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LEO, an international brand. Fashion - 09 February 2015

In March 2015 the second collection of this Belgo-Parisian brand with its cosmopolitan touches will, for the first time, be presented to international buyers at the Parisian showroom NO SEASON. A few weeks away from the arrival of "the rrog and the nolo" in boutiques, the première, we met the dynamic duo at the head of LEO.


 Leonneke Derksen is a graduate of the Antwerp Academy. Just like Dries van Noten whom she and her boyfriend Matthias sometimes bump into at the nearby Hungry Henrietta restaurant. So, yes, one thing’s for certain: this couple who met on the banks of the Scheldt (where he was reading management and she was studying fashion) is Belgian through and through. Belgian by birth, Belgian educated and Belgian in their hearts. Everything about their words, their work and their lifestyle seems to be based on a desire to do things properly, even if it means working tirelessly to achieve that. A very Belgian self-discipline that goes hand in hand with an equally Belgian simplicity. This embraced and declared ‘belgitude’ didn’t stop the couple from living in New York for a while after completing their respective studies. And, they had only just returned to Belgium, when they decided to settle in Paris. It was there, in a little apartment in the 19th arrondissement, that the first collection came into being. A series of young, fresh, romantic and slightly bohemian pieces that, from February onwards, will be sold in a handful of Belgian boutiques including: Icon, LOL and Step by Step, the Antwerp shop that placed its trust in them from their first capsule.      


Melancholia, not nostalgia

 The theme of the spring-summer collection: the self-portrait and, by extension, the way we see ourselves. As well as the tie that binds the painter and his muse. So, quite naturally – after all, design leaves nothing to chance – the couple got together with the Belgian painter Thomas Dielman. His painting "The Interrogation and the Monologue" was Leonneke’s inspiration for the key print of the season. Appliquéd onto a sweater, this phrase reveals only a remnant of the original title, that is "the rrog and the nolo", the totally surrealistic name given to the collection. A poetic approach that goes hand in hand with the use of innovative materials, such as the latest generation of neoprene, which gives the collection an ultra-modern dimension. In terms of cuts, Leonneke’s spring-summer sees itself as sexy with a hint of vintage: clever pleats, subtle asymmetrical details, cheeky notches and clean lines.


The cat, the bird and the mouse 

 LEO also stands for an image that you’ll find on the label of each garment: 3 animals originally affixed to a child’s radio that used to reassure the little Leonneke at bed time and that she subsequently had tattooed on the nape of her neck. This tribute to her parents is a perfect reflection of the spirit of the label: a label rooted in strong values. For Leonneke and Matthias, trust is essential. The trust they place in those working alongside them on their young label: the fabric suppliers – French firms known for their exceptionally high-quality products - as well as the production workshop on the outskirts of Antwerp where the whole collection is made up, the photographer who did the photo shoot for the campaign, the make-up artist, etc.


The right balance

 Since the launch of the first capsule, Mathias has been working behind the scenes to position Leo as an exclusive name while, at the same time, keeping it affordable for a young set of customers who are not necessarily consumers of luxury ready-to-wear. Just as the winter collection is about to be presented in Paris, the couple have taken on an employee to assist Leonneke. And they are also on the way to securing the backing of an investor. Enough to put LEO in the big league. There’s no magic formula for finding the right positioning on the Belgian and international market. Hence the benefit of strategic support within, in particular, the WBDM fashion section.  If only to make sure that the brand meets a real need. Although, for LEO, it’s still too soon to embark on long-term forecasts, the dynamic duo has already been able to win over a Belgian following with the charm of this appealing and ... wonderfully likeable brand.     


By Marie Honnay

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