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We interviewed Leandro Cano, the designer from Jaén who recently won the Fashion Academy Award in the category of ‘Sustainability, Innovation and High Craftsmanship applied to Fashion’.


Your mother, grandmother and sister have marked your childhood and the Leandro Cano brand. Tell us a little about that bond.

Since I was a child I have been surrounded by these women: my grandmother and her world of friends. In a way, it’s what made me love craftsmanship the way I love it today. It’s not something I do because it’s a trend now, but for me in particular it was a way of life and my day to day life. With them I learnt to sew, cross stitch, macramé, embroidery, crochet…


On the left, a model in one of the fashion shows; on the right, Leandro Cano preparing a prop.

I was a gay boy in a village of 300 inhabitants surrounded by women. And they are the ones who taught me to be what I am, as well as the whole world of techniques, forms and cultural richness that they had. At that time they used it for the trousseau of the brides, and I was surrounded by all of them. That’s where my love for them and for craftsmanship comes from.

Speaking of knitwear, embroidery scraps and other remnants, the truth is that they are always present in the way you work in all your collections. Could we say that they are a starting point for you?

I think it’s definitely the starting point, because nowadays I can’t conceive of a collection without craftsmanship. So the basis of the brand is craftsmanship, which for me was and still is the new luxury. That’s where all the collections derive from. It is the germ of the brand and of each collection.

Since I was a child I have been surrounded by these women: my grandmother and her world of friends. In a way, it is what made me love crafts as much as I love them today.

One of the women sewing for the workshop.

What do you think a garment has to have in order to be considered a craft?

At the end of the day, craftsmanship is Cultural Heritage. Wearing culture is the most difficult thing to do, and with craftsmanship we achieve it. It gives you personality, characterisation and something that a garment that is not handmade does not give you.
Craftsmanship is art and healthy; we are talking about a lot of time behind that garment, and in the end you can breathe the energy that is put into that garment. The garments speak for themselves, because there are many hands that have handled them to get to where they are.

Do you think that craftsmanship and sustainability are the same thing and that one depends on the other?

I don’t think one depends on the other, but I do think they are very closely related. Obviously craftsmanship goes for a world that has always been there, and sustainability we have the obligation to fight for it and work for it. One has always been there and the other we have had to impose because of people’s mismanagement of resources and the planet. Therefore, they go hand in hand but they have nothing to do with each other.

Do you have any practices that address sustainability in the way you work?

Yes, sustainability is something that all designers should put into practice in terms of reusing materials, upcycling… We have been upcycling since we started because of a budget issue. That’s why we’ve been sustainable from the beginning, because we’re a very small brand in which we have to adapt a lot to what’s available.

What we are very committed to is social and environmental sustainability. In terms of social sustainability, we give a second life to the association of elderly women with whom we work and who carry out all these artisanal techniques in the garments. They are always used to making trousseaus for marriageable women, and that leads to a wearable garment for the street and a piece of art. In addition to that, being paid for their work is very gratifying for them: at the end of their stage, recognising that their work was not only used to dress beds, but that today they are doing many other things. For us, this social sustainability is fundamental and is what drives us.


Leandro Cano is one of Spain’s most renowned fashion designers.

We give a second life to this association of elderly women we work with. At the end of their time, to recognise that their work was not just about dressing beds. For us, this social sustainability is fundamental and is what drives us.

As far as environmental sustainability is concerned, it is what governs us the most and what we have been working on organically since the beginning because we come from a village of 300 inhabitants located in the south, in unpopulated Spain. In the end it is something natural: it is not that we have forced anything at all; we continue doing the things we did from the beginning, but today the world has realised that this is the most sustainable way of living.

Are these women from your hometown?

Yes, most of them are from that village, and some from a neighbouring village. They are the women who raised me: they were my grandmother’s friends and they used to gather around my grandmother’s courtyard. When my grandmother passed away, they disappeared, and then I decided that I had to keep that house alive. The only way to do that was to get them to come back, and they would come back if I created something. They are not there every day, but when they meet they meet there. In a way, I’m trying to give them that life that unfortunately we don’t have in the villages and that they need. I opened my grandmother’s house and it’s like she is alive again.

Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of those women left. Since 2010 I have been obsessed with recovering all these types of techniques, so that they are not lost and so that craftsmanship has a value. We have been working with handicrafts since 2010, when people used to see us making crochet jumpers and threw their hands up in the air thinking that it was something old-fashioned and old-fashioned.

One of Leandro Cano’s collections.

For me, craftsmanship has been my winning horse and I bet on it from the beginning as a small horse. Today, it is an immense and battle horse that has shown me that I bet very well on it.

What materials do you usually work with?

We have done porcelain, ceramics, esparto grass… There are techniques that are the most typical ones, such as embroidery, crochet, cross-stitch… But we also use many other techniques.


Details of the craftsmanship of Leandro Cano.

Do you know the processes of each of the materials? For example, if they are fibres that come from the sea, or if the wool comes from grazing sheep?

Yes, for us it’s basic. It’s something we learnt from the beginning. As a faithful lover of Andalusia, Spain and the world in that order, I work on that scale. For example, I work a lot on leather with Ubrique and I like the skins to be Spanish. If in Spain there is no specific type of material, we can go to Europe, but I prefer not to leave Europe to produce because I believe in local products. I think we have to go back to working with each other and in this twinning of the area.

For me, craftsmanship has been my winning horse and I have been on it from the beginning as a small horse.

Where do you think sustainable or artisan fashion should be heading?

The first thing to do is to educate the consumer to consume conscientiously and not in this way that we have of doing it compulsively. Until they decide not to buy, brands will continue to produce.
As a trainer, I teach in various places and this is also my job: to educate the consumer to the idea of “less and more quality”.

So, to answer your question, I would say back to the origins. In the old days, people didn’t have fifteen suits, they had two suits that were impeccable and they fixed them up. In the case of women, they had ten dresses and alternated between them. They lasted their whole lives and were kept by their daughters and later by their granddaughters. With their granddaughters they became a work of art, and that for me is the interesting thing about fashion and sustainability. And where we should be heading.

For me craftsmanship is the new luxury: it doesn’t go out of fashion, it’s personalised and what’s more luxurious than something exclusive to you. It is the new luxury and what should stay, but we have to be very careful not to burn the word craftsmanship. We have to make sure it doesn’t go out of fashion, and I feel an obligation to do that, but it’s not just up to me.


Helena Moreno

Cultural journalist from Barcelona. I have collaborated in journals such as El País and Exit Media. I am interested in art, design, gastronomy and discovering unique places; including hotels.