Frank Leder

Reinterpreting German heritage for the global dandy

What kind of a jacket can go from Berlin to Tokyo to Berlin and then back to Tokyo, via London and New York? A Frank Leder jacket, of course. In this case, his iconic Deutschleder Blazer.

It was spotted on Omotesando, Tokyo’s hottest fashion and design district, by Sibylle’s good friend and mentor, Masahiro Ouchi, himself a design aficionado and tai chi master, amongst others. Told that the jacket was by none other than German designer, Frank Leder, long a coveted name among Japan’s fashionistas with a hankering for old world verve, Masahiro was thrilled. By fortune, his autumn itinerary from Tokyo to NYC also included a stop in Hamburg—which is, of course, just an hour and a half by high-speed train to the German capital.

So Masahiro and Sibylle planned a day trip to Berlin featuring a visit to Frank Leder’s headquarters on West Berlin’s illustrious Kantstrasse, a mini-Chinatown with a scruffy mélange of Asian restaurants, Bonsai shops, and Chinese trinkets.

2. Stock

Ring a bell, scale two flights of stairs, and step inside the nineteenth century Berlin Altbau apartment that serves as Frank Leder’s headquarters. “2. Stock” (Eng: 2nd Floor) is a showroom and a shop, an art, fashion, and design studio, and a cabinet of curiosities, rolled into one.

Not only can you peruse Frank Leder’s latest collections here, you also become privy to a world of inspiration and experimentation. There are contemporary artworks and antique books, tools, and utensils. A neatly folded, charred shirt emerges from the old coal stove, baked in a salt crust; for another project, shirts were baked into bread. The skeleton of a wooden boat hangs high from the wall, a reminder of one season’s fisherman theme. Sunlight is diffused through jars and jars of preserved fruits stacked against the window. In the company of myriad vintage buttons are some new ones for the current collection, fashioned from Binchotan Japanese charcoal, fusing the material’s strength, finesse, and purifying properties with the culture surrounding Germany’s coal industry.

Frank started developing his brand while still a student in London at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He found his niche by delving into his Bavarian heritage and set off to convey a sense of Germanness in his work. Often built around themes of German culture and history, his high-end garments for men and women make reference to workwear and classical men’s tailoring while ensuring modern appeal with excellent craftsmanship, contemporary cuts, and choice fabrics.

Deutschleder, a heavy leather-like cotton used for traditional carpenters’ garb, and thick Tyrolean Schladminger wool are two of his staples. An upcoming collection will highlight specific cuts and materials from various Germanic regions, such as the use of Blaudruck (lit. “blue print”), an old Austrian technique for indigo-resist dyed cotton fabric, sourced from one of the last workshops of its kind in Europe.

With production entirely in Germany, the proximity and ability to communicate in his native language enable Frank to guarantee a high level of quality—along with the limited editions and distribution channels. Growing the brand according to his own pace, he focuses sales on a small selection of shops worldwide, with his largest client base in Japan.

Creativity unleashed knows no bounds, and Frank has also designed objects and interiors, art directed, and taught. Conceptual collaborations have taken the brand in new directions, such as a line of rucksacks made with Seil Marschall in Frank’s favorite fabrics and combined with naturally tanned Bavarian deerskin. Each backpack comes equipped with a handpicked vintage outdoor accessory, such as a map, pocket light, water bottle, or wool blanket. Another project in development is modeled on an antique military officer’s trunk. The handcrafted wooden wardrobe is made to order and filled with a complete Frank Leder outfit in the customer’s size, and a grooming kit.

The last few years have also seen the exploration of another medium entirely: a line of artisanal body care called “Tradition,” composed from organic, regionally sourced ingredients. Here, too, the narrative is present, from the German oak bath gel and wheat beer shampoo to soap infused with spices used by German butchers to flavor their sausages.

Available at various boutiques and online shops such as MDC Cosmetics and the Gestalten concept store, the aromatic apothecary range comes in medicinal bottles with Bakelite screw caps, old German lettering, and nostalgic illustrations. These, too, embody the designer’s wellspring of creativity: simultaneously forward thinking and firmly rooted in the past.

Photos: Alisa Kotmair, Masahiro Ouchi


Frank Leder Store
2. Stock
Kantstr. 139, 10623 Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany
Open Monday to Friday, 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., or by appointment
+49 (0)30 69567548