Leda was born in the South of Italy but now lives and works in Milan – and she also has a base in New York where she lived previously working for brands such as Victoria Secrets and Marc Jacobs.
Her label Leda Di Marti is an exciting emerging brand based in Milan, which combines the best Italian craftsmanship with handmade, playful and innovative prints and reasonable price points.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I grew up in the South of Italy and after school I studied fashion and costume at University, in Rome. When I left university I went to live in New York where I worked as a consultant for some world famous brands including Marc Jacobs and Victoria’s Secret. At the same time I ran my own couture label, creating designs for clients for red carpet events. In 2017 I decided to move to Milan and make the leap and launched my own RTW womenswear label – Leda Di Marti. I am passionate about Italian craftsmanship and I use Italian producers in both Milan and Florence to make my collection. All the patterns and prints in each collection are hand designed by me. I always think my life would be so much easier if I was still just a fashion designer working for other brands as I used to do, and sometimes, when things are hard, I regret it, but only for about 5 minutes! I am proud to call myself an entrepreneur now, also I am a Capricorn, and I am stubborn and ambitious. I realized I wanted more than simply to be working for someone else. I wanted to build up something for me and my own future. My label is already stocked in several leading retailers in Milan and throughout Italy and I opened my first showroom in Milan last year.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I never had a set career path, I have always followed my heart and my passions. I am not sure yet now if it is a good thing or not! I do like to think that everything happened quite organically, and I am starting plan ahead and pushing more just now (I am currently presenting my AW19/20 collection to buyers and that’s a very important step for any brand). I am looking for good partners I can work with to make the brand even more successful and to grow in Italy as well as internationally.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Many, many. As I said before, there have been many times, since I moved to Milan, I felt miserable, judged and not welcome. I know that it is part of the game, in any field and fashion is just one of them. If you read any interviews by famous celebrities; from actresses and actors to singers and artists, they all say that at the beginning it was hard (not forgetting it doesn’t necessarily get any easier after the first taste of success!) and no one believed in them. You must find something within you as well as surround yourself with people who will support you and everything will go the right way. I am sure of it, I just have to work hard with my team and wait for my occasion to shine. My philosophy is to truly believe in your dream. Don’t be afraid to fail and rise up – it’s a valuable learning process. Honestly don’t waste time with people who don’t care about your business or do not understand you, they will never be good advisers for you or your company.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
That’s a quite interesting question. I am actually being mentored by an amazing girlfriend and “sister” of the Marisa Bellisario Foundation, I am part of. The Foundation is one of the most important organizations in Italy in terms of its support for the professionalism of women working in the public and private sectors, and the promotion of a culture of gender equality in our society. She is helping me to better approach and understand the people who work with me and who are involved in my business, as her job is informing and helping CEOs at the highest level. I think mentoring is a great way to help one start to focus on priorities, and for me it’s been particularly beneficial learning how to work in team and to believe in others.
What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?
I would love to see more diversity in the work place. Also improved equality between men and women in terms of treatment and also remuneration. There is still a noticeable imbalance in what women are paid compared to men. In Italy, working in the fashion business can sometimes be very difficult for a woman. For example, I recently had a very bad experienced when one of the male pattern makers at the factory I use was very aggressive to me, in a way he would never have been if I was a tall, tough man. He was a big man and I am just a petite 25 year old girl. The next time I went back I took a close male friend of mine for moral support – it helped me feel more protected and this man’s behaviour was so different because I had at least a witness on my side. To me that’s absolutely wrong and must change as no one should be scared to visit a workplace or feel threatened.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
I recently read a very interesting article about the challenges faced by working women today and it made me so conscious that many women do not believe in themselves. So I wish they could increase their belief in themselves. Everyone knows there are many inspirational women leaders in business, but they are not often rewarded. I do also believe that success starts on the inside, and if we women thought that we are more powerful than others think we are, and if our places of work protected us more and supported us we could raise and be stronger together.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’m pleased with the development of my brand so far but I know still the best is to come. I would love to dress up a very strong, powerful woman that will represent my brand worldwide. But I am not talking about a campaign model, I am talking about a role model for others, who inspires me everyday. This is a secret project for now!
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is next fashion week in Milan, I am planning something big! You will read about it! And for the future, I want to keep being happy and satisfied, but mostly happy to wake up and keeping doing what I do. I wish the same for anyone.