LĒO—established in 2016 as an answer to the shortage of intelligently designed garments for “real women”—is a Belgium-based brand helmed by the designers Leonneke Derksen (Royal Academy of Antwerp), Joëlle Laederach (FHNW) and sales director Matthias Medaer. Defined by duality and diversity, LĒO embodies the joint energy of luxury, avant-garde and street wear, every collection carrying its own unique narrative. A “no rule mandate” results in versatile and bold silhouettes with a youthful naivety, diving into different universes and bringing them together in a fresh, exciting way.
We have to confess something… We love obsessing over things. How would you define obsession?
Obsession is a weird creation of the mind and one of the strongest energies in the universe. It’s the feeling of an unhealthy flood of thought rushing through one’s head, a short-term addiction. We believe obsession can turn creativity into a more intense process.
Does the idea of obsession come into play within your designs?
We cannot deny that we very often fall into obsession during the creation of a collection. It’s not necessarily always one thing that infatuates us. It can be a certain type of music, maybe even one song, a person, a nostalgic memory or a specific time period. When all elements of these small obsessions connect together in an awkward way, something new is generated. To get to that point requires tons of dedication, but when you arrive there, it’s a real, real rush! Inspiration comes naturally to us and brings in various worlds and aesthetics, combining eras, movements, atmospheres and subcultures in all kinds of ways, regardless of codes.
What little obsessions do you have as designers?
Lately, we have been triggered by Galliano’s early days, especially how his designs trickled down into bad taste bootlegs, psychedelic trance, track suits from the rave gabber period, hiking gear, technical tent materials and the smell of mosquito candles, to name a few things. It might not all make sense at once, but we pull from our own experiences from particular parts of our lives that are very distinct and personal.
How did LĒO come into being and what was the defining narrative behind your designs?
We met in Paris through common friends, interests and ideas. LĒO embodies the energy between luxury, avant-garde and street-wear. Every collection has its unique narrative, distinct duality and diversity. In its own eclectic way, LĒO embraces many styles and inspirations—the garments are a wide-ranging mix of unexpected and innovative elements with a touch of ‚,no rule“ humor. This versatility in silhouette is a blend of boldness with youthful naivety. On one hand, the garments contain traditional tailoring or classic technical elements that breathe rationality. On the other, there’s the element of surprise, innovation, instinct and emotion that comes from nostalgia and spontaneity and leads to playful proportions and colour, a use of novel materials too.
Starting out, how did you find the artistic community surrounding you in Belgium?
It was always a very natural process. We find people and people find us through common interests, in real life as well as online. As we love to dive into different universes and bring them together, we love to meet very diverse people and go to different places. Brussels is perfect for this, because there are so many ways in which to see the city. But we are also still very connected to Paris, where our ideas started out in the first place.
If you had one piece of advice for a young designer or brand starting out, what would it be?
Be devoted and patient, know what you want and never sell your soul to the devil!