Our attire is a part of a woman’s identity. Some pieces stay with us for a long period of time. They have character and history. – Inga-Lena
Inga-Lena is the German-born designer behind the fashion brand, INGA-LENA. Based in NYC, she works to create minimalist silhouettes that will show off a woman’s true beauty.
Inga-Lena was recently part of a pop event Marche Maman (at the well-known bakery Maman in NYC’s Soho neighborhood) where she showed her latest collection during New York Fashion Week.
When did you first decide to choose fashion design as a career?
I did my first internship at age 14 with a local fashion designer in my home town and knew immediately that this was going to be my future profession. It was the perfect way to fuse my creativity with practical use. I used any free minute to educate myself, took a design course in Milan during my summer break and sewing classes in the evenings after school. I also started to work as a fashion model which was the best opportunity to find first access to this industry and allowed me to live between Paris, London and Milan all at once. I ended up interrupting my studies for a couple of years in order to do that full-time. It was a very exciting but (believe it or not) also very lonely time. You live on the road. Out of a suitcase. It was back then that I noticed the comforting component of clothing. My clothes were my “home away from home”.
You studied in both Paris and London who was the biggest influence at the start of your career in fashion?
I can’t pick a specific influence. I feel it has always been my environment in general that I absorb and translate. I remember the initial rush that I felt when moving to these buzzing metropolitan places. The energy, the lifestyle, the cultures that collide and contribute to so much diversity and influence that I did not know when growing up.
The opportunity to express yourself via clothing. I have always felt fascinated by the powerful psychology behind a person’s wardrobe. It reveals so much about ourselves.
Yet it also allows us to switch roles and dive into a whole new universe for a day. I experimented with that throughout my twenties. I guess today my dress code has rather stabilized. But that’s possibly because my life has somewhat settled in general. I am sure it’s a similar evolution for most women. In your 30’s you just know who you are and what suits you the best. With my label I am trying to create the kind of clothing that I have found to work the best at all times. They are timeless classics with smart detailing. They are feminine without ever over-revealing. Which is, to me, the key principle for any woman with style.
Is there a person past or present that you consider your ultimate fashion icon?
There are a few women that I never get tired of looking at. That would be Carolyn Bessette or Princess Diana who had such impeccable, timeless style that you can apply to any century. Style means that you are never out of fashion. It means that you don’t chase a particular trend but rather demonstrate who you are by giving it your own identity. I also take a lot of influence from street style. Dutch and Swedish women tend to have an exquisite taste when it comes to dressing.
Do you have a place in New York City that serves as a source of inspiration?
New York is the playground rather than the inspiration. Even though it is a pretty city with its tone in tone colors. I think New York is just an ingredient to success because it gives you a certain energy and positivity that you can’t find anywhere else. People are ambitious and excited for new things.
Other than that I am sometimes trying to escape New York while being in it. I am not good with large crowds anymore. I love my moments of solitude and usually find it on long walks at night. The West Side waterfront is my favorite for that.
How would you describe the style of your brand?
Minimalist design for maximal comfort. I want a woman to feel her best when wearing INGA-LENA. Too many clothes are either restricting or baggy and boring.
It is important that the woman who wears a piece stands out. Clothing should be subtle. If you walk away not thinking about the dress but thinking “gosh she is beautiful” it means that the dressing was on point. I think it’s like that in any other profession. If you really know what you are doing, it looks effortless and easy.
Is there a color palette or fabric that you prefer to work with?
I always work with neutral tones simply because I am such a fan of minimalism. Too much color creates too much noise for the eye. That counts for interior as well. I can turn pretty OCD when it gets to colors at my studio. If I see a blue Evian lid lying on the table while I am working on designs, the blue lid must go. Don’t get me stared on flashy cleaning supplies. I focus much better in a visually “clean” environment. And I strongly believe that we have more impactful social encounters as well if we apply that principle to our wardrobe.
Fabric-wise I chose to limit myself to cottons and silks starting out. It makes it easier for the process to give yourself some limitations. Also because I am very committed to sustainable aka resourceful processing. If I can use the same fabric over and over again, waste can be avoided.
Was there a piece or pieces from the current collection that you enjoyed creating the most?
I think the true joy happens when seeing a piece on other people. At first it’s all in your head until you see a style in 3D and in life. That’s always the exciting moment. It makes me infinitely happy when women return their thankful comments and photos after spending a great time in their INGA-LENA style.
That’s my ultimate motivation. The stories that happen once I send my garments out on their own little journey.
What is a typical day in the studio like?
I work from my studio downtown where I spend most of my life. There never is such thing as a typical routine. Every day has different priorities. That can be the promotion of an upcoming event, e-mail correspondence, pattern making, technical designs, errands in the garment district, coordination of photoshoots or other partnerships, meetings. The list is literally endless. I can not live without an agenda anymore and run a strict schedule for myself, indicating in advance how much time I can spend on a specific task. Luckily I genuinely love what I do, so that I never even notice how the days fly by. Usually they are too short though.
INGA-LENA was featured at pop up event at Maman in NYC. What was it like preparing for the event?
It was a conscious decision to team up with Maman. Just a fashion pop-up alone could be a little boring. Merging it with a brunch though, gives it a personal note. People will come and stay for a bit, mingle, catch up. I felt that Maman with its “home away from home” ambience would be the perfect environment for that. I spend a lot of time there myself as it is one of the few places in NYC to spend a quiet moment with a cup of coffee. Despite that I knew Elisa prior to the opening of Maman and am incredibly proud to watch them grow.
Where do you hope to see the INGA-LENA brand in future?
I think in the early stages of any brand you try to get yourself out there through all channels. And you end up sticking to what works best. I won’t make any major predictions here but say that a successful business must always stay dynamic and detect opportunities when they are in front of you. There are my hopes to spend more time outside of New York in the future and spend more time in Europe for personal reasons. But let’s see what the wind brings. My personal life has changed radically so many times. I believe it will be similar with INGA-LENA. I am always good for a surprise. Sometimes I shock myself with my own decisions.
Just follow me on Instagram (@ingalena_) and you will find out!