Designer Profile: Leo Joseph
Going in a new direction in life is never easy, especially when the new path you decide to follow is completely unknown to you, or, even more dauntingly, you’re on your own in your new pursuit. But for some people, a new purpose in life is an escape from one that never truly satisfied them.
One of those people is designer Leo Joseph, who decided to leave his insurance job in the City of London behind to create a new accessory brand bearing his name. Through his online shop, which launched in January of this year, Joseph currently sells handmade leather accessories and, most prominently, pocket squares with colourful and original African-themed animal prints.
Joseph decided to start his own business after living in Cape Town and then working in the City for a year. He negotiated deals on the phone and visited factories in London during his lunch breaks while maintaining his office job for another year and a half. Last spring Joseph eventually decided to focus exclusively on his design career.
“I knew [working in insurance] wasn’t for me from the outset. I always wanted my own thing, but I needed a job,” says Joseph. “I thought I’ve got to put a colourful spin on what I’m seeing around me. I paid attention to what was out there and was struck by the lack of creativity. That’s when I decided that the pocket squares were the platform for me to start with in my own unique way.”
Creating prints for pocket squares is a perfect opportunity for Joseph to put his eye for design to good use. It offers a great deal of creative freedom and requires very little technical knowledge on his part.
Joseph doesn’t have an educational background in fashion or design, which is by no means something he regrets: “It took doing other things to eventually narrow it down to what it is I really enjoy. I’m just a guy who believes he can create something without having to have that training, because ultimately it’s about having an eye for something and creating things for others to enjoy.”
Joseph’s love for South Africa was the inspiration for his first collection of pocket squares bearing animal prints in colours that are far away from what’s traditionally considered “African.”
“I love wildlife, I love South Africa. It holds a very personal touch to me. What I’m doing is present my own take on it,” he says. “It’s a colourful place in terms of clothes that are worn. That comes down to the way people feel and their lifestyle. It’s all had an impact on me and my designs. I want my products to be colourful and make you feel brighter and chirpier when you wear them. It’s important to add personality to what you do as a designer.”
Joseph recently travelled to South Africa to capture the country’s spirit in images for his website – by himself, of course – a reassuring experience for him. “It wasn’t so much being in a certain scenery,” he says, “It was the ‘I can do this on my own’ feeling. It just seemed to come together and it’s allowed me to really believe in the direction of the label, the theme, the wildlife. I went on safari and it just boosted all my passions.”
Determined to bring his vision to life, Joseph created his designs and his website all by himself and has just recently started seeking assistance with PR and other aspects of running a successful fashion business. The fact that he has worked on his own for so long doesn’t mean that he is not open to other people’s opinion, though.
“I’m still in a soft-launch phase of taking on everyone’s feedback,” Joseph explains, “Being able to give people what they want is what I’m trying to do. My work makes me happy, but I’ve got to develop other things to cater for a bigger market. Buyers are so important to new labels and inherently they want to see more diversity in the range, which is exactly what I’m working on now. You can’t not listen to what the market is telling you. I’m constantly learning and I think I will for every day going forth. No-one gets it right from the start.”
A result of Joseph’s consideration for his market’s demand will be a new range of pocket squares, one-of-a-kind leather wallets and women’s scarves, to be released this summer. Definitely a reason to look forward to warmer days!
Words: Arndt StobbaJump to comments