Valentin Lessner is a German fashion designer who won the Mercedes Benz eco responsible collection award and le19M des Métiers d’arts award at the 37th Hyères Festival, villa Noailles.
Can you tell us about your background?
I come from Germany, from a really small town in Bavaria, where I was born and raised. With not so much of a life around here, it’s mainly nature, cows and farming... which is beautiful and idyllic, but at a certain age I started to become interested in other things, and almost developed a toxic relationship with my roots and growing up here. When I was younger, it was mostly music that I was interested in for a way of expression; I used to play drums, piano, percussion and was producing & playing electronic music, it was mainly about making sound with everything back then.
Besides music I had a fascination to flea markets from a really young age on, traveling one hour each Saturday in the morning to be the first one there... I was buying mainly garments or sometimes objects and artifacts that I felt like they had a certain spirit I was attracted by, no matter of the era or context they came from. My grandparents also had a tailoring atelier for bespoke garments in Bavaria, but it’s not the romantic story of me growing up under the table and watching them cut & sew. My grandfather couldn't teach me anything anymore because he was too old, it was more of having an autodidact approach to it when I got interested in tailoring and their heritage in general.
In my teenage years, it was turning more and more into the direction that I started making my own clothes, mostly with raw material from the flea market or leftovers from my grandparents. I was watching YouTube videos to learn how to assemble clothes and create patterns... the first things I designed were honestly really bad. Patterns and fabric choices were horrible, but it just started from there.
Luckily this changed with going to university and studying fashion and communication design, because I wanted to strengthen my multidisciplinary approach to fashion and visual expression. It was always a mix for me of several media to express, I couldn't really separate things. Fashion to me is like a merging point of many different streams I am interested in, I think that’s why I am so fascinated by it.
Your collection is made on recycled garment only?
I would say it's about 80% of leftover and deadstock raw materials that I collected over the years from flea markets, eBay and old tailoring ateliers because here in Germany tailoring was a big thing before they had to close in the 70s and on, due to the mass production and the globalization in general.... So it was easy for me to dig into these ateliers to find superior fabrics that were just simply leftovers, as I always had this interest in 'forgotten treasures' that other people might not need anymore. The only disadvantage has been that I was quite limited to certain shapes sometimes because of simply the given fabric amount that I had found, so I had to calculate with patterns a lot to reach the most and best possible.
With being selected for the Festival this year, I was changing some shapes once again that I was not fully satisfied yet because of the fabric amount limit I had while creating. I was therefore researching a lot on Premiere Vision and online to challenge myself in terms of a more industrial but yet responsible way of sourcing – looking for companies that share common values and that I felt like it made sense to work together with.
Because talking about sustainability, if we have to be really true to ourselves, the most sustainable thing for me is to not produce anything at all as there is already existing enough. But as we’re all consumers, for me it is always the challenge to find new ways of designing and producing meaningful products in a responsible way – thinking about function, emotion and the durability. We’re making a garment, but what happens with it after like five years?
But you can’t be a perfect designer, it's impossible anyways.
It was us as a team that shaped the images in the end – I was directing it, but it all happened as a result of the team working together. We created everything as friends for this whole project together, mostly individuals who also come from the same area as me. It was based on our emotions and the idea that I had in the beginning of the collection. About the model selection, it was same thing – also many friends that grew up with me here, we were basically just thinking about ways on how to represent our roots in a modern way. It was always this weird bond between something very classic and traditional and something new or fresh, a small twist.
And of course I had a very talented and committed team on my side, so a lot is owed to them. Thank you to each one at this point once again!
As a young designer, how do you imagine your evolution in the fashion industry? What are your goals to achieve?
If I had to limit myself to one answer, my main goal is probably to create meaningful products in a responsible way, creating garments that in my eyes make sense in terms of like function, durability and wearability.
I don’t mind if this is going to be for my own brand or if it’s going to be under the name of someone else, doesn't really matter to me. I'm not trying to force things, I just try to evaluate when there is the right moment for a certain next step to do.
Now it's a question of good timing.
As I said, I don’t like to force things. I'm not like someone who is really pushing things at all costs, because it's not going to work on a natural basis in the end. It's always about this for me, not only in fashion but in general. So I can agree, timing is the final question always for me.