shots Fashion issue #174

Turning New Liefs:

Deriving its name from a Dutch word meaning ‘treasured and even cute’, the production company Lief is rather cuddly. Its founder Margo Mars has a mission to create a family of creators who’ll share their visions and take fashion film to the next level.

As the old adage goes, ‘it’s not what you wear, it’s the way that you wear it’. Style is so much more than just the clothes you put on; it’s about attitude. Which is why, speaking with Lief founder Margo Mars as she’s curled up in an armchair basking in the heat of the fire at London’s Soho House, playing girlishly with her neckerchief, I can’t help but recall the last line of the Gwen Stefani song Harajuku Girls, “Girl, you’ve got style.” It’s so applicable.

The fact that style appears to be at the heart of everything Mars does is, she claims, purely accidental and just how things have panned out. She’s even surprised that we chose to profile her new venture, Lief, for our fashion-focussed issue. “I find it interesting that Lief has only recently launched and yet you’ve looked at our output and our brand and asked us if we specialise in fashion,” says Mars. “The answer is ‘no’ but you do recognise that we specialise in style. Everything we do has a sense of style.”

Launching with a stylishly-curated roster and a few fashion-branded pieces was perhaps inevitable, given Mars’ interest in the industry and previous experience working on fashion campaigns. Since Lief opened its doors in November last year, she’s secured four leading directors to her roster – Danny Sangra, Free The Bid founder Alma Ha’rel, Natasha Khan and Eva Michon. Having worked with and befriended most of them (or initially admired them from afar as in the case of Sangra), Mars pulled together this stellar directorial line-up to tackle “the transformation of the content market” and give a new slant to the usual production model. One that allows her to be more playful with people that share her outlook. Rather than respond solely to creative briefs, Mars encourages her directors to continue expressing themselves and working as artists.

“Fashion has always relied heavily on print ... But its video content that people [are starting to] want; that’s where the industry has to go. Most of the budget still goes to print.”

The company also includes NEW Lief, which offers emerging directors a chance to build their reels and experiment with different styles, and LOVE Lief, a roster made up of artists from different disciplines; photographers, painters, illustrators and the like.

There’s no one characteristic that defines a Lief director, or a Lief ‘creature’ as Mars more affectionally calls them, “it’s about uniqueness, having a really clear voice, being a bit of a badass, but also being really open, honest and humble,” she says. Nurturing talent and playing the matriarchal role in the development of her directors’ careers is all part of the Lief mandate, after all the company name means ‘sweet and kind’ in her mother tongue, Dutch. “I asked my mum how she would describe me,” says Mars. “She just texted back one word: ‘lief’. I instantly liked it; it’s short and many people don’t know what it means. But, I don’t always want to be lief, as in sweet, so that’s how the badass lioness logo came about.”

Lief’s logo is symbolic of Mars’ emphasis on artistic endeavour, it was a chance to experiment, have fun and most importantly, collaborate. The lioness symbolises her company’s emphasis on female empowerment; the wings, the flight of creative inspiration – it was a labour of love between Mars’ partner Dave Cooke, director Danny Sangra and DIZZY ZEBRA, the motion graphics creatives who are signed to LOVE Lief.

The roles are intentionally blurred at Lief, as Mars encourages as much collaboration between the different artists as possible. “It’s not a one-way street, it’s something that we go into together,” she says, describing their shared approach to taking on work. She says Alma Ha’rel is an inspiration, a friend, confidante and motivational force. Personality is what counts for Mars when she gathers her Lief creatures around her.