For Linus Leonardsson, “there is no magic in turning trash into wearable trash.” To fill the void between sustainable fashion and luxury, the Swedish-born, London-based fashion designer believes in creating clothes “that are not only conceptually appealing but also beautiful.”
In the quest of an antidote to stereotypical connotations of sustainable fashion, Leonardsson’s design themes juxtapose and combine the artificiality of urban with the escapism of nature. His graduate collection, See You in the Fog, which the designer showcased during MBFW Russia Spring/Summer 2020, examined the idea of “balancing daytime domesticity with nighttime self-exploration” with a forest rave as a backdrop.

For Fall/Winter 2020, Leonardsson moves his club kids from a forest rave to the city to tackle inherent social hierarchies of urban life. Rave New World surveys the ideas of radical conformance and imagines a utopia where “the doors of society’s secluded spaces open up to an opposing force.” Acidic prints, crocheted lace cut-offs, and dead-stock brocades; Leonardsson’s ‘sustainable glamour’ defies gender and confronts traditional conventionalism of elitist definitions of luxury. “Fashion is our society’s foremost visual and social tool of communication,” the designer says, “It should be used accordingly to affect society and create a future in which we all want to live.”
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Tell us how your life in Stockholm has influenced your work and when did you decide that fashion design was the venue you wanted to venture in?
Sweden is a very densely populated country, so even in urban regions there’s always a close proximity to wild nature. Growing up in such a surrounding has definitely boosted my appreciation for mother nature, which plays a big part in my work both conceptually and visually. I have had a keen interest in fashion from a very early age, but I knew that there was no going back when I started high school and finally had an outlet to practice design and art on a daily basis.
You graduated from the prestigious Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp last year. How have your opinions and understanding of the fashion industry changed now that you have established your eponymous brand outside the art school?
The academy is an escapist wonderland, where creations can be extremely niche and don’t have to be commercially justifiable – a lovely but harsh contrast of what’s to come afterwards. Post-graduation, it is impossible to ignore that fashion is a business with a fully-fledged system in place to which you are reacting. When I was a student, I was entirely focused on creative exploration and conceptualising fashion. With the launch of my brand, I’ve realised that most people do not have the attention span nor time for deep concepts and elaborate narratives. Nevertheless, fashion to me is a type of storytelling. Even though there is a commercial aspect that needs to be taken into account, fashion will always be a wonderland to me.
“Even though there is a commercial aspect that needs to be taken into account, fashion will always be a wonderland to me.”
Your designs often mirror your personal style, a heightened version of your personality. What would you highlight regarding your aesthetic?
Playfulness, craft and glamour!
Your graduate collection See You in the Fog, which you showcased at MBFW Russia told a tale about a raving party scene in a forest. What is the story behind your second collection, Rave New World?
With this collection, those same club kids, as well as I in real life, have moved into the city and are challenging social hierarchies. The collection has its basis in questioning traditional conventionalism in accordance with luxury and elitism. The title is a flirt with Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, where a dystopian society based on hierarchies and conformance is portrayed – in my view, conceptually not far away from our modern society.
With Rave New World, I want to question these norms by painting a scenery where the doors of society’s secluded spaces open up to an opposing force. It also features a knitwear collaboration with The Guestlist that was an award generously given to me by the Woolmark Company, Südwolle Group, and Peterseim Strickwaren, which is currently available to pre-order at
Your futuristic designs manage to propose the antidote to stereotypical sustainable fashion. Are you conscious of this stereotype when designing?
Absolutely! I feel that there is a void within the fashion industry between sustainable approaches and high-end results. Many sustainable initiatives also look sustainable – to me there is no magic in turning trash into wearable trash. I think if we are able to scale sustainable production, we must also attend people’s desire for garments that are not only conceptually appealing but also beautiful.
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You presented your Fall/Winter 2020 collection Rave New World in an unconventional way at 50m London, which resulted in a multi-functioning event that you called “the reverse of the fashion show.” What do you think about the relevance of traditional catwalk shows today?
In my view, the importance of fashion shows is disproportional, especially to emerging designers. Of course, it is a fun and fabulous event, but extreme amounts of resources go into a 15-minute event targeting a very elitist audience. In regards to the topic, I felt it was necessary to explore an alternative way to present it. Thus, we arranged an open-to-all joint presentation with fellow sustainable fashion designer Christoph Ritter Studio, where a photo- and video-shoot was happening simultaneously. Therefore, guests had to engage with the models to view the garments. We also arranged a post-show soirée at the renowned London restaurant Sketch, which presented another turnover of roles as their champion staff wore the collection throughout the evening.
You have said that Antwerp was a great place to get completely consumed by your work and creative process. How would you describe your transition to London and your decision behind moving from Belgium to one of the fashion capitals?
Antwerp is definitely a creative incubator, but it is a small city with a limited clientele and a heavy influence by the Academy. London is a totally different experience, where so many worlds are clashing simultaneously. It is an interesting mix, and by more varied exposure you also have to contextualise your work in a more profound way by explaining what part it plays in the industry.
Could you tell us how the collaborations with the Antwerp-based brand Komono come about?
During my MA year at the academy, Komono approached us with a creatively free brief of designing eyewear to support our graduation collections. I was inspired by strobe-lights peeking through a forest and was lucky to see my design being chosen and put into production. It was a really enriching experience, and I’m very grateful to have gotten such an inspirational insight into eyewear.
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Your collections tackle issues such as gender politics, sustainability and identity crisis; managing to forefront these issues without conventional slogans on a t-shirt. Do you think fashion should be political?
In my view, it is impossible not to be political with fashion. That being said, I’m well aware that not everyone has a political intention with their personal fashion. Then again, undoubtedly fashion is our society’s foremost visual and social tool of communication and I think it should be used accordingly to affect society and create a future in which we all want to live.
How has the current health crisis affected your relatively young brand and what do you think will be the long-term implications on fashion industry post-Covid-19 pandemic?
I am lucky to be able to continue working more or less as usual from home, but due to the lockdown, my team has not been able to join me, and photoshoots, production and sales have had to be postponed. But I can’t complain, in the bigger picture there are more acute issues in society right now. However, it has also positively affected my way of working as the entire industry has slowed down, which has given me the opportunity to work on a range of other projects. After talking to friends and collaborators who have similar experiences, I think that it is becoming apparent for a lot of people that the system that was in place did not work. Fashion is a fabulous industry in so many ways, but it’s not worth giving up one’s mental and physical health.
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