When Franz Leitner, founder of Leitner Leinen, began to produce canvas from what is now present-day Stifterstraße, Ulrichsberg, at the foothills of the Bohemian Mountains, little did he know that the drive to produce the best fabrics from local weavers would result in a 170 year legacy of luxury textiles.
Since the middle ages, Austria’s Mühlviertel region has been home to flax farming, largely due to the unfavourable soil conditions that prevented other agriculture. Decades later, during the Renaissance, linen from the region became sought after for its refinement, easily competing with the finest fabrics from France and Belgium. A reputation that has only grown with time.
Today, Leitner Leinen’s intricately designed luxury fabrics are still woven in Ulrichsberg, overseen by the newest generation of the Leitner family. We spoke with Jakob Leitner, Director of Leitner Leinen, about the family legacy and his experiences in the industry.
Please describe your background. How was Leitner Leinen founded and what drew you to the industry?
Our story begins in 1853. The focus on what we do today is deeply influenced by our roots. Today, our company is still based in Ulrichsberg, a small village at the foot of the Bohemian Forest in the very North of Austria. This region is rich in history when it comes to linen and weaving – today, we are not only trying to preserve this history but also transfer it to the present.
How has Leitner Leinen evolved since its inception? What challenges and lessons do you think you’ve learned over this time?
The work of 170 years and 6 generations has brought a lot of challenges and changes. Manufacture nowadays requires constant transformation but in a careful and intuitive manner.
How would you describe Leitner Leinen, its philosophy and products, to people who have never seen them before?
Our production process and design approach with raw materials results in unique products. These characteristics, on one hand, make it unique, and on the other, a niche product that needs to find its clientele.
What is your signature style and how does that influence/direct the design decisions you make? Has this style changed over time?
Leitner Leinen’s collection today is a composition of decades of design work. Old will be revived, and the new is being added. While our brand still stands for intricate, rich-in-detail, and historical patterns, we also like to think outside this bubble and break open new possibilities.
How does Leitner Leinen draw from and incorporate local culture and work with local artisans, craftsmen, and components?
Our manufacture stands as one of the last of its kind, which is our contribution to preserving local culture. Linen weaving has centuries-old roots in the North Austria region. Today, all our fabrics and products are still exclusively produced at our original location.
What would you say are the 3 key design elements of Leitner Leinen and how are these folded into your overall design identity?
Our products are marked by the unique characteristics of linen. A unique look, touch, and feel that cannot be copied. Combined with our design approach as well as our unparalleled production methods, a one-of-a-kind product is created.
What is the usual production process? How long does it take from inception to completion?
From seed to fabric, it’s a long journey, as flax or linen requires a rather elaborate production process compared to other fibres. Nevertheless, it stands out as one of the most environmentally sustainable materials available today. Weaving, refining, and sewing all take their time when it comes to linen.
What have you been working on recently and how are you influenced by design trends?
We do not keep pace with fashion trends and never have. Our designs may stay in the collection for decades – and this is when we know we have achieved what we are aiming for: to create something timeless.
What designs or design decisions would you like to see in future in your sector?
For us, in regards to the textile industry as a whole, it is less a question of design – the offer for goods is too big, too short-lived, and changing too fast. We have to restrain this development and get back to creating products that last and products that transmit value. A textile, be it fashion or interiors, should not and cannot be a throwaway item.
What direction would you like to see Leitner Leinen moving in future?
To, hopefully, be one of plenty that not only keeps the textile tradition of Europe, as a whole, alive but manages to develop a sustainable backbone in order to preserve this heritage.
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