Florentina Leitner | Turning the ordinary into statement pieces



Florentina Leitner's love for nature and flowers was sparked not just by the meaning of her name, "to blossom," but also by the countless hours she spent outside, in lovely Austrian gardens with her mother. The Austrian fashion and knitwear designer composes elegant collections with a very playful twist, with strong silhouettes and shapes combined with prints and unconventional fabric mixes. Sustainability resides in the use of discarded fabrics and a highly studied production process. Read our exclusive interview with her to find out more.


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The Austrian designer Florentina Leitner entered Vienna's Fashion High School at the age of 14, and after graduating, she transferred to Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where she studied under Walter van Beirendonck for her BA and MA. After working at Dries van Noten, she launched her own brand.


"To produce a product 100% sustainable is not really possible, and we also don’t want to greenwash the process”


How did your interest in fashion start? Was it always there or was it sparked later in life?

My sister had the coolest closet with designer clothes which I loved to dig into and play with as a child. When I was 13 she went with me to the local Fashionweek (Vienna Fashionweek) and we met this group of “cool kids” which told us they study fashion design. Before I was not even aware that you can start with 14 already to study fashion in high school, but after meeting them I wanted to be part of the same thing.


Designing a collection is different for every designer, how does your creative process usually start and what is your favourite part of it?

Me and my team research and have team meetings about things we like or saw in the world. We watch movies, take photos of art, just try to stay open and inspired in the beginning. We then start first samples or detailed treatments of fabric, often the first pieces end up not staying in the collection cause the process and topic evolves during the time, but that’s normal and good. I mostly enjoy seeing the creations coming to live, first fittings or seeing something on each other in the studio is just the coolest. But every step of the process has his pro and cons :P


What are the most important tools that have helped you to share your thoughts in your profession and stay relevant?

In the beginning mainly Social Media! Now it is more people around me, my PR, my Sales agent, and all my team members. Those people help me to push further and reach my goals, and I am very thankful for them. But in the beginning it was just me sharing my work on Instagram and hoping to get discovered by like minded folks :)


You put a lot of focus on sustainability, what are the challenges you face nowadays when implementing sustainability as part of your brand?

It is not our main focus, but it is a big topic. We work naturally with deadstock Materials because they were also companies I used to buy from when I was in fashion school. When we order from bigger companies we also try to order sustainable materials, we discovered a silk supplier which isn’t killing the silk worms and a fake fur company which makes fake fur out of mohair and not plastic. But of course to produce a product 100% sustainable is not really possible, and we also don’t want to greenwash the process. We use a lot of prints which our costumes love and also if we use deadstock or re-pet lycra the printing process is often not sustainable. But I do think the industry is working on more solutions and when the right ones arrive we will start taking them. 


What did you learn about sustainability and design during your time at Dries Van Noten, and how was your experience there?

I stayed for 2 seasons, SS21 and FW21 which was a great experience to be able to pitch ideas and work in a team with Dries himself. The moment I started sustainability was also a big topic inside the company and to try to source more and more sustainable companies/fabric producers. I also learned more about the client's needs and which pieces sell good and which less, of course my client now is not the same one who buys Dries but it's interesting and important to listen to your client's needs. 


To your belief, what does the future of fashion look like, what will happen to sustainability tomorrow?

Like I mentioned, the demand is very big now, and fabric companies come up every season with new sustainable fabric options to choose from, but still it takes some time to source everything sustainable and to also still stay in the luxury fashion field. 


You talk about inclusivity, what does this word mean to you and how can it be portrayed in fashion?

I love sharing images of my grandma (96) rocking her Florentina Leitner pieces, she’s definitely not the norm of “beauty” but she wears my pieces in her own way and makes them look beautiful. I like to see my clothes on characters, and different types of people. For some collections like the “the Royal Leitners” we did a movie with casted family members of mine from different age groups which was lots of fun and I loved the result of the video. 


Where can we buy your clothes? 

We have our own online shop and some stores which Stock our Collections. For the moment you can buy our pieces in Stores in Vienna, London, Ibiza, Dubai, Florence and Budapest. 


What’s next for you and your career?

We have our FW23 Collection presentation at Paris Fashion Week in end February up next. 


All Images: © FW22 Collection by Benjamin Mallek.


+ Words:
Indira Jiménez
Luxiders Magazine