Interview: Frank Leder

Frank Leder in seiner Werkstatt

Katja Kleiss in conver­sa­tion with Berlin men’s fashion designer Frank Leder.

Frank, in the fashion industry, a lot of the public image comes down to the person of the fashion designer who person­i­fies the brand. It’s easy to forget that there are big differ­ences in the way fashion producers work.

There are differ­ences, of course. Many people send their Designs to Asia or Italy and they produce it there, as far as I can see. We are much closer to the bone itself because we don’t want to give up control! We only work with compa­nies based in Germany. This can take on a manu­fac­tory char­acter. The week before last, for example, we made a series of shirts from bed sheets, i.e. bed sheets from the 60s. These shirt-shaped sheets were then dyed with blue­ber­ries, dried blue­ber­ries or fresh from the glass. The shirts took on a blue shade overnight, then the shirts were dried and washed. On the third day these shirts were then combined with a pendant, a forged iron blue­berry, and sold together in a box.


Frank Leder, Mood­board

Actu­ally, you’re a story­teller, aren’t you?

Well, I don’t think in collec­tions, but in areas of interest. They really cover all kinds of cultural corners, and there are always inter­esting levels that haven’t been shown before. For example, I have just found a post­card of a hermit’s stone from a certain rock forma­tion, from an area that used to be in Germany and is now the Czech Republic. This stim­u­lates my imag­i­na­tion. I imme­di­ately get an idea about the word hermit, perhaps from a man who lives in a cave in the forest. You think you’ll go there and look for the hermit. I create collec­tions out of this.


Frank Leder, Werk­statt

You have a soft spot for German eastern terri­to­ries.

That’s already a German look, right. Germany is the country in which I grew up, that is my cultural circle in which I move. For me, only that is authentic. Well, I could now also take the cowboy and Indian in the Wild West as a theme, but that’s too far away. Perhaps through the mirror of Karl May, who never was in America and whose stories all orig­i­nated in the imag­i­na­tion, that would be inter­esting again. It must be a German point of view.


Frank Leder, Mood­board

Are you working up some kind of iden­tity?

I think so. The luxury of content is prob­ably only real­iz­able in this hybrid forma­tion between artistry and manu­fac­turing. Think of the old buttons we use. We collect buttons from the 20s, 30s and 40s, these are orig­i­nals that bring their stories with them. We combine these buttons, actual contem­po­rary witnesses of their time, with new collec­tions. The clothing acts as a medi­ator, as a carrier of stories. A big fashion company couldn’t afford that.

Do your collec­tion pieces have a specific aura that emerges from the inter­weaving of history and contem­po­raneity?

We don’t cut for costume balls, but our cuts and mate­rials are present. But the pieces are “charged” with set pieces from the past. People also know that the pieces come entirely from our studio here in Kantstraße, that’s our energy centre, this is where art is created. You can feel that.


Frank Leder, Werk­statt

How do you keep the balance between art and market?

Well, that’s the crucial ques­tion. On the one hand you want to present your­self, on the other hand it is of course very myste­rious not to have an Insta­gram account. My clothing only works with targeted place­ment, it will always remain as a niche product. But you shouldn’t settle comfort­ably in the niche, you have to radiate, send signals, make the prod­ucts glow. That’s my job in the near future. Over the past 18 years we have built up the label into a strong label, but now I have to see how I can carry it into the world without falling too far into this trap where you stumble into every PR story and dilute the strength again.


This interview is part of:
Handmade in Germany. Manufactory 4.0.
Editor: Pascal Johanssen
240 pages
Languages: English, German
ISBN-10: 3897905418
ISBN-13: 978–3897905412