LEDA DI MARTI
100% Made in Italy womenswear label
Talk Editor spoke to Leda Di Marti, the founder of Milan based fashion label Leda Di Marti, known for beautiful designs 100% made in Italy and launching in Britain for the first time.
Born in Calabria, southern Italy, Leda travelled widely with her family and it was her travels that inspired her to work in fashion. Aged 22, Leda moved to London to study, after graduating in Costume and Fashion Design from Accademia Costume e Moda in Rome. In 2015, Leda moved to New York where she worked as a consultant for several leading fashion brands including Marc Jocobs and Victoria’s Secret, whilst designing her own couture dress label for red carpet events.
In 2017, Leda took the decision to launch her own womenswear label focusing on day wear and separates. The business is based in the South of Italy, close to Milan where the collection is also designed. Leda uses Italian craftsmen in Milan and Florence to design her collections, creating patterns which are painted by her.
In this interview, Leda shares how her work as a consultant in New York brought her closer to starting her own business, why she decided to bring Calabrian fashion to London, challenges fashion designers face, her top tips for starting a business in fashion, and much more!
Leda's Spring/Summer Collection is available on the Leda Di Marti website.
Bringing Italian fashion to London
Leda, how did you get started in fashion?
Ever since I can remember, it has been my dream to be a fashion designer. All I ever wanted for Christmas and birthdays were coloured pens and pencils to play with and it was during my high school years when I realised I wanted to pursue a career as an entrepreneur and fashion designer. This dream led me to sign up to study at the Fashion Academy in Rome, the most beautiful and fascinating city in the world that's simply perfect for a student of fashion.
With the brand's headquarters in Milan, what made you decide to bring Italian fashion to London?
When I started my business, I had the preconception that Italian beauty is taken for granted by most Italians. As a culture, we are used to seeing perfection of human work everywhere we look, from St. Peter's in the Vatican, Trevi’s Fountain in Rome, Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Bronzi di Riace in Reggio Calabria, Gothic art of the Milan Cathedral to the Mole by Antonelli in Turin.
As an Italian, I am proud to tell a story about my country and region through my fashion designs. I know it will be appreciated by people in other countries who may not be used to seeing such spectacular art and landscape in their everyday lives. That is why I wanted to capture it and bring it to London, using influences from Santa Margherita in Liguria, the Amalfi Coast, the wind of Salento and its rocks, the gulf of Cagliari in Sardinia, the Monte Pollino in Calabria and the beauty of the landscapes in Sicily.
Leda starting her own clothing label
You worked in New York helping brands as a consultant, when did you know you were ready to start your own fashion brand?
I started thinking of launching my own brand three years ago, when I worked on tailored dresses for the wife and daughters of an Italian ambassador in London. I loved seeing them smile when they saw how beautifully the final outfits fitted them. I loved such moments and that is how the idea of starting my own e-commerce business came about.
While working in New York and having been part of bigger companies, the experience made me realise what kind of company I wanted to build. I became stubborn and more convinced that my brand needed to be 100% made in Italy. And I wanted to see those happy looks on my clients who are satisfied with their purchase. I also enjoy seeing my clothes worn in Milan by strangers, I stop for a moment to see how they walk and make the clothes they bought their own. It is a joy to know that the garment is no longer mine and that it belongs to another owner who will take care of it, just like I would.
Leda Di Marti Spring/Summer 2018 collection
Leda Di Marti Spring/Summer 2018 Collection is a tribute to your native Italy with beautiful floral themes which are handed painted by you. How do you find inspiration for new patterns and materials?
I've always travelled and now more than ever! This week, I have been to Berlin and Puglia, and it's made me feel alive and even more inspired. I research textures everywhere I travel; shades of the sky at sunset, in the symmetry of the post-World War II buildings or in the veins of the trees leaves.
When I feel I have enough ideas, I discuss them with a fabric factory we work with adn we start making the fabrics based on my suggestions (mostly jacquard, which I love!) and my prints on silk georgette or satin.
Running a business can be hugely rewarding but doesn't come without its challenges. What obstacles did you face when you started and how did you overcome them?
When you are facing obstacles as a starting entrepreneur, remember that you are not alone! The challenge I've had was being taken seriously when you are new and, in my case, young. Retailers have to learn to trust you and feel confident that you will be there for the next six seasons so they can invest in your new business. Once a retailer trusts you, it is easier to create more contacts and that will then drive you forward. I’ve learnt to never give up, even when you fail. There is a right time for everyone!
A day in life...
As a business owner whose brand is expanding internationally, what is your typical day in the office like, if there is one?
My day starts at 7:00, when I wake up and have breakfast with tea (the English way) with a chocolate cornetto and biscuits (the Italian way!). While I'm drinking my tea, I check fashion news, what's happening in the industry, and after breakfast head to the showroom in Viale Majno. I love to be prepared and start replying to emails.
I love to be prepared and prepare a to-do list for me and my assistant to call factories, suppliers and shops.
I also dedicate some of my mornings to creativity, I go out and take pics of the city, visiting shops and meeting creative people (photographers, stylist, magazines). I try to meet as many people as possible for potential collaborations.
Another time, I design all day, putting on pieces of fabrics on mannequins and arranging them the way I want. I speak with our factory’s owner to ensure the designs are exactly how I want them.
In the evenings, I like to go out with inspiring people - I am very lucky to be part of the most exciting community of young designers and entrepreneurs in Milan.
How do you keep on top of your game every day, some people swear by their morning rituals, meditation, exercise, what is it for you?
I start my week planning events, meetings and things to do - that's how I avoid stress and stay on top of my game. I am very organised, always focusing on the goal of the week. In the evenings, I love to have a hot shower, and I also find reading biography books relaxing.
Five years from now, what would you like to read about your brand in the press?
I would love them to write about the iconic symbols of my brand, I want it to be distinctive and discernible. And I would love to have a HQ in NY as well. I spend a lot of time there and have a even bigger team of enthusiastic people like me!
Leda's tips on starting a business
Can you give our readers your top 3 tips on starting and running a business?
Have a great idea and don’t be shy talking about it with other people! They can often give you a really helpful advice. Your business is more likely to become successful if it is based on needs of real customers, and not just in your own mind.
Have a goal, and make sure you strive to achieve it! Ask yourself where you want to be in 10 years, where you want to live or establish your company's base, how much you want the company to grow and how many people you want to reach? A goal is often the driving force to success - once you have a goal. you can plan your strategy from there.
And learn to multitask! The more things you can do on your own, the more successful you will be. Try to do as many things as you can on your own. Once you learn the skills to use WordPress, create a website, issue invoices, talk to suppliers, create inventories and tracks your shipments, post on social media and create videos, you can start delegating. You can then teach someone to help you while still having a control of your company.