5.16.2014

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ONE-ON-ONE WITH LEON EMANUEL BLANCK

Last summer, I met Leon Emanuel Blanck at his Paris showroom through my friend Wolf Sunderman. At that time, I was not aware of his work yet. Like a little kid in a candy store, I eagerly perused his showroom and even tried on a few things that caught my fancy. It was a relatively small collection but undeniably very well-curated. I was instantly intrigued by the unconventional, intricate patterns of his garments. You can tell that every single thing from the collection was a product of hard work and dedication. 
And now, I am ecstatic to finally share my no holds barred interview with him recently. Here, he candidly talks about his love for aliens, his unorthodox design process and his first creation that took almost three weeks to finish!

Can you tell us the story behind LEON EMANUEL BLANCK and noelleon? How did it start? What sets them apart? 

Well, we would have to begin with noelleon. I started noelleon during the first year of my studies. The idea behind it was really a discussion I had with other students and friends. It was about how fur clothing for men often looks very awkward and plump. This deadlock opinion interested me and I started researching about fur clothing. And then, I started to get in contact with the fur industry in Frankfurt – to get a feel of the fur coat construction, the different skins, sewing methods etc. During these times, I probably spent almost every evening in Frankfurt working on fur, learning from some very skilled furriers. Anyway, to cut a long story short, that’s when I made my first mink jacket. Probably had it for a week when someone asked me to make one for them. That is how noelleon started. 
While I enjoy the understatement approach to mink (sounds wrong, I know) and the clean and simple design, it is not very personal. That is why it does not carry my name. 
LEB is a whole other story. Everything that is released under LEB is completely me and shows exactly my universe and vision. My current project ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION resembles this to the fullest.


What “word” best describe your work as a designer? 
Hmmm...not to sound stuck up, but I think one word is not enough. But let’s go for the process then. 

Whenever you are working on your project where do you usually draw inspiration? 
From a wide range of things that surround me. A lot of movies. I enjoy watching Science Fiction and Post-Apocalyptical Movies. PC games from this genre are also things that I love to waste my time on. But it’s not a waste if it sets me in the right mood. Sometimes just simple structures, like bark from a tree or concrete walls from abandoned industrial buildings catch my eye. Decay is something that really gets me. Also, the interplay of natural and unnatural greatly inspires the way I work.

Who are your greatest influences as a designer? Are there any designers who you greatly respect in the industry? 
My greatest influence is probably Hans Rudolf Giger. I grew up with Alien and the like. I am completely obsessed with his aesthetics and I still very much enjoy watching these movies and studying his artwork. Luigi Colani is another name that immediately comes to my mind when I think of amazing design. What he has created throughout the years is genius. There are certainly a lot of designers whom I greatly respect. To name one from our industry, Carol Christian Poell, although patterns, fit and design approach are very different from mine. If you are working in this niche, you cannot get past him.

What is the philosophy behind your project entitled “ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION”?  
Well, it all started with me wanting to drape a pair of pants. I could not find anybody to drape them on, so I started draping on myself. And when you are draping on yourself, you are constantly moving around, resulting into an odd-fitting pair of pants, hence the title. But the coalescing seams and unusual approach sort of got me. I made a few sketches and started forming around my brother while he was in motion, probably trying to run away from the situation. I try to actively design as little as possible for ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION. Every little seam, and every cut should arise naturally through the flow of the fabric during the forming process. With this approach, normal seams don’t play any role. No side seam, no armhole. You could call it an archaic process to making garments.
I don’t drape these things like “okay, let’s put a cut here, and there goes the pocket”. I just start draping. I only decide whether it is for the upper body or lower body, and then just start forming. So every piece of the collection was once a sculpture fitted perfectly to the human anatomy without caring about regular seaming. 
What is ultimately important is that I do not consider the human body as symmetrical – one dropped shoulder, one arm longer or thicker than the other or even scoliosis make it obvious that is not enough to just form one body half and then mirror the pattern. I form the whole body, meaning the pattern of every piece is completely asymmetrical, eventually resulting into an almost symmetrical garment.
On regular clothing, you will at least have the arms be identical – but on my garments there is literally not a single piece that you will find twice within one garment. Considering that some garments consist of over 20 pieces it makes the pattern-making and sewing extremely complicated and time-consuming. 
Compared to regular patterns, ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION is complete anarchy.


You are currently not making seasonal collections. Do you see yourself going to this route in the long run? Or is this something that is just temporary since you are relatively new in the industry? 
I never understood the concept of seasonal collections other than that it is a business model. To me, seasonal collections are there to steal your money and make you think you need a new pair of whatever because something is out of trend. How the fuck can you design something and let the calendar tell you when it’s ready. I don’t see people changing their interior every 6 weeks. I wonder why. I guess marketing is just not there yet. We definitely need more TV shows that propagate tables that are out of trend within a short period. 

Since everything that you make is regarded as artisanal, in other words handmade, can you give us a general idea of how you make, let’s say, the simplest trousers or the most complicated leather jacket? 
The approach to all garments is roughly the same. I form a cast around a human body that is in motion. This is how I get my prototype pattern and will be used for the first prototype clothing piece. After that, the piece is adjusted on numerous seams to make it work as a real garment. Depending on the type or clothing it can take longer than one week to get the final pattern for one size.Generally for trousers it is harder to make the first fitting pattern, but easier to make the sizes. But for jackets it’s really the opposite. 
I use different sewing methods and machines for leather and textiles.


So far, what has been the most complicated piece that you have created? How long did it take you to finish it? 
Well, in the beginning of the project, for one pair of pants, after forming them, it took me another three days to sort out the puzzle and put the mess back together. I did not have a cleverly worked out marking system yet so it was literally a puzzle just that I was never sure if I placed a piece right. I remember breaking a couple of things because I got so angry.But after that, the pattern was nowhere close to finished. The pants were unwearable, so I had adjust a lot of things. All in all it probably took me three weeks for the final garment to be ready…in one size.

Which is more important for you: the procedure or the final product? 
That is really a tough question, as I said, every piece of the collection is a body cast, a sculpture in the beginning. I have to destroy the sculpture in order to make the pattern, which will eventually result into a wearable piece of clothing.Other than being very time-consuming, these casts look very human to me. So it’s quite hard for me to kill them. But when I see the finished garment, it makes me happy. I just realized this did not really answer the question. 

Well, I sort of have an idea of what you mean. Every piece from your collection undergoes a rigorous procedure. The final product depends on the successful execution of the procedure. So any hick-up during the entire process may one way or another jeopardize getting the best results. 

What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any plans on expanding to footwear and accessories? 
I actually have been working on shoes for some time. But they are not yet finished. Again, it is not a classical approach to footwear, and I am not even sure if it will work yet. Right now, I am trying to find a small shoemaker to help me sort out some problems and production. Also, I am adding some more pieces to the collection. I am also working on some treatments for the materials that I am using.
Without a doubt, Leon Emanuel Blanck is here to stay. I'm certain that we will be seeing more and more of his obras in the coming years. A designer with a lucid vision who breaks all the rules in traditional garment making is definitely someone to watch out for! 

A big shout-out to Leon Emanuel Blanck for making this interview possible even if he's extremely busy working on his latest pieces for his showroom in Paris next month. 

Below are the following boutiques carrying Leon Emanuel Blanck's collection:
Hong Kong (Hong Kong) – INK
Munich (Germany) – hide[m]
Cologne (Germany) – 0707 Blackwholestore
Desenzano del Garda (Italy) – TABO (new for AW14)
Tokyo (Japan) – GULLAM
Chicago (USA) – Robin Richman
Gothenburg (Sweden) – W19
Moscow (Russia) – SV MOSCOW

Photos (From top to bottom): Jacket installation / Complicated patterns scattered on the table / Leather gloves in-the-making / LEB signature trousers / LEB jacket inside-out / Images captured by Julien Boudet

For more information on Leon Emanuel Blanck check out  www.facebook.com/LeonEmanuelBlanck.