After the great success of the collaboration with Rochambeau during New York fashion week, neubau eyewear teamed up with another talented creative mind, Hien Le. Being one of the most important German brands since its founding in 2010, the Laos born and Berlin raised designer Le won several prestigious awards and quickly became a go-to address for bloggers and journalists when showing his latest creations at the capital’s fashion week. The mix of sporty elegance, playful adulthood, refined details, relaxed silhouettes and a sober color palette, give his personal fashion hand writing memorability. ‘Locally produced’ and ‘high quality’ also are terms that need to be added. As well as the fact that he creates clothes for women and men, long before the established fashion houses even thought about separating the two during their fashion week presentations. For his autumn/winter 17 collection Hien Le translated the skateboarding culture into his own language, using denim for the first time ever. We visited the designer in his studio when the finalisation of the collection, the model casting and fitting took place and backstage, right before his runway show.
What’s the story behind your AW 17 collection?
I was always fascinated by skateboard culture, even though I never skated myself. In the last years I started hanging around at skate parks, just to watch the boarders. I always wanted to pick up that scene in my designs, but had the feeling it wouldn’t quite fit, also I thought it might be a better topic for a summer collection. However this time I was hardly influenced by all the videos I’ve seen the last couple of months, ‘Man about town’, the Hermès clip. It got stuck in my mind, so that I decided I’d have to do it now, if not it might be too late. It felt so right! Afterwards I started my research and discovered that skateboarding originated in the 40s and when it became bigger, means in the 50s/60s, people dressed really posh while riding the board – the exact opposite of what you would relate to the streetwear heavy scene nowadays! I translated this style to our time with my personal handwriting; everything stays Hien Le.
You already dropped some hints on your Instagram account that the skateboard topic might be important for you this season…
I indeed uploaded a few skate photos that were directly related to the world of fashion. Then I posted moods that were more focused on the colors. A blue skate park, a pink landscape, colors that also appear in the collection.
Pastel colors usually play an important role in your designs. This time it seems as if you fell in love with darker colors. What’s the reason for that? Do you choose the colors only by aesthetics or is there a deeper cause?
In winter colors tend to be darker in general, however I always prefer fresh tones. Usually I choose by aesthetical reason, by feeling. I don’t look at trend frecasts, I think most of the designers don’t. The color concept develops by by inspiration, means that I pick a topic at first and then the fabrics in the particular colors.
Would you say that your clothing fits your Kreuzberg neighborhood?
Berlin is a big metropolis that can keep up with Paris, New York or London, but there’s no typical ‘Berlin style’. That’s the reason why the neighborhood where I live and work doesn’t have an important influence on what I’m doing. Berlin and Kreuzberg are my home and I’ll probably stay here forever, however I don’t think that my fashion needs to fit the surrounding here. In other international cities it might be easier for young designers to get discovered or to sell their garments, although in Berlin are the living costs cheaper what makes me exert my profession. Further I go to Paris twice a year to present my collections in showrooms, you can’t wait in your Berlin backyard and expect to ‘make it’, you have to work yourself.
Nonetheless you continue working constantly and became an institution at Berlin Fashion Week. Now, before the completion of your latest collection, what’s your favorite part of the whole creational process?
Definitely the idea generation. In general: the whole process of the collection development until the realization, looking for ideas, choosing the fabrics, thinking about a color concept, creating the first sketches. Of course I also love sewing – that’s why I made a tailor apprenticeship – but most of the time the tailoring happens at the last second so that I can’t really enjoy it. I like such moments like today, when the casting and fitting take place and I can see the final results worn by models.
Being a self-employed creative mind it’s easy that the borders between work live and free time become blurred. How do you handle that ‘problem’? Do you have a certain safe haven?
I love the Botanical Garden in Berlin, I just love plants. It’s like an oasis to flee from the daily routine, especially the palm house is really calming. However I try to not being stressed all the time, to see my family and friends more often, to listen to what my body tells me. For example I wean myself from setting the alarm and just wake up when my body thinks it’s ok. For one and a half years now I intensively doing yoga which is great as I know in these 1,5 hours I can focus only on me without having to think about work. I do something good for my body and soul.
The Botanical Garden was also a setting for neubau eyewear’s new lookbook! What else made you think that both brands would be a great match?
I was really happy when neubau eyewear asked me to collaborate! Glasses always fascinated me, however I never thought about integrate them on the runway as they can easily influence the styling and can often distract. At neubau eyewear I immediately admired the frames and the conceptual visuals, it really fits to what I’m doing. Everything at neubau eyewear is really sleek, clean and focused on the essentials. Also it’s an Austrian company that produces locally what’s pretty similar to how I produce and work. The glasses really fit my collection’s topic because I wanted to style it a bit nerdy so to say. The classy style would be broken by the glasses, so that the whole image isn’t too perfect.
Is there a wearer of glasses that influenced you in this idea?
I can think about a lot of people wearing glasses, but not a particular icon. It’s more people that occasionally wore glasses like David Bowie or Brigitte Bardot who I find very inspiring in general.
Photography by Marlen Stahlhuth, Videography by Hendrik Thul
By Marieke Fischer