Full name: Hien Le
Job: Fashion Designer/Entrepeneur
Years in fashion: 15 years (including trainings and academic studies). 2 years with his own label
Place of work: Depends on the point of view. But from Berlin, I think it’s east of the Atlantic.
Favourite colour: White. But it changes from day to day and depends on my current mood.
Favourite fabric/material: Alcantara
Favourite personal fashion item: Always and forever. A classic. My 501 and white tees.
Favourite fashion word/specific term: Are there any fashion words…?
He’s among those fashion designers you have to keep in mind. Hien Le, born in Laos and now based in Berlin (Kreuzberg), works off the trodden paths. He combines both, “diligent design and accurate workmanship” – at least that’s what his website says. But there’s more about him. We had a chat with the guy who designed his first fashion item at the age of 16. It was a checked pattern short-sleeved shirt (No photos available…).
The transatlantic diablog spoke to him in his Berlin studio where he was busy working on new products, saying that he might have another fashion show this year (without saying what it will look like). But it will most likely be in Berlin and probably in July when 2012’s fashion week will be in full bloom. That for the future. But how come Hien Le is where he is (Hien Le: “In life, I am where I always wanted to be“)?
“It felt right,” he said. “I just wanted to experience my job with all its facettes.” So he started his own self-titled label in May 2010. Looking back at that moment, he had already worked for the likes of “Marie Claire”, Veronique Branquinho and Ideal-Tradeshow. Time to start something new for the man who started as a clothing tailor. Now he’s 32, working almost half of his life as a designer, because he always liked fashion and beautiful things in general.
But that’s just the light side of being a fashion designer. What about work? How does he approach designing?
Hien Le: It starts with a lot of research. Creating moodboards, collecting ideas, finding topics. After that I start making drafts. It’s all about trial and error. Developing and then putting all those ideas into practice.
tdb: That sounds like the place you’re at has an influence on what you’re doing…
H.L.: … but I think my new collection is not only fitting with Berlin. It’s international and I think it also works in that sense. Berlin is one of the places you have to be at the moment. But not the only one. There’s a lot to find out and discover over here. Many things change and develope.
tdb: What about other influences? You were born in Asia…
H.L.: Many people say there is an obvious Asian influence in the things I do. But to be honest: I personally think that’s not true. The only relation in terms of that I have with Asia is about my grandfather. He worked as a tailor in Laos.
tdb: Speaking of your new collection. What’s your favourite piece?
H.L.: One of the pieces I like most at the moment is a blouson made of alcantara [Editor’s note: Alcantara is a composite material originally used to cover surfaces. It was developed in Japan in the early 1970s (source)]. I’m very impressed and fascinated by this material and the opportunities it gives to a designer. I used a mix of various alcantara cloths for the blouson – plain and imprinted.
tdb: And all that is manufactured in Germany?
H.L.: Right. And only in Berlin at the moment. Germany stands for quality and even if the name makes it clear at first sight: My own label (Hien Le) is a German trademark. And producing in Germany also helps to have a good overview on all the processes. Maybe it also improves and supports the local infrastructure here in Berlin. And something that is important for me: It’s all “political correct”…
tdb: … and “green”?
H.L.: Absolutely. Apart from some exceptions I try to find raw material in Europe. Companies that not only have their headquarters in Europe but also have their production places here. And there’s also a trend evolving that companies are more and more offering organic and eco-friendly fabrics.
tdb: So your products can be artistic and commercial at the same time?
H.L.: Yeah. It’s not only about designing. I also want to sell my products. I like to incorporate details. Make it simple and special at the same time. My articles are reduced to the essence with special attention to colours and the creative handcraft.
tdb: Are there any differences in what people expect or want from fashion east and west of the Atlantic? Maybe if you
compare Germany with the United States?
H.L.: Yes. I think the general interest in fashion is much more prominent in the United States. Same goes for the willingness to try and buy new styles and things. But in terms of the look or a style both sides are not that different. Maybe the people on the west side of the Atlantic are a bit more non-standard and brave.
tdb: What do you think people in and around fashion will talk about in 2012?
H.L.: It will be all about colours. About the combination of fabrics and designs, I think.
tdb: Apart from a fashion show, what about your plans for the year?
H.L.: For my job I hope to keep growing. That in terms of developing my company, finding new and more retailers who like to sell my products. And personally I have to say I want to have some more time off, sleep, and vacations.