Interview with the founder of Leonie-fashion by Anne Mueller, a freelance journalist:
A sunny day in May, Barcelona, Spain. I am sitting opposite the founder of Leonie-fashion. An impressive young woman, about 1.66 meters tall, dark blond curly hair, bright blue eyes and some freckles on her nose. Her sporty dark blue jeans, red raspberry sandals and a casual blouse, as I learn later during the interview are as timeless and fresh as her fashion.
AM: Leonie, you design and sell leather shoes, handbags as well as stylish fashion from 100% natural materials such as silk and linen, which are handmade and produced in sound environmental processes – this is quite extravagant design … What brought you to the idea to found Leonie Fashion even though you come professionally from the automotive industry? Fashion and cars have at first glance, not much in common.
LV: Well, I came up with the idea 20 years ago when I lived with my uncle for a time in the south of Brazil, near the largest Brazilian leather center of the country. I just did not have the courage to make something out of it immediately. I still remember very well that I was so excited at the time of the leather quality, variety and extravagance and joy of colors of the shoes and handbags that I have certainly bought 15 pairs of shoes and around 10 handbags in one year. Natural materials have fascinated me so much that years later when I lived in China, I took the decision to design fashion exclusively from 100% leather, silk, cotton and linen.
AM: What was finally the reason that you in spite of your career in the automotive industry have founded Leonie fashion?
LV: I think the idea had to mature a few more years. When I went through a very stressful and discouraged phase in the auto industry, I started Leonie-fashion as a kind of creative compensation. That sounds a little bit crazy because it means a lot of work, nerves and robs you the last free time. But I thought, if I do not start that business now, I’ll probably blame myself later for not having tried it and would ask myself: how would my life look like if I had had the courage at that time. This is an opportunity I could not pass easily.
AM: Why fashion from natural materials and produced in harmony with the environment from Brazil, Argentina and Asia?
Beside the fact that Brazil and Argentina dispose about a very large and innovative leather market, I simply noticed over the years that these countries are much more innovative and more colorful than for example Italy, France or Spain. What I especially like about these markets it that they don’t adapt to the style of Milan, NY or Paris but keep their own South American touch: for example, platforms have never been out in South America despite Sex and the City – this type of shoes are a part of Brazil as much as Doce de Leite or Caipirinha.
Sometimes I see women on the street and can immediately recognize from its style that their shoes are made in Brazil. Sometimes, just for fun, I asked them and asked them. The reaction was usually initially a little bit confused but my guess was then confirmed. This means there is definitely some potential in the U.S. and Europe for a designs and a style inspired by South American Culture.
AM: Founding a fashion label in parallel with a full time job is certainly a little adventure – is there a story in which you think particularly? In which one do you love to think about?
LV: Oh yes, founding the company was really exiting and cost me some sleepless nights. Most of all I remember two stories. When the idea to found Leonie-fashion was just born, back on my way from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and 40kg hand luggage at the check-in. I negotiated for hours because and finally paid half price of an airline ticket overweight on it. I had my first prototypes in my luggage at least 15 pairs of shoes and 10 handbags. Arriving in Germany back home, all the bags did almost not fit into my small car …. And another time I got into serious conflict with the customs officials, because of the patterns that I had in my luggage. All together, a really colorful adventure. Today I look back with a smile, at the time I was more in the mute to crying.
AM: What exactly makes Leonie-fashion collections so unique?
LV: … First, that my entire collection is handmade in a limited edition and is produced in an environmentally sound way process. In the past, ecological clothes and leather goods have not been very chic. I think I coped with the challenge to combine designer chic and ecological production processes and made it on the world’s catwalks accepted. Most customers do not even know that my fashion produced in ecological processes.
Today, you can find very seldom top designer chick in harmony with nature since most labels and companies are only profit driven. I also offer my Clientele an extraordinary fashion style. Our days, independent women do not buy shoes and clothes triggered by a need or just because they are designed comfortable. For me, fashion has the function make women even more beautiful and make them stand out from the crowd. Fancy shoes and chick silk blouses in limited edition that are not available at every corner are just the right accessory. My models are made with great attention to detail – for example integrated key chains in every handbag. All in all, we are talking about exceptional and innovative design. I design with a lot of love and passion Leonie-fashion products and produce them in Brazilian, Argentinean and Asian ateliers in small series. Therefore, I am twice per year a few weeks on site, so that everything works perfectly out. The subcontracted ateliers are small production studios which posses exclusive licenses of the big labels such as Dior, Escada, Hugo Boss, Yves Saint Laurent and many others. Brazil and Argentina are traditionally leather product manufacturing countries and have always developed extraordinary trends in the leather and apparel industry. Just take a look behind the scenes at fashion shows…..!
AM: Sure, I will follow your invitation! Leonie, many thanks for this interview!
Can a woman ever have too much bags and shoes! – No, certainly not, and certainly not designed by Leonie-fashion!!