What makes you different?" Questions like that are never easy to answer, especially when you're in the fashion industry. Where being trendy and being relevant are often intimately linked. It's not a simple question and it's not meant to be one. When you find what make you different, you find what makes you valuable.
Designer Leah Lerner didn't hesitate when I hit her with the dreaded question: "What makes your line unique in the current bag market?" Her answer was automatic. "Our simplistic chic style combined with high quality materials and a love for great craftsmanship." She couldn't have said it any better. You can check out her craftsmanship at LeahLerner.com.
Born in Minnesota to a family of artists and publishers, Leah caught the creative bug at a young age. She was trained for a career in design in the fashion capital, NYC, at the elite Columbia University and the Fashion Institute of Design. She went on to design for a few companies that you may have heard of… American Eagle, Kate Spade and Liz Claiborne, just to name a few.
"I always want[ed] to design," she told me. "When I was in junior high and high school, I was an avid sewer and I used to work at the costume department at the Guthrie Theater, which is a very reputable theater company in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I grew up. But, I was always more interested in making items that people would actually wear on a daily basis instead of limited to a performance."
After her move to Tel Aviv in 2009, the Leah Lerner brand was born. Inspired by the city's work ethic, she'd roam through local shops in search of the perfect leathers, zippers and hardware. With these materials, she began crafting handmade pieces that have become known for their high-quality, personalized, hand-painted patterns and extreme attention to detail.
I caught up with Leah to talk about her aesthetic, her creative influences and the future of Leah Lerner brand. Read the full interview below:
LL: A lot of my inspiration comes from just walking around the city and people watching.
LL: I have always been a tote person. I am usually carrying way more things in my bag than I really need and a tote bag fits it all. But recently I have been making an effort to minimize and I can sometimes fit everything I need into a smaller cross body bag. This is especially useful while running around after my 1 1/2 year old son.
LL: I am inspired by all different types of designers and artists, from fashion designers to graphic designers, interior designers and painters. Pinterest is amazing and I stumble across so many amazing things that sometimes I think that I am on inspiration overload.
LL: I am very excited to be introducing a limited collection of printed tote bags and summer tunics. I love pattern design and all of the prints in the collection are my own designs. It is a project I had been working on for many many months - definitely a labor of love!
LL: Yes, this is my personal style as well as my brand aesthetic.
STOB: In your opinion, what are some of the key cultural differences that you've noticed between fashion in the US, Israel and Europe?
LL: One difference that really stands out for me is that people in the US are not afraid of color and pattern, while in Israel and Europe, people tend to gravitate towards neutrals.
LL: I want our customers to be happy. From our amazing customer service and top notch quality to the great selection of color and styling, we give our customers a great shopping experience.
LL: In addition to expanding our core collection of leather bags, I also plan on introducing more textiles to the collection. I hope to be able to offer a wide range of items, not just bags but also apparel and home accessories.
Keep an eye out for a giveaway featuring the Leah Lerner's stunning bag collection. COMING SOON!