Lala Berlin is the embodiment of its namesake city’s effortless elegance. Designer Leyla Piedayesh’s clothes have a gritty, pragmatic allure rarely encountered elsewhere. The slinky knitwear and sensual scarves best associated with Lala Berlin flawlessly complement Berlin’s casual sex appeal. And as the city itself matures, adding a dash more polish to ist profile, Lala Berlin’s Halston-like evening wear, sequined leggings and artfully distressed classics help to keep the city’s glamour grounded. As a dedicated admirer of Lala Berlin, I am especially thrilled that Piedayesh has moved her base to a few blocks close to my home in Mitte. Here, I pop into her freshly opened studio to chat about being gaga over Berlin as we and our city
navigate the best ways to grow up without toning down.
Can you walk me through a representative garment from the current collection please?
I brought it at a flea market and it took five weeks to do the knitted metal mesh, embroider the delicate beaded bugs, then adorn it with acid and lined it with silk. But you couldn’t really see the details during our fashion week show and it was so sad to have all that detail missing.
Berlin fashion week has a ways to go. But I’ve seen way, way worse. At least you’re not living in Seoul.
I don’t just believe that Berlin is hotter than Seoul though. Berlin is so international. Yet, the models here are not international and somehow the scene just isn’t. I mean “hello”! But I just do not have the money for the big models.
Remind me why you have the “Berlin” part of your name?
I am from Berlin. Lala belongs to Berlin. It was so obvious.
You know that there are a few extraordinary burlesque models here with the faux-surname Berlin? It’s lovely since I cant think of anyone naming themselves Lala Manhattan. And Lala Paris just sounds so pretentious.
The word “Berlin” is so nice to say too. Just the sound of it is so nice.
What do you think of this city’s reputation for being like the project space for the rest of the other major creative cities?
Berlin can be like that but the best part of making mistakes is knowing what you don’t want to do the next time.
Speaking of, what is this grotesque tabloid shot-sheet of shameful celebrities posted on your fridge? Lindsay Lohan looks wrecked.
My daughter is just turning two and when you become a mother, your relationship to everything really changes. You become very conscious about how to teach and raise your child.
I am not a fan of kids but yours is a real cutie. She has a great personality. She is a nice person already.
She is. But I worry. I don’t want these Lindsay Lohan children. I want children who are children. The environment is becoming dirtier and dirtier. The world can be superficial. It can be a bubble. I ask
myself whether my kid is going to be a heroin addict at twelve.
But Berlin is way better than elsewhere. It really is the best city I’ve found for people who are conscientious and not too superficial. Anyway, kids growing up in Nebraska end up doing meth because they are bored.
Berlin is better than the rest. It is more about human beings and not being a soap opera. But for me, I hate being a role model. I want to be a crazy person sometimes. But being a role model means that you
cant be crazy all the time.
I think that being a bit crazy and handling it maturely is the best way to be a role model.
I was reading about an actress lately who went through a really crazy phase and became a junkie at a young age. But she claims to have learned enough from the experience to have become a better person from it.
These tensions are so evident in your work. But being a mother and worrying about being a role model isn’t making your collections any sweeter.
My collections aren’t getting sweeter or more romantic.
But they are becoming more sophisticated, right?
They are definitely becoming more mature and a bit more grown-up. But really, I always like the mix of things that are lady-like and rough. I want my clothes worn by women who can blend high-end with
rubbish and keep it eclectic.
Being able to combine unusual elements in interesting ways is the essence of true style.
Modern style is all about finding the perfect mix. I think that I am interested in this mix because my mother’s generation didn’t have that ability to blend. They had rules to follow. They had classics. We
grew up with classics too but we like to modernize them. We like mixing them up. What makes the collection and the woman is always the mix.
Accessories always aid with the mix. Are you thinking of expanding to other accessories with your line? Or are you planning to remain with the scarves? You have one particularly extraordinary scarf with drawings of Henry Darger-like nude nymphs.
They are very Klimt-like too. There are over one hundred distinct girls in this design. It really is gorgeous. It was created by a local artist too. We are going to stay focused on the scarves and clothes. But now that we have this atelier, we can really experiment and test our ideas.
The new space is amazing. It’s so bright and airy. It’s really lovely.
And big. There are eight full-time people here and a slew of freelancers and interns. All together, there are twenty people coming and going. So, we really need space. The other place was sweet but tiny. Now, all the departments have separate rooms and we can actually move around. We can pick and play and pluck as much as we like. That is what makes it all successful.
The results are so fascinatingly diverse.
LP: Thank you. What is your necklace? Can I see it?
AFH: It is a cast of a baby rat’s skull made for me by my friend Mireille Boucher for her Harakiri jewellary line because I’m so chicken about rats. I would rather have a serial killer in my house than a rat.
LP: Serial killers versus rats! That sounds like the best movie. You
should call Quentin Tarantino and tell him to make that right away.
AFH: It could be a fight movie and I bet Freddy Kruger’s girlfriend would look amazing waiting ringside for him in your acid-frayed silk jacket. Since Kruger is such a big celebrity, he should have a girlfriend who wears something fancy. The rats’ dolls could never afford to be that classy or beautifully dressed!
What is inspiring this season’s collection?
The theme of the spring/summer 2011 collection is “Kurt Cobain in Africa – or the relativity of movement“. I drew inspiration from a fictitious scene involving a bus, five groupies and Kurt Cobain on Tour in Africa. There is plenty of rock’n’roll and an exceptional itinerary.
Accordingly to this vision, we worked with futuristic vs. african influences. The dominant look of the whole collection is the mix between grunginess and futuristic-cleaness, with architectural influence. So there are intensive contrasts made of opposite elements within the whole collection: maximal volume and length vs. bodycon and mini. Drapery, wrappings and layers meet sharp cuts. Psychodelic ethno patterns with a stroposcopic effect and woven leo designs are combined with minimalistic styles. Neonorange goes with nude or black and white.
And that all comes together with Kurt Cobain’s cool grunginess, which creates an anarchic take of the rock’n’roll attitude. What comes out is the typical Lala Berlin Uptowngirl look that is high end but dressed down.
How do you think the week will provide a platform for presenting the current collection properly?
Mercedes Benz Fashionweek transports the Berlin-based feeling of optimism and illustrates Berlin’s international, global-urban lifestyle. Due to that, I really see the connection between my high-end style, yet remiss, collection and Berlin Fashionweek.
How has the move to the new office’s effected your creation of this collection?
The move to the new office absolutely relieved my team and me. We really have grown by size and fame in the last years and I now have a lot of people working for me here. Now we work in a spacious and mind-opening loft/office. I see the positive effects of the space on my busy working creation/team now that we have the new atelier. I really can say that we are able to work faster and more effective now.
How is this collection different from previous seasons?
I think it is more grown-up. It is playing with sophisticated sex-appeal in a lay-backed way. This the superlative of high end for Lala Berlin. But one thing will always be the same: when you wear a Lala Berlin piece, you will feel comfortable and free to show off your self-confidence!
What do you think are the stand-out elements to this collection?
We have a wide range of outstanding elements this time. My personal highlight piece is a floor-length openwork cardigan made of 10 meters of silk tulle. The fabric first was teared and then knitted together. Other key-looks are the neon orange, pale coloured or wild patterned silk kaftans, suits in black and white stripes or grungy-stroboscopic patterns, Leoajur cardigans, a net knitted white mini-dress, silver shiny pants with structural leopattern, a blue silk overall or knit coats with stroboscopic patterns.
And I am proud to say that we widened our portfolio. In a cooperation with Unützer we designed a Lala Berlin shoe collection that matches the look of the current collection. The shoes have a very architectural, kind of minimalistic and precious look, I really love them! Plus we designed a couple of jewellery items with Sergio Engel that come in a more ethno but rude way.
I know that everyone is supposed to love all their children equally.But if you had to pick, what collection or garment from past seasons are you most proud of having made?
The ONE piece that I designed for eternity is Dress Beetles in my Spring/Summer 2010 collection. The special thing about this dress is not just its spectacular mini length but also how it is produced: first a beetle-pattern out of pearls and sequins was stitched on precious silk that was etched with acid afterwards, giving it a destroyed but high quality look with sophisticated finish.
Do you see each season in terms of potential trends or dominant looks?
I prefer to see the dominant looks. I don´t want my collections to look trendy, but rather to look good and carry my signature. I want my looks to be Lala Berlin – not just a hype.
The conversation between Leyla and her friend Ana is the first part in a series that leads us to the Fashion Week Berlin 2010. We are joining Leyla and her team on the road, where we are covering the studio and fashion show for Berlin Fashion Week 2010. The second part will be released this upcoming weekend as an addition to this catalogue.
Interview: Ana Finel-Honigman
Photography: Ailine Liefeld