Lena Hoschek: Austrian Dirndl goes High Fashion

With her fresh, flirtatious interpretation of retro looks, young Austrian designer Lena Hoschek has ruled the Fashion Week runways in recent years. And it’s no surprise that Lena, with her devotion to flattering the female form, is a huge fan of the dirndl and includes her dazzling take on the traditional dress in her cutting-edge collections.

“My favorite epoch is 1875,” Lena told us. “The feminine hourglass shape is simply the ideal silhouette. It is reflected in the fashion of the 50s and in traditional regional Austrian wear.”

Of course, 1875 happens to be when the dirndl surged in popularity with the Austrian upper class. Emperor Franz Joseph and his royal court were enamored with the dirndls and lederhosen they saw the country folks wearing in the Salzburg Lake District, and brought those styles back to Vienna.

Lena points out that American fashion in 1940s echoed many elements of traditional Alpine costumes. The movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s have provided inspiration for Lena, who especially likes Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn. Pin-up icon Bettie Page is another big influence on Lena’s vintage style.

“I’m often asked why I’m so drawn to the 50s. Even as a child, I loved nostalgia,” says Lena, who has fond memories of watching the 50s films that were shown on Austrian TV every Sunday when she was growing up.

Whether Lena is designing an Austrian dirndl or the kind of exquisitely tailored 40s frock that Katy Perry was photographed wearing, her creative process remains the same.

“The designs are all based on the fabrics,” Lena told us. “First fabric and color are conceived and then we do the design.”

Lena’s career trajectory has been amazing. After attending the world-renown Central Saint Martins in London, she interned with Vivienne Westwood (who also loves the dirndl and has famously said “There would be no ugliness in the world if every woman wore a dirndl.”) She returned to Graz to launch her own label at just 24, opening a small store attached to her studio. Three years later, she opened her retro-fabulous store in Vienna, where she now lives.

“I’m often asked why I don’t move to London, Paris or Milan,” she says. “But there’s nowhere in the world where I could work as creatively as Austria. The country, the people, the food – everything that makes it so attractive as a holiday destination. Those are the perfect sources of energy for doing grand work.”

If you can’t wait until your next trip to Austria, you can buy Lena Hoschek’s clothing online

Watch our interview with Lena Hoschek:

 Julia Holzapfel on 21.03.2013