LEYLA PIEDAYESH - Founder & Creative Director of lala Berlin

Meet Leyla

A conversation with Leyla Piedayesh, Founder and Creative Director of lala Berlin. She embodies the international essence of lala Berlin. The brand is informed and inspired by rich cultural diversity, drawing inspiration from Berlin and beyond.

Born in Iran, Leyla and her family immigrated to Germany in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution. Piedayesh founded lala Berlin in 2004. Before Leyla set up her label “lala Berlin” she worked at MTV as an editor. Her fashion allows her to speak out. She is a dreamer with both feet on the ground. Read more below about her journey to her eventful career.

Dear Leyla, please tell me about how you got your career started and how you ended up where you are today.

Studying International Business Management was the first step in my career journey, I then developed a career in journalism which almost drove me crazy as it demanded a lot from me. After several years working in television, I was exhausted and decided to take a break from the professional work world.

During this time, on a walk-in Berlins Mauer Park flea market I stumbled across hand-knitted wrist warmers. Inspired and unaware of the impact it would have on my life, I started knitting, and that’s where it all began.

I didn't go to fashion school, and couldn't do technical drawings, but that didn’t me. I have ideas and taste. I had some foundational knowledge of business from my studies and other management work experience. I needed to know about financing, business plans, and profitability, so I learned. I had the perfect combination of curiosity, drive, and experience, and thought what do I have to lose?

I drew inspiration from all areas of my life, particularly my heritage and various cultural influences from my past and present surroundings, which is very visible in the lala designs. Middle Eastern culture and my Iranian heritage, inspiring some of the key prints, blended international influences, together with styles and cuts that are quintessentially Berlin.

What motto do you live by?

Live life in the present moment. I don't mull over the past, and I don't lose any sleep over the future. I try to live in the here and now.

Can you tell me a bit more of what your childhood looked like? Did you see yourself when you were younger doing what you’re doing now in life?

I left Iran when I was nine years old. I feel blessed to have immigrated at this age, in the sense I had the opportunity to be shaped by two very different cultures at a young age which is giving me a priceless perceptive of the world.

I transitioned into Germany well, I made friends and found joy in learning a new language and discovering a new world. My parents wanted me to establish a career in business, which I tried for some time: my bachelor’s degree in international business management. But it just wasn’t part of my greater life path, it wasn’t me. I think my younger self would be proud of my journey, who I’ve become, and what I have contributed.  I’ve always been true to myself and that’s what most important.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs? What does your creative process look like?

I am inspired by everyday life, from my surroundings to the people I surround myself with, but especially my daughter Lou! And without a doubt my truly amazing team of creative and unique minds. Social Media plays a big role in my creative process as well, that’s where I get real-time, unfiltered feedback.

Who do you look up to?

My daughter Lou. She is 13 going on 14 and I love witnessing her transition from a child to a young woman. Seeing her perspective of the world blossom as she navigates through it. I also learn a lot through her about myself. I’m learning to understand and make the best of it. Learning to let go of fears and trust that the universe only wants the best for her.

What is the best advice you can give to young entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?

Courage and confidence are two major components. Yes, talent and passion are important but if you don’t have courage or self-belief, you don’t move forward. If you don’t believe in yourself why should anyone else? Also, you must not be afraid to take chances or to make mistakes, rather than allow them to set you back, learn and grow from them. Failure and success go hand in hand.

There have been a lot of new changes and challenges in the last 2 years. Do you think this time has encouraged the world to be more thoughtful in terms of what they purchase and how they shop, and do you think that will continue going forward?

Yes, I believe the pace of things has slowed down. It may not last for long, I hope it does but in the meantime life has shifted to a slower pace. People are more aware of what they consume and the impact it has on others and the world. I believe our society has realized they don’t need to consume so much, and companies are feeling the pressure to find alternative ways with more responsibility. Especially the fashion industry by producing less and focusing more on better quality and better use of resources.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Always practice self-awareness.

Don’t take life too serious.

Don't hesitate and compare yourself with others and most important believe in yourself and your talents.

How do you deal with stress that comes with entrepreneurship?

The rapid growth of the company at some point overwhelmed me. I felt a lot of pressure due to high expectations coming from all areas of my life, professional and private. When I felt like I was losing a grip on things, I know I had to do some introspection. And ask why this is happening, what do I need to learn from these experiences? That was an enormous help in reestablishing balance and order in my life. I knew I had to slow down and rely on those around me for support. Often as entrepreneurs, we feel like to have to do everything ourselves. But this isn’t sustainable for the person or the business. So, I have learned to let go and put trust in my team.

You mentioned that sustainability is important to you and the brand, could you tell us a bit more about this process?

It’s not only a process, it’s a mindset. Sustainability has become an essential part of our core values. We are continuously working to integrate sustainable practices in all departments of lala Berlin. E.g. how to work with employees and their capacities should be sustaining on a long term instead of forcing and pushing it should be releasing and breathing. This is a big and important venture; thus, we have partnered with external specialists to help effectively guide us on the mission. We’ve set ourselves a 3-year plan to become a truly environmentally friendly company.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how comfortable are you with yourself and what kind of journey has this been for you to feel this way?

After 51 years I am reaching the top floor! I’d say a comfortable 8. I’m pretty accepting of who I am. It took me a long time as I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my life and have learned a lot about myself. One of the wisest lessons is to be kind to myself and embrace every part of myself.

What does comfortable mean to you?

To be yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin. To express yourself freely without fear or what others think about you.

Do you have personal goals that you can share for 2022?

Meditate more. I’d love to meditate for four hours at some point. Perhaps this year I’ll aim for an hour a day!

What would someone never guess about you?

That I practice spirituality and seek to live a more spiritual life day by day. As I mentioned earlier there was a point in my life when things were becoming destructive, and that I knew I had to make a change. This was the point where self-love and self-healing entered my life, I started meditating, and listening to spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle, to learn to live a more peaceful life of enjoyment and gratitude.

Could you please share 5 tips and your learned lessons on how to build your own brand?

·      Be honest and be authentic to what feels right for you.

·      Know yourself and your capacities and find the right partners to fill the gap – no one is perfect in everything.

·      Learn to let go and trust the people around you.

·      Accept that others also can make wrong decisions.

·      If you believe in yourself – nothing can hold you back to do what you can do best – and there is always a way of survival- that helped me most of the time

Is there a celebrity you would like to see wearing one of your creations?

Chelsey Weimar – one of the coolest cats from the northern part of Europe!

What are your projects for the future?

Forming an Iranian women’s collective, I want to connect and build with other Iranian women doing amazing things. I think it’s important to celebrate our culture, alongside empowering and supporting one another.

Who is your fashion icon?

Tilda Swinton

As summer is around the corner, what is your best summer beauty tip?  

Hydration, hydration, hydration, aloe vera, cucumber and other cooling natural products that you can use and eat...I use MERME a pure clean-skincare with 100% botanical ingredients from Berlin. Open-toe shoes require pretty feet, so during the warmer months I always treat myself to a pedicure.

What is your top 3 restaurant recommendations in Berlin and where do you go shopping yourself?

Grill Royal is always a good idea – the sleek and tongue-in-cheek interiors make their filet mignon and fries taste even better. Up-And coming spot for Brunch is Lok 6 at Gleispark. Their forever-changing menu always manages to surprise me. Food is something that is supposed to bring people together and share stories and experiences. Which is why cooking is an important part of the integration, all the while still connecting to your roots and keeping traditions alive through a meal. Kreuzberger Himmel is exactly that – a restaurant that is entirely run by refugees, cooking their native Syrian fare.

If you want to explore other food experiences, you can book a private cooking lesson at Dr and Dr - a spectacular and creative Middle Eastern catering by Iranian twin sisters – very recommendable and delicious

I’ve read that you donate part of your income to the "Be an Angel" organization. Could you tell us more about this charity?

Our lala Berlin team wanted to support the brave people of Ukraine, from our employees to the distraught refugees and above all the innocent children. We have launched a PEACE edition of our iconic 100% cashmere solid triangle scarf, that has been hand embroidered with a dove to spread the message of peace and love. All the net proceeds will be donated to the aid organization Be an Angel e.V., an initiative of people from the media, culture, and marketing who are committed to the sustainable integration of refugees. Be an Angel e.V. accommodate refugees as guests in apartments of the association members, providing short-term and long-term housing to those in need.

April 5, 2022