‘We are fighting hard for our success’ says independent designer Leo Macenauer, following the launch of new jacket.

Emily Brown talks to Leo Macenauer about designing menswear for Prague’s professionals.

It’s an exciting day for Leo Macenauer, designer, entrepreneur and mastermind behind the Prague based label of the same name. Crossing the threshold of his showroom, you’ll be greeted by images of strong faced models in impeccably tailored suit jackets. They button their cuffs or pose casually, avoiding your gaze. But the latest design is modelled by Leo himself. ‘We just got this garment made. It came from Slovakia, ‘ he says, gesturing to his chest. The item in question is a fitted navy blue bomber which he wears zipped all the way up.

Although you’d never guess it (heritage styles are something of a speciality) Leo’s brand was only conceived in 2015. ‘I wanted to be a basketball player… but I grew up to be short’ he admits. But his time playing sports instilled a valuable mindset which he has injected into the business. ‘The will to succeed,’ he says decidedly, ‘and discipline’.

While the models on his website embody the image of effortlessness, the genesis of the brand has been anything but easy. ‘There are times when it gets really tough. But you have to get up every morning and do stuff’.

Leo is a third generation tailor. Both his father and his grandfather worked in the textile industry. Though he readily admits that being in the family business offers him certain advantages, don’t assume he’s had it easy. Leo Macenauer comes from humble beginnings. ‘We sold one shirt to my friend, and another shirt to his friend, and it snowballed from there.’ Although his clientele has expanded far beyond his friendship group, he still gets the majority of business via word of mouth.This, he says, is one of the benefits of designing for men. ‘They tell their friends’.

Leo’s design philosophy is based around the customer experience. ‘Personal’ is the word he chooses to epitomise his brand. His craft is much more than simply tailoring. He is a master of turning casual conversation into bespoke, fits-like-a-glove menswear. ‘We sit down, we talk like normal people do’ he explains. Getting to know his clients on a personal level is a vital step in the consultation process. ‘If he’s a lawyer, say, he isn’t able to tell me what he wants, if he needs twill or tweed’. Consultations take place face-to-face so he can ask questions, interpret their needs and offer options accordingly. To demonstrate, he opens a book of fabric samples on the table. It’s obvious he loves this part of his job, he’s a tactile person. Throughout the interview, he fiddles with a shiny metal pin, which he briefly puts down in order to flip through the samples. He stops on a light-weight, navy blue piece with a finely pitted texture. This, he explains, lends itself to a sportier look. He keeps flipping, finally arriving at a smooth black fabric. ‘The darker the fabric’ he says seriously, ‘the more formal the event’.

Leo’s work history is interesting. He’s interned at prominent fashion houses including Calvin Klein Milano. The differences between working for a label and working for himself are vast. Milan’s work culture is competitive and fast paced. ‘They work for credit’, not money, which is in hard supply for those new to the industry. But Leo enjoyed the work. Established fashion houses hire their interns for specialised roles, while those who decided to go it alone must take on a broad range of unfamiliar tasks. ‘Designing is just five percent of what I do now,’ he says.

But with every cloud is a silver lining, and this cloud’s lining is made from a densely woven paisley silk. ‘London will squeeze everything out of you, but in Prague I enjoy life more,’ he reasons. ‘The work-life balance is better’. But does Leo have any advice for young creatives who want to take the leap and build their own fashion businesses? ‘Yes, take a sales course’.

If you’d like to learn more about Leo visit his website.

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