The coolest thing about being part of the preparations for Lenny’s 20-year retrospective collection at Fashion Rio is that we really get to see the creative process unfold, with all the excitement, the challenges and the hesitations. It’s like getting a glimpse into the mind of an artist, and seeing how her thoughts take shape, how she overcomes the obstacles and translates her ideas into a collection.
In the weeks leading up to the show, we see her creative genius at work at the fitting sessions. As she critically reviews each piece, she doesn’t hesitate to rework a design from scratch. In other cases, she tweaks just a tiny detail that makes all the difference.
But when we meet Lenny for lunch a few weeks later she seems preoccupied. “I decided to do something different this year,” she says. “Instead of going to the Pier Maua where most of Fashion Rio takes place, I am staging a catwalk on the Lagoa.”
The Lagoa is a lake on the edge of Ipanema with beautiful views of Rio’s famous Corcovado Mountain with its iconic Christ statue. It’s an amazing setting for a catwalk – especially for Lenny’s designs, which are often inspired by nature.
“I decided to use only natural materials to build the catwalk, the audience seating and the after-party venue – but construction is taking much longer than I expected,” she says with a sigh.
“And then there’s the collection: it consists of 40 styles, and I’m still looking for inspiration for the last style.” She gazes into the distance. “Actually,” she says as she turns to us with a little smile, “there was something I wanted to ask you: remember that book you gave me?”
Last time we saw Lenny we gave her a copy of our latest CoolTravel book, for which we travelled around the Middle East and Africa.
“When you were in Tanzania, in Dar es Salaam, you took a photo of a painting of fish swimming in concentric circles,” she says. “I love that image. It’s like the flow of life.”
“You mean the tinga tinga artwork! It’s made with bicycle paint – that’s why it’s so shiny and vibrant. We actually liked that painting so much that we bought it.”
“Do you think I could use it for the collection?” “Of course – next time we go to Tanzania we’ll visit the artist to pay him the royalties,” I say jokingly.
A few weeks later we’re back in Rio, heading to Lenny’s atelier. It’s D-Day: tonight her new collection will be launched on the Lagoa catwalk, followed by a dazzling after-party.
As soon as we enter the building we are caught up in a flurry of activity: assistants whizz back and forth with phones glued to their ears, models are trying on bikinis and beachwear, and stylists are making last-minute adjustments. In the design studio, the head of PR is telling journalists about the new collection, while staff carry large parcels towards the entrance, ready for transport to the venue.
In the midst of this whirlwind, Lenny is calmly sitting on the sofa in her office sipping a cafezinho. “Hey guys,” she says with a relaxed smile. “Everything under control?” Anouk asks hesitantly. “Ready as can be,” she says with a twinkle of excitement in her eyes. “The catwalk is floating on the lake, against a backdrop of city lights reflecting in the Lagoa. You’ll see – it’s fabulous.”
She describes the party venue, built entirely of sustainable materials, decorated with fresh flowers, with a rotating dance floor, two bars – one for Absolut, one for champagne… “We even planted some extra palm trees to give something back to the community.” We’re starting to get excited – she’s even hired Brazil’s best DJ!
“Before you go,” she says as she gets up, “I have something to show you. Come with me.” We follow her into the design studio where the collection is on display. “Recognise this?” she points at a silk chemise. It’s the tinga tinga design! Lenny has interpreted the image of the swimming fish and created a whole style around it. “It’s beautiful!” Anouk exclaims. So this is how ideas travel and inspiration makes the world go round – from the outskirts of Dar es Salaam to Amsterdam, into a book, and onto a Rio de Janeiro catwalk…
When I ask Lenny how the evening is going to unfold, her eyes light up with anticipation. “For me the evening will start with interviews at the Lagoa – I love this moment just before the catwalk. There will be a great buzz and lots of running around – models getting dressed, doing their make-up. The girls know each other so it’s almost like a get-together, with lots of giggling and joking around – it’s lovely to watch… And then it will be show time!” she says with a laugh.
A couple of hours later, the cream of Rio has gathered at the Lagoa venue. Everyone who is anyone on the Rio scene is here, not only to see Lenny’s new creations but also to be seen and mix with the celebrities and models. The catwalk starts, creating a huge impact on the audience, beautiful models, cool, energetic music and at the end a sparkling Lenny. The after-party kicks off with a spectacular firework display over the Lagoa. Champagne is flowing, the DJ is working his turntables and Brazil’s jet set is gearing up for an unforgettable party.
We push through the crowds, past the dance floor and the lounge area, in search of Lenny. We find her in the garden beside the venue with a group of friends. “It was so amazing!” Anouk congratulates her. “The catwalk, the models, the music – it was just perfect!” Lenny is radiant – proud of her team, pleased with her new collection, and now enjoying every moment of this celebration.
“I have something for you!” She rummages in her bag and brings out a small white box with a black ribbon, which she gives to Anouk. It’s a bikini with the tinga tinga swimming fish print. “Wow Lenny, this is great! Thank you so much!” “No – thank you for giving me your book and inspiring me. And thanks to the artist as well obviously,” she says with a smile. “I’ve named the line ‘Anouk’.”
“Now that is really cool,” Anouk says, “having a bikini line named after me! Lenny certainly does know how to make a girl feel special.”
© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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