We sat down with Leda during the thick of London Fashion Week and we chatted all things travel, business and fashion. Born in south Italy and based in New York, her colourful pieces from her line are modern, fun and embrace femininity in all its forms. We asked her a few questions about her workstyle, her life and what it’s truly been like to build her transatlantic fashion line, Leda di Marti, from the ground up.
What did you do before starting your own business?
I suppose I will disappoint you: it is not a very interesting story! I have always worked in fashion since I was at school, as soon as I could work as backstage I was a helper at the fashion shows during AltaRomaAltaModa in Rome. I was studying at high school in Rome at the time. It was so exciting back then, now I am so used to it, I sometimes forget where I started from.
What drove you to start your own business?
This business is a passion, and passion is the answer. Fashion makes you pass by very hard times, the up and downs, the difficulties and challenges. All of this empowers me everyday and I am quite sure I will never give up now. I am stronger than I seem.
How did you make your start in the industry?
At the very beginning, many years ago I began by designing high fashion for friends and connections. These people in turn introduced me to others and the business and customer relationships developed in a very natural and easy way. The first city I started my business was London, and I have to say that London is a very welcoming city, where the ‘Made In Italy’ label was very much appreciated. Customers started trusting me and believing in my brand and my style.
“Now I have learned it is impossible to make everyone happy, so I focus on being myself.”
—Leda di Marti
What challenges did you face when getting started and how did you overcome them?
Store tastes and opinions! In ready to wear, the clients are boutiques and stores, not final users, and their opinions sometimes give you a hard time because they change so fast, and you must be on trend, but be unique and recognisable. Now I have learned it is impossible to make everyone happy, so I focus on being myself.
How do you manage your workload?
I am very well organised, in fact I am because I own a Filofax and it is my only salvation. I put a reward on the first page of my agenda, so that if it were ever to get lost I hope someone would return it to me. It is the only secure place where I find all the information I need to work.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
I am quite sure I don't have it! I do work always, and that’s because my work is my life. Honestly I couldn’t be happier to know that I can wake up and do exactly what I want which is my passion.
What’s your morning routine? How do you start the day?
I wake up at 6am, do one hour of warm up exercises, shower, and have a very light breakfast usually fruits and a cup of tea. I start the day at 9am when my personal assistant comes to the showroom and we plan the day ahead.
Who’s your favourite designer?
I will say Delpozo is my favorite right now because the brand never loses the real identity of Jesùs Del Pozo. He still lives in any one of the amazing creations.
What’s on your nightstand?
Ohh what a very tricky question! I wish I could say something very "fashion": the most recent Vogue magazine and red nail polish; but the only things I have are a bottle of water and a biography book about some long dead queen or king. The one I am reading now is Elisabeth I by Carolly Erickson. Very interesting story, I am loving it!
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
If I feel like I want to be alone; I do love to watch a movie eating stracciatella gelato; I also design some new patterns (the best ideas comes during night sessions! In Milano, If I want to be with friends, I would go out for an aperitivo, talking about all and beyond, with a very close girlfriend of mine. I also love to walk in Milano center close to the Castello Sforzesco. Talking to people is the best way to get major suggestions, so I really value the time spent among new friends, some much good advice can come from people don't know me or the brand too much.
In NYC I would go to some amazing rooftop, enjoying the view and feeling inspired, in NYC is quite easy to have make new friends.
“My collection is very flexible, since I design clothes for modern women who lead busy lives.”
- Leda di Marti
Describe your work uniform?
Leda Di Marti collection is my uniform!
It is very empowering wearing your own design. It makes me feel great everyday, and is perfect for any situation from work to weekend. I prefer shorts if I am staying in the showroom to be more comfortable, and a t-shirt. I’d choose a dress for meetings or events during the day and evening, or if some representative of one of our suppliers is coming to visit us to show their last collection. My collection is very flexible, since I design clothes for modern women who lead busy lives.
What does a day in your life look like?
I do design almost all day, visit my factory in Milano and paint my patterns; I often have lunch with some clients; I talk to my communication office and we decide the strategy for some particular event coming next, I usually ask my PR office opinion for some new project we may do or not. My day officially starts at 9am and ends up at 7pm, but I keep working until all the urgent work is done. Sometimes my assistant stays with me.
What is the best part of being your own boss?
You can manage the time as you wish, but honestly it makes you work more. I love it this way, it's my own business, and so it is important to me to be always punctual and an example for my employees. If you are not the first one to make sacrifices, will they?
What / who inspires you?
My ideal beauty is a young Claudia Cardinale, fresh face, happy smile, spontaneous attitude, but still elegant in every move.
The one business or lifestyle app you can’t live without?
It has to be the Business of Fashion website. I am quite addicted to it. Their daily round up of the fashion industry and news about the economics of the fashion industry is the kind of news I look for every morning I wake up.
Describe your office space.
The first thing you will notice is that LDM showroom is ALL white! I love how pure and clean and modern it looks. It is very light and airy, as we are on the 4th floor of our office in Milano.
The second colour you will notice is probably green. I don't have the green-fingers (in Italian there is an expression ‘pollice verde’, which means you are very good with plants), but our workplace is definitely full of Potus, Kenzie, Edere, in the inside and also outside, in our terrace. We always organize our season party in the showroom and it is always a very great success. I must say that what I love more about our events is that everyone feels like home, they talk, sit on the sofa, very comfortable, I just love it!
The one thing you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I had known that Milano was a must to exist as Made in Italy brand. I opened the showroom in Milano quite late, because the majority of my business contacts were in NYC. It was hard to start again to create working relationships and brand new web of networks and contacts in MIlano.
What is your go to method for de-stressing?
I should say in a very chic way that I take a lot of massages in my personal spa, but the truth is that I don't like to receive massages! I do prefer to work out at night and then a shower. It makes me feel so good, I can go to bed reading a book; or go out with some friend for a late drink.
What is your favourite travel destination?
Recently I am enjoying Middle East so much! I have been in Jordan and adored every moment of it: Wadi Rum, the contact with the deep desert, Dead Sea, feeling so powerless and light; the ancient beauty of Petra, climbing some rock to go to the top and take amazing pictures! This is an adventure and relaxing vacation. The best times of my life when I travel is that at the moment (because of my work), I have so many friends all over the world, that everywhere I go I will stay over with some of them, and I will enjoy the city living, you see the real life and never feel like a tourist. I can't be more grateful; it is a very good sensation to always feel welcomed by new and old friends.
What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to get lost in whichever city I am in at that moment, so I love to walk, you can't image how much information you can get from the behaviour of random people in the street. I absolutely love to take pictures of people sitting in a very nice position, or of smiley faces. I still remember seeing a little girl sitting on our boat, during a trip around the city of Porto in Portogallo. She was seated like a mermaid. and I still have this beautiful picture of her. Some spontaneous poses really inspire me.
The best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don't listen to everyone, follow your instinct. I should do it more often actually.
What is your essential business book?
My essential is MODEM! It is also online, of course. I can't live without it for my job, it is like the bible for showroom, sales representative, press office all over the world. There are only two editions/year. So useful!
Where do you live / what’s your home like - what do you love most about it?
My home is New York. I have a small apartment in midtown in Manhattan, very modern, the furniture is all white, like the showroom I have in Milano. It is a very clean and peaceful place. I can relax and be very productive there: it is my happy place. I love that it makes me feel so protected, mostly because New York is that kind of city where it is very easy to disappear if you don't want to be found. It is also a very lonely city, where you can feel alone among thousand of people. That is the best part of it: everyone can live here because New York has every kind of person, from habits, to races, tastes, and you can find something to do anytime, anywhere. Freedom is the key.