endless opportunity; the feeling that you can jump on a bike and ride for weeks, seeing new things and having new experiences.”
Now Lehtonen has two H-D® motorcycles, which are featured frequently on her Instagram account. A 1200 Sportster® bike serves as her city bike, and she rides a 1994 FXR model on longer journeys. Needless to say, both have been customised to reflect her personal style.
“The Sportster has had the most work done to suit my taste and riding style, and now I’m completely in love with it,” says Lehtonen. “It has a four-over on the front end and custom mid-high pegs, and it’s a great city bike. For longer trips, I’ve got the FXR. I like to be hands-on and work on the bikes myself; my daily work is with hand tools – soldering, grinding, hammering, oxidising and buffing jewellery – so it comes naturally. That has fed a love for the older bikes; they have a sound and a feel and a power all their own. And you can create a unique style that suits your own.”
On the road
Riding also plays a key part in Lehtonen’s professional life. “For me, riding is therapy. For the past eight years, it has been my main mode of transport, and it makes me happy. I’ve tried yoga and meditation, but the best way to still my mind is the ride from the mountains into LA for work. Often I get off the bike, and I’ve figured out something that has been bothering me. And the ride home is my way to decompress from thinking about everything else that is going on.
“I love long-distance riding. The last big ride I did was with Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead. He came into the shop to pick up his skull ring, and we ended up riding up the coast and filming it for the inaugural episode of his series, Ride with Norman Reedus. I’d like to do another long-haul trip soon, maybe to Mexico and back; or to Northern California, river camping with a backpack and tent.”
Another cherished trip was a 2015 cross-country ride on a Dyna® Wide Glide® bike, taking in 6,000 miles in 38 days from Brooklyn to San Francisco with a group of other young women riders and influencers, finishing up at Sturgis. “That was really fun,” recalls Lehtonen. “I like the feeling of riding in a group of like-minded people; good riders who I can feel comfortable with. But then again, I like to jump on a bike and go. I guess I just love to ride.”
Imogen Lehtonen @imogenocide