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LEO AW19 collection Trance @ Paris Fashion Week
Photography Adam Peter Johnson

The wild, transcendent raves of 00s Goa inspired LĒO’s latest collection

Spiritual enlightenment is so hot for AW19

There’s a high chance that, at some point or another, you’ve found yourself crammed onto a sweaty dancefloor, surrounded by your equally sweaty friends, as waves of euphoria (chemically induced or otherwise) wash over you – arms raised in the air, eyes closed, swaying fervently in time with whatever track happens to be throbbing from the speakers at that given moment.

It’s this trance-like state of bliss, and the dance movement of the same name, which inspired rising Brussels-based label LĒO’s latest collection, Trance (what else were you expecting?). Following on from the brand’s SS19 offering, which featured 90s-style tribal prints, brilliantly garish printed logo tees, and plenty of high-shine snakeskin, AW19 offers more of the same clash of high and low: only this time, with added psychedelia.

“We wanted to continue with this idea of Haute Couture dripping down and eventually becoming ‘trashy’, but this time around, we looked to the Goan trance scene of the early 00s and what was happening there,”  explains Joëlle Laederach, one-third of the creative force behind LĒO. “Everyone was flocking there in search of these spiritual experiences, either through meditative retreats or wild raves, but, at some point, this spirituality was totally commercialised. Our starting point was the trance CD covers of the 90s and 00s, with their garish depictions of Indian Gods, all-seeing eyes, and Hamsas, and how these deeply religious symbols were appropriated and stripped of their meaning – or otherwise given a new meaning entirely.”

Building on their already distinct aesthetic, for AW19 this meant tight mesh tops bearing trippy, psychedelia-tinged motifs, slashed, wide-legged jeans, tiny, beaded bikini tops, and one particularly stand-out suit, made up of a jacket and shorts, emblazoned with flashes of a digitally manipulated sun print.

While there was no field trip to Goa itself to research the collection (though there are plans to visit v soon), Laederach and fellow designer Leonneke Derksen immersed themselves fully in Goan trance – in all senses of the word – by playing it in the studio. “We’d have different albums for different workflows. Bells and chants help with concentration, but there are others that you know help you when you need to work quickly,” explains Derksen. “Jo has these moments when she has to finish something fast so she puts on this hard-style stuff which annoys everyone, but she’s way more productive!”

As in previous seasons, when it came to the label’s latest show, Derksen and Laederach were keen to do something away from the traditional models-walking-down-the-runway format. Instead, they invited small groups to enter an intimate meditation space, perhaps in the hopes of them experiencing their own ‘spiritual awakenings’. “We wanted to go against the chaos of show season and do things a bit differently. I mean, it was right in the middle of Paris Fashion Week, so I doubt there were any transcendent moments – but, you know, at least we tried!” laughs Laederach.