We caught up with Henriette Lefort, the visionary behind Lefort Sport, a brand known for its commitment to “attire for generations”. We meet her as she sets up her new showroom in St. Moritz.
Raised between Hong Kong, England and Switzerland, Henriette’s multi-cultural upbringing has given her an international outlook and sensitivity. Fascinated by craftsmanship and contemporary art from a young age, she became one of the youngest Associate Directors at Hauser & Wirth at age 23, she now created her own fashion labels, LeFortSport, inspired by the understated elegance of menswear, Henriette shares her philosophy of true simplicity and the universal appeal of Lefort Sport, which welcomes anyone who shares its sense of style, regardless of gender.
IRMA: Lefort Sport is recognized for its slogan “Attire for Generations.” Could you delve deeper into the fundamental values that guide the brand, especially in the context of creating styles that transcend gender boundaries?
HENRIETTE LEFORT: I’ve always been heavily inspired by menswear and the uniformity of it. Especially as a working mother with small children, I want to walk out the door elegant, timeless yet sporty. It needs to be simple. True simplicity is however at its heart complex and layered, as are many constructs in life. We source incredibly beautiful fabrics, buttons, unique finishing using complex artisanal techniques that we want to preserve. This approach has a universality to it. With that in mind, it did not make sense to me to be excluding when it came to gender. Lefort Sport is for anyone that adheres to our philosophy and sense of style, regardless of gender. I try not to make a thing out of it. When I’m with a new client, they are drawn to a specific piece at first, I pull out a size, they love the piece, the questions of whether it’s menswear or women’s wear seems to be an afterthought that pops up because society and industry standards for so long have pushed us to think in this segregated sense.
IRMA: Your designs draw inspiration from various sources. Can you elaborate on the creative process and the specific elements that serve as inspiration for the collections at Lefort Sport?
HENRIETTE LEFORT: From the tobacco tone of a pine needle to the deepest blue of a frozen lake; nature is a voice in my collections. For the beauty of it and to survive in it, with grace and elegance. I live in the Engadin mountains, the landscape is beautiful, but the environment can be harsh. Just like many of my clients, we spent time between the mountains, cities, seaside and country. My aim is to create pieces that seamlessly fit in all these settings. I try to think about functionality as much as possible, as well as technical fabrics, but the winner will always be the aesthetic. My initial inspiration for cuts are often very old jackets from family or friends, it can also be things I see on a Sunday market in Paris, an old ski Parka from my godfather, or something that is a hybrid between multiple pieces
Another part that falls into my creative process is how people carry themselves. I spend quite a bit of time in Paris and one of my favorite things to do is observe people walking. When I see someone and I find they are chic, yes in a way it’s what they’re wearing in combination with a personal allure, but a big part of a coat or a jacket looking good is how it falls and how it moves, or very quickly the other way around. Something can look fantastic on a mannequin, but on a person in motion, it can quickly lose its luster.
IRMA: The Engadin and mountains are pivotal to the brand’s identity. How do these natural features impact the design aesthetics and overall look of Lefort Sport products?
HENRIETTE LEFORT: The Engadin is the mothership of Lefort Sport. The alpine environment here is usually the initial driver in each piece and it’s always the first context in which I imagine creating a piece. Many may think this causes a limitation in the sense that I am focused on winter pieces, but it can be rather warm here in the summer and I love to swim in the local lakes, which has resulted in some swimwear brainstorming.
The roots of the Engadin and my family heritage does play a strong part. My great grand father started making bespoke ski attire with over 30 seamstresses working out of St. Moritz in the 1920s. They were there at the beginning of winter tourism, with him already being the second generation of his family here. Through that, I’ve learned so much from my family about fabrics, cuts, functionally and the evolution of style in the context of sport. But again, the aesthetic and working with beautiful fabrics remains the nucleus of Lefort sport.
The local landscape is the pinnacle of Lefort Sport and my personal colour palette. It starts with the snow tipped mountains, moving into creams, beige, taupes and grey, slipping into autumn with dried pine needles and tobacco brown, moving into forest greens, lake greens, frozen lake blue, it’s what I look at everyday, it’s my design roadmap.
IRMA: Lefort Sport takes pride in manufacturing in Italy and sourcing fabrics from Italy and the UK. In what ways does Switzerland contribute to the brand’s achievements, considering its distinctive role in both the production and design aspects?
HENRIETTE LEFORT: Switzerland has always been a big player when it comes to design, be it from aesthetics to engineering, we are world leaders. We are fundamentally a Swiss brand when it comes to our philosophy and heritage.On the production side, Italy has such a stronghold in terms of high-quality manufacturing. From a business perspective, you get the best of both worlds – an incredibly high-quality product that is scalable, with an artisanal touch. I also try to think local more in the broader sense of our production being very regional, regardless of official boarders. My production is just under 3 hours from my doorstep by car. I don’t have to fly anywhere. It’s closer to me than many other areas in Switzerland, and I think that is what counts.
IRMA: For those eager to explore Lefort Sport, where can they find and purchase your products? Are there specific retail outlets, online platforms, or events where customers can discover and acquire items from your collections?
HENRIETTE LEFORT: I’ve done various trunk shows in St. Moritz and our first one abroad was at Sotheby’s in London, early November last year. We started to look into retailers under a year ago and are currently stocked at Kriemler and the Société d’Alpinisme Modere in St. Moritz, as well as Trunk in Zurich. We do have an online store for those that are not able to access the products in person, www.lefortsport.com. The best is to subscribe through the website so you will always be in the know of what we’re up to next.