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Exclusive interview: Frank Leder


Inspired by the history and culture of his home country, German designer Frank Leder beautifully combines the traditional with the contemporary. The Nuremberg-born, Berlin-based designer explains his signature style

Hannah Lewis / © Katie Wilson-Ells
Hannah Lewis,

‘After eight years in London, I was ready for a new city,’ explains Frank Leder of his move to Berlin. The Nuremberg-born fashion designer had significant success studying and working in London, but it was returning to Germany in 2002 that enabled Leder to develop his label into what it is today – in his words, an expression of German culture and history. While other designers are increasingly looking internationally for inspiration, Leder is very much focused on Germany. His collections over the years have taken influence from everything from firemen to agriculture, the military to his own father. ‘Inspiration can come from stories and shared cultural knowledge,’ he explains.

Embracing heritage
References to traditional workwear and men’s tailoring are common in Leder’s work, making his creations wearable and functional, and adding a real accessibility to his high-fashion interpretations, as his contemporary ideas are grounded by historical references. ‘It’s not so much about past and present,’ says Leder. ‘Taking inspiration from these fields and integrating them into a contemporary collection, that’s always what we are aiming for.’

Distinctively German
His clothes are certainly distinctively German; and his collections are produced entirely in Germany, using largely German producers. Moving to Berlin, Leder explains, allowed him to ‘build a network of craftsmen, factories and sources to integrate into my work.’ This has become integral to the brand. ‘It has become my trademark. For me it is important to use the resources which surround you. In Germany there is so much potential when it comes to craftsmanship. I want to introduce my customers to this source and let them be part of it.’

Key pieces
Leder’s collections are beautiful, and resonate with stylish men across the world. This season, outerwear and knitwear steal the show, with thick woollen coats and chunky sweaters sure to become wardrobe staples, their classic cuts and colours enhanced by subtle details – contrasting fine and waffle knits; a speckle-effect wool. For Leder, a heavy woollen felted coat is a must-have for any gentleman in the colder months. His collection offers a number of stylish options; deep navy and charcoal grey pieces are particular standouts. As always, almost all items feature vintage buttons from the 1920s-1950s, which are carefully sourced and mainly of German origin, though certain pieces are Czech, Austrian or Belgian.

Though Leder’s collections are very fashion-forward, the spirit of his brand is not trend-led per se, which is unsurprising given the designer’s own lifestyle. ‘I don’t really mingle with fashion people as such; I am more close to artists, cooks and musicians,’ he explains. ‘It’s always important for me to keep an open mind and I love to meet people and have interesting conversations with them, it broadens my perspective and inspiration for my work.’

Exciting collaborations
This open-mindedness has allowed Leder to embark on a number of exciting collaborations. For example, the designer runs the Essence project with Austrian singer and songwriter Florian Horwath; the pair experiment in various creative fields, examining the context of art and fashion, resulting in items such as jewellery, clothing and artworks. Alongside his ready-to-wear collections, which include womenswear alongside his signature menswear, Leder designs limited-edition furniture and design objects for selected clients. He has collaborated on a successful range of backpacks with outdoors specialist Seil Marschall. ‘We select the people we want to work with based on mutual respect for the craft they are doing,’ says Leder. ‘With a collaboration we bring together the strong points from both companies and create hopefully something new and interesting.’

The personal touch
As well as connecting with other creatives, Frank Leder is unique in the way he wishes to connect directly and personally with his customers. Take Keypieces, his autumn/winter 2016/17 collection, for example. The designer’s 31st collection, it acts as a retrospective of Leder’s impressive body of work, with each garment reflecting inspirations, objects and samples of past collections. Every garment comes with a vintage key, one of which opens a special box at Leder’s studio. Each client is invited to go along and try their luck, paying the designer a personal visit in the process – and the lucky holder of the key which unlocks the box will take away a collection of unique items related to the Frank Leder brand.

And who does Leder think this customer is? ‘Open-minded, already a character of their own, interested in garments which support and emphasise their already interesting artistic persona,’ he says. If that sounds like you, then Frank Leder is the designer you’re looking for.

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