Suzy Menkes reports on designers proud to portray their national heritage in their clothes
Leonard is a French company known for flower prints, delicate and majestic. The orchid is its signature.
The house is marking 50 years of creativity with a celebration planned for Tokyo – one of several Asian countries where Leonard has a major following.
Daniel Tribouillard, who heads this family brand, has hired a variety of talents, but recently he decided to take on Yiqing Yin – a Chinese-born but Paris-raised designer who lives and built her fashion business in Paris.
During the years when print was ignored by fashion and then in the recent overwhelming flood of digital prints, Leonard stayed faithful to its own system: hand-drawn and hand-coloured patterns that are stored in their thousands in the house archives.
So what could Yiqing Yin do to make her designs seem contemporary? She used denim, probably for the first time in the brand’s history, saturating it with colour and making it into sporty shapes such as a workers’ overalls. Or there might be airy fabrics, but printed to look like denim.
The casual clothes included a strapped bikini top or the denim look with the house’s signature orchid pattern.
There seemed to be a wide gap between girly summer clothes and the poetry in jean fabrics, as in a faint orchid pattern on an apron top or a printed denim jacket worn with a draped – and orchid printed – chiffon skirt.
But it was good to see that for Leonard, new life can begin at 50 – by planting a new flower from the East.