Meeting in Marseille with Ninn, a thoughtful and environmentally conscious artist and founder of Lena Klar, working towards redefining fashion.
Interviewed by Ambre Gaudet, a journalist and Ninn’s friend.
I created this line of dresses in honour of my great-grandmother Hélène Klar, who lived in Ukraine and whom her grandchildren nicknamed Babouchka Lena. She was a discreet woman who wore straight skirts and knits she made herself. She did not have the fortune to live at a time when it was easy or even possible to express one’s true identity. She was illiterate: a submissive woman without choice.
It’s not very sexy on paper: my great-grandmother wasn’t extroverted, well-known, avant-garde, friendly with famous people, she didn’t invent anything, she wasn’t scholarly. Yet she was an admirable woman like so many others, given the courage with which she faced the trials of life and the injustices linked to her gender.
I want to pay tribute to these women too, the silent ones, the ones we’re not necessarily interested in, but who all have, in the depths of their souls, a fascinating story to tell us.
The originality of the concept lies in the fact that I offer my clients a dress design that is available in different fabrics, all from the deadstock of major fashion houses, giving them each a unique and original aspect associated with an ethical and sustainable approach. The benefit is also to offer my clients dresses in very small series that they will be almost the only ones to own!
Each dress is made to order by exceptional seamstresses, offering my clients the experience of feeling the time and attention given to each piece.
Yeah, I got spotted by modeling agencies on the streets of Paris twice, when I was 17. The first time I declined, and then the second time too! But after a few months I reversed my decision: I wanted to be a fashion designer from the age of 10, I thought it would help me to access the business.
For almost four years, I worked in the fashion industry: catwalks, posing for magazines, and modeling for the collections of Karl Lagerfeld, Armani, Dolce and Gabbana… I travelled to beautiful places. I lived in Spain, Italy, Germany and London.
I learned a lot during these 4 years, it made me grow very fast and better understand the world we live in. But the environment was very different from what it is today. There was only one way to do fashion: to have a brand and to become very famous for building an empire. That’s what held me back, that kind of ambition wasn’t for me. Today, thanks to the Internet and social medias, you can build your brand and stay independent, manage everything yourself. There are 1,000 ways to do this job and thank goodness for that!
My business model would never have had a chance back then.
The Lena Klar adventure begins with my signature dress, the Meryl dress. Very feminine, i wanted it to illustrate the french elegance. The dress is mid-long, adjustable in the back to emphasize the waist with a long buttonhole to close it. It hides 2 large pockets on each side (very useful!) as well as flared and light sleeves for comfort.
The dress fits a large variety of body shapes: petite or plump, short or tall, with breasts of all sizes!
I was inspired by a ‘60s dress I had in my dressing room that I was crazy about, and so were my friends! I improved it to make it more personal and comfortable.
It is a timeless, elegant and easy to wear dress that marks the beginning of an adventure under the sign of a conscious and committed fashion.
This name came to me very spontaneously, it found its inspiration in a woman I love: Meryl Streep.
She exudes a great deal of strength and intelligence. She is full of grace, natural elegance, empathy, righteousness and commitment. She is very active in defending women’s rights and dares to speak without fear.
Besides, the Irish origin of the name means “bright sea”, and since the brand was born on the edge of the sea, it was a perfect fit!
Each new dress will bear the name of an inspiring woman coming from performing arts, science, literature, art…
For all women, in all their beautiful diversity. I want to create various models that do not stigmatize women and that are open to the world and its differences.
Yes, and it’s one of Lena Klar’s distinct advantages. I’ve been looking for the rare pearls for over a year!
I worked with several seamstresses to make the prototypes, but I was not totally satisfied with the result. My expectations were high and I had to combine my desire to offer dresses at reasonable prices while demanding impeccable quality, and find local seamstresses that i would pay a fair salary. I’m so glad i found the best ones in town that combines a work of great care with an ethical approach for its workers.It makes sense with the philosophy i wish to communiate!
They are the leftovers fabrics from major fashion houses that produced more than they needed. The textile industry is extremely wasteful and only 1% of the fabrics produced and used to make clothing are recycled, the surplus ending up in landfills.
There is therefore a colossal amount of very nice fabrics available to make very beautiful clothes. It is a viable solution and far less polluting than recycling. It is also very fun to go in search of the hidden treasure at my supplier’s stores to create unique dresses!
I start by designing a dress with some quick sketches. I can be inspired by an ancient dress, a picture in a book, a movie scene, a music, a smell… Then I show my sketches to my dressmaker, we discuss the technical constraints, and then I redesign the final dress.
Then my dressmaker comes in. She makes the pattern and the canvas prototype, then I validate the pattern. While she brings the necessary touch-ups I go to look for upcycling fabrics that will be suitable for making the said dress.
I go to my various suppliers and I have all the fabrics identified set aside.
Afterwards, I look for accessories adapted to each piece (buttons, zippers, etc.) A final prototype is made in a chosen fabric, with all finishes.
Each dress ordered is sent in a box engraved (by my husband!).
It’s an exciting and extremely rewarding team effort.