Leyla Piedayesh

Modern Knitting: Lala Berlin

Autumn/Winter Collection 2007/2008, Jumper V-Neck Stripes, Bermudas, Copyright: Lala Berlin/Photograph: Thorsten Heinze

Lala Berlin Spring/Summer Collection 2008, Trousers Marlene, Tank Racerback, Cube New PLO, Copyright: Lala Berlin/Photograph: M. Neugebauer/Brauer Photos

Within a very short time, Leyla Piedayesh has turned knitwear fashions inside out with her Lala Berlin label. Cashmere, baby mohair and silk have not looked this laid-back and luxurious for a long time.
Her sweaters, dresses and scarves do not cling to the body, but gently caress it.

Not so long ago, Leyla Piedayesh was asking at a wool shop how to knit wristbands. That was in 2003, when she had just resigned from her job as an editor at the music station MTV. As a result, she not only had enough time to stroll across the flea market where she spotted the wristbands, but also to knit some herself.

In the beginning was the hand sleeve
Then she went on to make hand sleeves in magenta, orange and pink. The first pair were a disaster from the point of view of knitting techniques, but the second pair were already quite passable, and when her friends asked her to make them hand sleeves like that too, she quickly got into the routine. Make it into a business! Her friends were urging her again. Back in the eighties, Leyla Piedayesch, who was born in 1970, made fluffy sweaters in oversize formats using big knitting needles. They were very much in vogue at the time. "But knitting was not my forte back then", she says. "I just managed to make a sleeveless pullover with a boat neckline." Now supermodel Claudia Schiffer and actress Muriel Baumeister wear her creations. In just four years, she has made it into the stars' wardrobes with her label Lala Berlin - Lala is Leyla's nickname.

Leyla Piedayesh is a woman with a warm, dark voice, a dry sense of humour, plenty of self-confidence, little fear of new things and a talent for learning incredibly fast. A native of Tehran who grew up in Wiesbaden and came via Munich to Berlin, she initially studied business administration. That makes fashion design her third career after being a TV editor. She had already acquired an eye for colours and the feeling for wool quality as a teenager. All she needed to do was to learn to knit, and she got specialists in to help her with that.

Everyday luxury
The world of knitting is relatively small and manageable. Trade fairs for yarns are small in comparison with fabric fairs. You do not need to do any cutting, but instead, size measurement tables are used. And luckily there are still accomplished hand knitters in Berlin who make handcrafted machine knitwear. Leyla Piedayesh designed the garments and the hand knitters made her creations a reality. And success was not long in coming. When she presented her label at the Premium fashion fair in 2004, she gained her first customers, including two large purchasers from Japan.
Lala Berlin Lala Berlin Spring/Summer Collection 2008, Copyright: Lala Berlin

Lala Berlin Lala Berlin Spring/Summer Collection 2008, Skirt, Tank Racerback, Blouson Copyright: Lala Berlin, /Photograph: M. Neugebauer/Brauer Photos

Autumn/Winter Collection 2007/2008, Dress Polly, Copyright: Lala Berlin/Photograph: Thorsten Heinze

Copyright: Lala Berlin

Today, Lala Berlin is to be found in 60 shops in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea as well as in the USA. The label employs seven permanent members of staff, and the Lala Berlin label has its own shop in Berlin Mitte, the city's fashion district. When you go in at noon, you already see plenty of customers not just looking, but buying. The garments really are seductive, though. You slip a sweater over your head and it feels like a second skin. The garments are light and warm, top quality, yet extremely casual on account of their subdued colours and large sizes. Lala Berlin is everyday luxury that you do not want to take off again once you have slipped into one of the cashmere, merino, superkid mohair, silk, cotton or linen creations.

"I always try to get top quality yarns", says Leyla Piedayesh. And she likes to experiment with state-of-the-art technology. The designer has already worked with bamboo yarns, and in her current collection she uses a soybean-cashmere blend. And of course, hers is a modern interpretation of knitting. You will definitely not find such old hats as plait, jacquard or Norwegian patterns on a Lala Berlin sweater.

Knitwear for all seasons
Instead, her hooded jackets, capes, dresses, shirts and sweaters are always accompanied by a line of accessories, particularly scarves and hats prominently featuring a printed motif. In the summer, the motif was skulls, and in the current autumn and winter collection, the main theme is the Orient, with carpet patterns and peacock feathers. And next spring and summer there will be a bold chain pattern, contrasting with delicate motifs such as birds and feathers. The designer is having these printed on fabric as gauzy as handkerchiefs.

The prints will also be on silk or cotton fabric dresses, shirts and blouses at Leyla Piedayesh next spring and summer, an additional element alongside the knitwear collection. However, that does not mean that knitwear is uninteresting for the warmer months: "When it gets cool on summer evenings, gossamery cashmere or silk knitwear is perfect. It is gentle, permeable to air and provides the warmth you need." What Lala Berlin makes out of wool is not oversized hot-water bottles, but gossamery luxury.

Lala Berlin Boutique in Berlin, Copyright: Lala Berlin

Leyla Piedayesh, Copyright: Lala Berlin

Stefanie Dörre
is an editor at the Berlin city magazine tip.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e.V., Online-Redaktion

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