Florentina Leitner, one of the newest members of the FHCM Sphere PFW Showroom, has been making waves in the fashion industry with her latest collection "Jeanne" which draws inspiration from historical French heroine and feminist figure Jeanne d'Arc. In Leitner’s version of events though, Jeanne, who was famously burned at the stake for her beliefs, survives the fire. The collection features faux fur coats, print catsuits, and floral dresses. Leitner's Jeanne d'Arc of 2023 is cool, edgy, and gender-fluid, mixing medieval inspiration with her own signature style. Read on as we delve deeper into the designer’s motivation behind starting her eponymous label, and her advice for aspiring designers.
LNB: So would you mind telling me a little bit about what motivated you to start your own brand?
Florentina: My motivation to go out on my own actually came after the first retailers approached me interested in buying my Master’s Collection. Having people from the industry believe in my work gave me the confidence to give it a try.
When I first started designing, I was working at Dries van Noten, which I also really liked. It was a super cool team and great to work for an established brand. But when I got contacted in the middle of the pandemic in 2021 I thought, why not try it now? It felt like the right time and the right thing to do for me. So that was when I stopped working for Dries and started my first collection.
LNB: So, how many seasons have your been producing for, now?
Florentina: I always count my master collection because that was the first one stores bought which then makes this my fifth season, however, it's the first time that we're showing as a part of Sphere and the second as part of Paris Fashion Week.
Previously we had also shown once in London Fashion Week, however, it was during a period of time where I said yes to a lot of different opportunities as I wasn’t sure where I wanted to end up. Although I always knew that at some stage I would like to show in Paris and now here I am.
LNB: Do you have any special projects or collaborations going on at the moment?
Florentina: I do actually have one project going on at the moment, in its very early stages, with an auctioneering house in Vienna called Dorotheum. It's a really beautiful place, a bit like Sotheby's in London but the Austrian version, however, it’s also an internationally recognised name. They have predominately works of classism and the old masters, although they do have a week dedicated to more modern/contemporary artists. As part of the collaboration, they asked me to create an art installation with garments from several classical paintings and host a party to launch the opening of the exhibition. It will be a really cool project to work on, however, it won’t be live until October.
LNB: Very exciting. Do you have any advice for other young designers who are just starting out?
Florentina: I think it's important to be a bit of go getter and put the work in, in terms of approaching people. The right attitude is also important, I try to always be friendly and open and share about my brand with lots of different people. I really believe that you need to be out there in order to be discovered. We are fortunate that today we have social media that allows us to increase the resonance of our voice and the message we want to share. A lot of my friends are hesitant about what they post on social media and feel awkward about it, but I think it's really important to share your work, publish and try to interact with as many people as you can, both inside and outside the fashion industry, and both online and offline. Your customers are also outside of Fashion Week and you never know who you can meet. So my advice would be to just share your work.
LNB: In your opinion, what are the benefits of working with a digital platform like LE NEW BLACK for young brands?
Florentina: The line sheets, definitely. I hated doing my line sheets before, I would do them manually with InDesign, but it’s so much easier to upload all your products on the LE NEW BLACK platform, fill in their related information fields, and then you have multiple export options.
I also really appreciate how easy it is to share. It’s much easier to send a link to the showroom to a buyer, it simplifies the process and eliminates the need to send heavy files with a file transfer platform and then have your buyers download them.
Another thing that is also really great for young brands is the fact that you can use the platform to discover new retailers. For example, you can research which countries have which stores and use it to discover retailers that you otherwise might not have known about, because, of course, everybody knows Selfridges but not everybody knows small boutiques which can be more interested in buying emerging designers. So, it is really important to get to know them and you can use the platform to build your understanding of the market. I even found some boutiques in Austria that I hadn’t heard of before, so I was quite surprised.
LNB: So to end our discussion, could you please tell the LE NEW BLACK community where we can buy your brand?
Florentina: So, at the moment we have six stockists. We have one in Vienna, called Wolfmich, which was important for me since I’m from Vienna. We have Shyness Space in the UK, Sauce in Dubai, Spark Le Monde in Hungaria, and Groovin and I Visionari in Italy.