Who speaks louder than words? Perhaps they who choose to listen. Indeed, in this world of constant output, the more understated observers are getting a raw deal. As they do not shout, they are often overlooked. So let us give them room and some space to freely maneuver. No restraints, but their self-implied rule-book that speaks two words clearly: independent expression. In this chapter, we visit Aarhus, Denmark, to meet a rather hidden creator: LEON LOUIS. We set out to find out what the story is behind his incredibly understated and effortlessly layered ‘‘dark’’ universe. Are we simply wading into a morose realm of macabre darkness, or is there more? Upon entering his Nordic lair, as a true Scandinavian becomes, Leon appears not to be the bragging type and often prefers to keep schtum. By all means, this does not mean, the man is not opinionated. LEON is the truest of tailors; a craftsman beyond his years. In this conversation he deals us some powerful sartorial blows, whilst keeping his meticulously constructed leather gloves sleekly on. Consider this a measure of politesse from the man himself; meet Mr. LEON!
Ground-force. Leon, what triggers you as a fashion creator?
There is so much in this line of work, that is so giving. The travels. Gaining life experience. As Mother nature is the creator of us all. The surroundings of where I find myself from time to another and the materials I work with, always trigger and inspire me to go further in the process with my creations. Next to this, I have always felt drawn to our human anatomy. It activates, inspires and moves me. I find it very fascinating to observe all the organs of the human body, all with their superb individual functions.
…Killed the cat. Curious you have always been, what moments do you remember, in which it was good to peek over the fence?
At the moment it seems as if we are all a little sentimental. Looking back helps you to stay grounded. For me, I think back to my AW13 collection, as this was a good time for m. Everything came together in the direction and level as I was aiming for. Expression reached for me a sincere and enforceable level. Of course, ever since we have only been going forward. Improving. Enhancing. We like to challenging and move boundaries each season, but especially AW13 was a good moment, whilst peeking over the fence. It allowed me to dream, adjust and feel triggered by all my senses as a designer.
Lessons. What lessons do you wish you had learned earlier?
To never be afraid of sharing and helping/advising my other fellow men. Together we remain stronger and wiser. Alone in the dark you fade to a non-entity. Also, always remember the people who helped you along the way and repay them when you can!
Cooker. Is there a certain recipe to start a brand?
This has to be a mix of desire, patience and the force to keep your head up. You simply need to move forward with your passion, even when the world seems grey. I founded my label only by following these values. If I look back, I had to option to either follow my dream and found my own universe, or move abroad working for others. So grateful, I opted for the former and I feel glad to have been on this journey ever since. That being said, be ready for hard work, long hours, insomnia, shed some tears and to brake some bones!
Blackness. The purest foundation of your work, what triggers you in the dark?
In the dark, structure is the profoundest, it makes everything come alive. The intense and emotive creation of sensitive surfaces, allows your to form significance value. Both from a sartorial and textural point of view. Hides, boiled wools, raw silks, the selecting of yarns and mechanically directing the composition of your own creations, is truly magnificent. This earnestly triggers me so much!
Texture-this. Could you tell us about your profound affinity for leather?
Leather is amazing. It is so rich in depth, variation of grain and utility. opportunity for me to work with depth and expression on a higher level, is so enriching. You can go in so many directions. Leather evolves like nothing else. It ages. When worn it improves and applies decay and a distinct expression like no other material. Throughout time, leather creations will only be more profound and complete. This is also why I state inside all my creations that I desire the bearers to” Use this carelessly, with love.” This will only give a more powerful stance and understated elegance to the leather creation, as it was intended to travel, engage with the world and simply be lived in.
Silversmith. You have worked with Mr. Kim Vestergaard on your jewelry pieces. What are the most remarkable pieces you ever crafted together?
Our collaboration is definitely unique and a balance between technique, values and desire to create something functional and expression. The most remarkable pieces we have made together are definitely the Shadow and Mystic illusion ring together with the Double- and Single Clamp ring. These are also our first creations we did together back in 2010. They somehow state the foundation of our collaboration, which is an ongoing constellation season by season. Recently there was actually a couple who decided to marry, wearing our designs. This makes me feel honored and touched. It means that the work we do, means more than just adorning, or covering our bodies. It has another emotional level, which is wonderful to observe.
Tinker Tailor. Another part of your work is your love for tailoring. What makes for a perfect suit?
I am a sucker for craftsmanship. The traditional way of tailoring. We aim to have the feel and fit of traditional tailoring for our suiting styles. We like to combined with my desire of shaping and exploring human autonomy. For me a suit is perfect when you have thought about every detail and do not leave anything to randomness. The perfection (or devil) is in the details. You can easily feel the quality of a tailored made garment, the first time when you wearing it. Also I like to say that not only the outside matters. Most important is actually the inside, functionality and lining, as this is closest to our skin!
Visuals. This season you ventured outdoors to capture SS17. What was your thinking here?
My vision for our universe is to always challenge and investigate expression of Leon Louis. We are a Danish label. Therefore all the locations you find in our campaigns will always be in Denmark, this is important to me. I am always spending time location hunting. It is exciting to discovering hidden treasures within the beautiful Danish landscape. The vision is to find whereabouts which have a manifestation people normally do not associate with our country. We never go for clichés. This last location was on the Jutland shore, but more then this I cannot reveal. We like to leave somethings to the imagination!
Reasoning. Creation out of need, offering durable pieces that last, is a part of your philosophy. How do you contribute to the sustainability debate?
Indeed, I respect sustainability and aim to work mainly with sustainable fabrics, natural dyes etcetera. Sustainability can mean many things and very important is also the reason for creating your vision. You should find a balance that works for you, always with the future in mind. I desire to create garments that last for a decade or more. Of course when wearing garments they get worn, but my vision is they only get to the next level when wearing. They only get better when wearing them, patina, wear and tear are part of the relation you build with each piece. This constitutes societal sustainability to me!
Adjustment. Do you still feel a connection to your first collection, many years ago?
Wow, this surely takes me back. My first collection. Honestly, I feel that my values and the expression I desire to give people has more or less stayed the same. Of course, when it comes to development in quality and of shapes, we have come a long way. As a designer, I never stay the same. I always aim for higher levels. I have a constant hunger for improvement. The first collection was perhaps more expressive and a little overly raw.But in essence, I work the same way. Even if I find a solution to a tailoring dilemma, and it works nicely, I still find myself, editing, adjusting and at times starting from scratch… I like to have an open connection to everything I make, so I can revisit pieces again over time. The first collection marked a first step in this process for me. These are pieces I cherish.
Self-ness. What truly makes Leon Louis, Leon?
Definitely, this idea of lush simplicity. The functionally and wearability you achieve when wearing our piece. I want people to live in my work. Perhaps, you are purchasing a single piece of a greater puzzle, which never will truly be finished. I like to invite others to journey with me.
Journey-ism. What places carry a special place in your heart?
I must admit the places where I have had ateliers are very special places to me. So many things have happened here. Good and bad. Sadness and joy. Challenging times and frustration. I remember all of them like it it was yesterday. Now it sounds like I had too many ateliers, but actually only have moved 4 times since 2010. It all started in the living room of my first apartment, then we had a huge space together with a store back in 2012, afterwards we had a small basement atelier where the heating could not be turned off, but it was still freezing cold on the floor, so you were freezing your feet off during the winter and in the summer – you can imagine. Today, I have my 2nd floor atelier with great daylight and I enjoy it very much. It is within these walls I feel free to accomplish everything.
Dualism. If Leon and Louis were two people, what would they be discussing today?
They would properly be discussing how to improve topics/ issues already solved at a satisfiying level – nessacery or not. One would be anxious to make it even better and the other would be trying to persuade the other that enough is enought and that re-visiting things is a moot point and thus a waist of time. In the end, after serious deliberation they would certainly agree to move forward without compromising!