Checks Downtown Catch Up With Leo Pagani Of Leo Leo
Tell us a bit about your background, what inspired you to start Leo Leo?
I started Leo Leo for a few reasons, the first being to serve as a creative outlet for my graphics and illustrations. Creating a clothing line made it possible for my designs to be shared with the world. The idea of seeing a stranger walking past me in an item I'd created really excited me
The other main reason was my love for clothing in general. If you know me, you know how much I love my tees. My t-shirt collection has grown significantly over the years and is very special to me. I wanted to add my own designs into this collection as well as create things I wanted to see in the streetwear scene. I found myself looking for garments that weren’t currently in the market or wanting to edit the styles out there so I began mocking up pieces of my own.
The name, Leo Leo, often gets a reaction from our customers – whether it relates to the star sign or a customer/friends name. Can you explain the origin, and was this double meaning a consideration in the name?
I came up with the name ‘Leo Leo’ because my first name is Leo. I create and print all of the designs myself, so it seemed fitting that the brand name be an extension of my own. It has no relation to the star sign, but shout out to all the Leos out there! I did consider that people may relate to the brand if they are a Leo (star sign) or named Leo, but this didn’t have an impact on the brand name – it’s just an added bonus.
Originally I had another name for Leo Leo, but I have decided to keep that for another project I am working on.
What was your introduction in to clothing and streetwear?
I’ve been around the clothing industry all my life through my Dad, so I guess that’s where I was first introduced to fashion. From there I wanted to create my own style, so streetwear really came into play then. I found clothing to be a great outlet to express my individuality and set myself apart from the mainstream fashion scene. Streetwear is a huge passion of mine and my friends constantly help inspire my collections. You will often see them in my imagery, they are such a big support to Leo Leo so shout out to ‘The Slimmest’.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating a range for Leo Leo, from creating the artwork to a finished product.
Currently I work on seasonal based ranges, so I like to look at colours and garment styles before I do anything. From there I start creating the artwork for each piece. I like to look at vintage designs for illustration inspiration. Sometimes the artwork used could be an idea from another season which didn’t make the cut, or it could be completely new.
I then create a sample, if it’s a screen print design I play around with colours and positioning in my studio. That's where my best work happens, it’s a great creative space for me to work in and put my ideas through a trial and error process. When it comes to finalising my designs, my girlfriend also works in fashion so she often helps to add the final touches to each product.
What are some of the inspirations behind your designs?
A lot of my designs and illustrations feature references to 80’s and 90’s culture. Whether it’s movies, music or architecture, the design style of that era is something I admire and try to emulate in my own work. I like creating graphics that are simple, clean and playful at the same time while also throwing in a New Zealand reference every now and again to represent.
What were your aspirations behind starting a New Zealand based streetwear label? Is it as simple as creative expression or is there a more layered intention?
Apart from it being a creative outlet for my illustrations, my aspiration was to create a clothing line that was unique and bold in the New Zealand market. I had the idea of starting the label when I was in high school but never got the time to pursue it until after uni. I wanted it to look like an international label with a local touch, something that I would personally wear basically. I find a lot of the local streetwear brands don’t compete with the big international names and I saw a gap in the market to fill this.
Any big plans you can tell us about?
I am currently working on the summer 18 release which is exciting. It will be a capsule collection which stems from an early idea that I had in 2015, it's a very special design that I worked on in 2015 before the label started. It was my first ever design that I screen-printed and up until now there has only been one made which my friends have all had their fair share of wearing.
I also have started working on plans for a pop up shop so stay tuned for that!
Interview by Checks Downtown
Photos by Matt Choi