If you allow the massive graffitied face by the front entrance to put you off from buzzing the bell at Eisenbahnstr. 11, you’re missing out immensely. Buried within – by which I mean you have to shoulder past several doors, a couple of courtyards, one holding a quaint two-story house, and then descend into a clerestory lit basement – is the studio space of one of Berlin fashion elites: Hien-Le.
Trading stories of Kreuzberg lives, we glean Hien Le to be one of the rare Berliners actually raised in this city; his old kindergarten on Wrangelstrasse still exists right across from no.5, the former GabrielDesigns’ headquarters. A couple of decades later, he’s placed his design studio back in the old kiez of his childhood. A studio that gives off auras of “soft whites” if one could imagine feelings in colours. Almost compelled by the nature of the space, I slow down, and calmly take my time with this shoot. I’m rewarded. It seems the longer one spends in his studio retracing steps, the more secrets one discovers.
First assessment says: orderly, precise, detailed. But far be it for Hien Le to leave his design studio a sterile hospital. Investigation reveals the playful nature of this individual reflected in his studio space. There’s the BERLIN FASHIONWEEK PHOTODIARY book and in near vicinity protruding off the wall, is a tiny print no larger than a fist, gifted from the original opening book exhibit. Up on a shelf with “MMM The Exhibition” and “Moi VERONIQUE Branquinho, TouTe NUe” are the logos HL in concrete formed by the neighbouring architecture studio Sigurd Larson. The drawer racks filled with an array of colourful threads. Or the notepad from Merci Paris, traces that speak of his travels.
And delightfully, his responses to the INTERVIEW BELOW are equally playful and revealing.
+ How do you normally start your mornings?
-Hien Le | long hot shower in winter…long fresh shower in summer.
+ Are there any daily needs to creativity?
-Hien Le | riding to my studio by bike.
+ Who or what has been your most influential source of inspiration?
-Hien Le | if you mean in general: i think all big cities and their people are inspiring. i like observing people on the streets while sitting in a cafe.
if you are talking about my upcoming collection: the artwork and the colour adjustments of mark rothko in combination with different pleats are the inspirations for my upcoming aw 1314 collection.
+ You’re Vietnamese yet one of the rare Berliners, raised in town. Are there any cultural influences that pervade your designs?
-Hien Le | i would say no. but there are many people who are telling me that my collection is really influenced by my asian roots which i don’t or can’t see. it’s maybe because i’m too close to my work, always having other things in mind when creating. but because so many people are telling me this, i took it as an inspiration for my third collection showing last summer during berlin fashion week.
+ Were there any challenges to opening up your own label?
-Hien Le | i think launching a brand/label is a challenge in itself already. every day, as well as every season, comes with new challenges…combined with doubts and happiness at the same time. but that is also what makes it so exciting.
+ How do you relate to your Berlin-based fashion colleagues-competition?
-Hien Le | i think there are lots of great fashion designers based in berlin. with some, i am really good friends, some whom i’ve studied with. many of them i am always happy to see again. of course we are kind of competitors but i don’t think and see it so closely. for me i think we are all so different and all of us address different kinds of audiences. what we have in common is that we all are “sitting” in the same boat or swimming in the same ocean. we all have kind of the same problems and know how difficult it is, so why not help each other … but being a competitor?
+ You mentioned you were in touch with Nick Smith of Cold-Rockin. What did he have to say regarding your work?
-Hien Le | that he loves my work and he thinks it is fantastic.
+ You keep a very small team. Do you see yourself expanding at some point?
-Hien Le | of course. i think everyone of us would love to expand one day. my label is still young. growing slowly is totally fine with me, everything is step by step.
+ A favourite piece you’ve created is…?
-Hien Le | the woll/alcantara blouson from the last A/W collection.
+ Fashion today promotes designs for excessively tall and frighteningly skinny people. Where do you think this desire comes from?
-Hien Le | i think it was there already when everything started in fashion…twiggy was the first. i don’t think it is as bad anymore as some years before. of course fashion is always promoting tall and skinny people. but for me, more tall and slim, and less skinny. it does look much better when you see a pic with nice fashion on a nice model who is tall and slim (but not skinny) than on someone who is short and less slim….no?
+ How would you describe your own studio space?
-Hien Le | small, still bright even if it’s in the basement / souterrain and cozy.
+ What do you enjoy in Berlin when not at work?
-Hien Le | seeing my friends and having good food…
+ Drink of choice
-Hien Le | a fresh artichoke tea, boiled with a shot of agavesirup…yummy hot and cold!