The German garment constructor Leon Emanuel Blanck captures the human anatomy with sheer complexity. Leather, organic seamlines and asymmetric patterns stand in the limelight of his craft. In an industry where the tactile connection between the garments and the creator seems to vanish, he has revived the craftsmanship by constructing anatomical patterns that are meticulously merged together. Within this realm, the designer grasps the essence of ventured rebellion against a meaningless and over-commercialized industry.
Leon, as a designer, does your creativity come from happiness or darkness?
Imagine you are swimming in the ocean and you can’t see the bottom. You have to dive deeper in order to reveal what lies beneath the surface. You hold your breath and with eerie excitement in your bones, you venture into this unknown territory. Darkness and gloominess simply give much more room for thought and mind games. Within this deep and sometimes obscure realm, I seek inspiration.
Nevertheless, I’m sure that if you asked people close to me, they would describe me as a joyful person. Coming back to my example of diving into the dark, if you decide to look up towards the sun, it will pull you back to light – I believe that creations evolve from a combination of darkness and light.
You say that the Sci-Fi surrealist artist H.R Giger, as well as the industrial designer Luigi Colani, are some of your main inspiration sources. When was the first time you encountered their dystopian realm and how are your designs connected to their aesthetics?
I didn't even know what surrealism was when I encountered H.R. Gigers’ work for the first time. When I was about 10 years old, I watched the original Alien. I remember it being a fascinating experience. At that time, the Internet was not part of our everyday life and therefore, getting my hands on this kind of movies was difficult. My older brother opened a whole new world for me by allowing me to explore cinematography that was forbidden to watch at my age.
I encountered Colani much later than Giger. It must have been at the time when I generally started being interested in design. At one point, I got my hands on several books about industrial design, where one of his aeroplanes was displayed. From then on, my fascination with his work started rising. Years later, when I started working on my ever-evolving project Anfractuous Distortion, a friend of mine mentioned that my seam work reminded him of the works of Giger. Only then I realized that the movie Alien must had had a big impact on me.
For me, Giger is a dystopian surrealist, but Colani is actually creating real things – real-life Sci-Fi. What impresses me the most about them is how they shaped their own world. One can always tell if something is from Colani or Giger – no need to put a label on it. That is exactly what I am doing with my project Anfractuous Distortion: I can create any object one can think of and it will immediately have my DNA. My own universe.
You are known for your unique, anatomical garment-making process. Tell us a bit about how movement and construction are intertwined within your work? Where does the process begin for you?
The process always begins with an animate being and a big piece of fabric. Once I’ve decided whether to make a lower or upper body creation, I start wrapping the fabric around the body. Due to the interaction of the moving body with the forming fabric, seams, widths and fit are solely designed by this interplay in coherence with me subconsciously designing.
This sculpting process takes place in many different positions, eventually creating a body-cast that is form-fitting but effortless to articulate in at the same time. Once the shaping process is finished, the human cast is cut open at each previously created seam to obtain a prototype pattern. The next step entails cutting the prototype pattern from toile and adapting its form to find the anatomical fit. Lastly, the item is fitted on my body to create the renowned LEB body cast.
It’s important to acknowledge that due to our nature, our body is never 100% symmetrical. Therefore, I form the whole body of the piece and not just half of it, which creates sheer complexity within my patterns. For obvious reasons, these stages are very time-consuming and it usually takes me numerous runs of re-cutting and refitting to have a finished pattern in one single size. The ability to move and articulate freely while wearing my finished garments are of extreme importance – it is defined by the fit and the sutures within the piece. Because of this forming process, the human body is deeply connected to the garments. A truly anatomical way of tailoring.
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With your revolutionary approach to design, you seem to be revolting against the classic manner of pattern making. Why is that?
I need to be able to think freely in order to start the crafting process. Just following what others have already invented – in this case, the classical pattern making – doesn’t challenge me creatively. We are already running in circles within the fashion industry, and one should break the norms to transcend the given frames.
Has that ever been a challenge for you?
It’s certainly challenging to create these garments – let alone to come off with the idea of my design theorem. But it does work after all and that makes me happy. The new challenge is to scale that existing idea into a bigger universe as well as to show people that there are other ways of doing things.
What does rebellion within the fashion industry mean to you?
In my particular case, it once meant getting on a train to Paris during fashion week with zero contacts in my pocket; running around, asking small art galleries if I could show my collection of eight pieces in their space, and then eventually, ending up selling my garments to renowned boutiques. But it also means believing in yourself and your approach, inventing something unique, and pushing it down people’s throats until they understand the concept of it.
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Do you think true invention in fashion is still possible?
Not if we run around in circles, looking left and right trying to seek inspiration from other designers. But I believe it’s possible – only if people dared more. Nothing great ever came from the people’s comfort zone. I would be happy to see something off the norm.
You extended your brand with a new line, Forced Perspective. What made you decide to broaden your already existing product range?
I often heard from friends how much they loved the design of my garments but were a bit afraid to start with something. I, therefore, wanted to shape something with less entrance fear and more approachability. While Anfractuous Distortion is my main project with asymmetrical seam work, Forced Perspective is its derivative. Every Forced Perspective piece was once an Anfractuous Distortion piece. Ultimately, I took one side of the garment, mirrored it and moved some lines to convert the garment to a simplified version of itself.
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
It’s always an incredible feeling when I see people wearing my creations. I would love it if more people were able to do so – maybe a collaboration with a big brand, who knows. Furthermore, I will be working on my Anfractuous Distortion furniture project. I have already made a couple of trials and it seems like I am on the right track.
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