I first spotted Leslie on instagram after she tagged a photo of herself for #StylishPittsburgh Day. I loved her style and knew that I had to interview her for this feature. We met briefly during Style Week Pittsburgh, at her pop up shop in market square that was loaded with fantastic quality, pre-loved pieces!
In our interview she talks about how her
mother’s impressive collection of clothes spawned her obsession with
playing dress up, and sewed the ‘hunting seed’ that’s grown into an
enviable collection of vintage clothing!
She talks fondly of the city she
returned to after spending 12 years away in San Francisco – like so many people I
talk to here, she couldn’t resist the pull back to Pittsburgh! I
think Pittsburgh has a vibration within; there’s a really special
something that lives in this town…This city
My favorite part of the interview is when Leslie talks about her personal style: My style works for me because it comes from my center. I am just doing me and being authentic to my stylistic expression. I don’t follow trends – I follow my heart. Now that’s what I call true style!
You’re an avid collector of all things vintage, how long have you been collecting and what items are you obsessing over the most at the moment?
We had this attic full of clothes. My mom kept an archive – rarely threw anything of great quality away – so she stored it. My friend and I would go up there to play dress up and that’s when it all began. I was always amazed by what I would find in that old dusty place. That was when the little ‘hunting seed’ within me began to root. I would dig and find old Peter Max tights in vibrant orange and lilac, piano scarves that Stevie Nicks would fight you for, and saddle shoe platforms from the 70’s.
My mom was really something. She had impeccable style and the balls to pull it off. My first purchase was a black crepe de chine gown from the 1930’s. I was 13 and it was my first estate sale from memory. Estate sale-ing is a sport in my family. My sister and I have had the pleasure of wearing it to many black tie events.
My vintage clothing obsession has matured over the years. First it was all things gothic – loads of lace and black velvet – I was more of a romantic gothic – velvet maxi skirts, silk blouses, velvet cloaks and pilgrim shoes. I used to do cemetery photos shoots with the stuff from the attic – mostly my grandmother’s gowns from the 30’s; long, languid, cut on the bias, amazing silks and lace frocks. Then I hit an Audrey Hepburn phase all penny loafers and cigarette pants. Then a tribal bohemian phase layered to perfection with skirts and pants. I have gone through the decades to really saturate and experience each one.
My current obsession is global chic for the gypset girl…ha! So, in essence, I am stamping my proverbial fashion passport. I am hungry for caftans, turbans, ornate fabrics, maxi dresses, tapestry bags, kilim anything, Indian cotton gauze dresses, Indian wrap skirts, Mexican wedding dresses, cowboy boots, suede fringed vests, crocheted everything, jumpsuits, crystal jewelry – a la copa collection, greek fisherman’s hats and greek caftans. I want it all!
Tell us a little bit about your shop Juju and what inspired you to start it. Oh, and what’s the inspiration behind the name?
Juju (named after my tortoiseshell cat – she’s perfect) is akin to a lifestyle boutique. It’s a vintage store without a vintage store feeling. Within the shop will be wearable vintage with a minimal and bohemian vibe. Natural fabrics – wool, linen, silk in minimal silhouettes and bohemian gems like a gold sequin maxi tunic from Saks Fifth Avenue. I even refer to some of the items as vintage vestments – or things you can meditate in – kimonos, chinoiserie robes, cotton caftans, and things of the like. Juju is a place to find crystals, smudging bundles, essential oils, divination tools and a stand out outfit. It’s a cornucopia of mystical treasures with a modern flair.
Juju is named for my sweet kitty but also a nod to the magic all around. Juju celebrates the mystic in all of us.
How long have you been in Pittsburgh and what do you think makes it such a great city to live in?
I lived in Pittsburgh before from 1999-2002 – then I moved to San Francisco. I came back to Pittsburgh last May 2014 because I have always felt a pull to be back here. I think Pittsburgh has a vibration within; there’s a really special something that lives in this town. I think what makes it such a great place to reside is the camaraderie. There is an embraceable feeling – everyone wants to see you do well and help wherever they can. This city is alive. I was so happy to see the amount of growth from the last time I lived here. I had always heard it was on the rise and it is certainly climbing. It’s success is due to the fact that it still has a small town feel – you can be a business owner and be supported. You can make friends easily and be accepted. And, my god, the skyline is breath taking.
The city’s been getting a (unfairly) bad rap for its sartorial style, but I think we have fantastic style! How would you describe Pittsburgh’s style?
I think wherever you travel or visit there are highs and lows in style. My favorite ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ Pittsburgh trend is the anklet under the pantyhose. Love it, ha! I also think that style is dictated by neighborhood. Walk down Walnut Street in Shadyside very posh but relaxed. Now walk down Brereton Street in Polish Hill – artists, punks, visionaries. Bike over to Lawrenceville and you see jeans and flannels – bike culture fashion. This town reminds me so much of San Francisco. Very similar vibe and style. I lived in the Mission and being in Lville takes me back to those days. To describe Pittsburgh’s style is not for me. Check out Keep Pittsburgh Dope for a visual journaling of what people are wearing. Chancelor is an amazing capture.
You have a fantastic ability to wear vintage clothing in a contemporary way, I love it! How would you describe your style, why does it work for you and what or who influences you the most?
First off, thanks! I am a style mut. To best describe me is to say that I pack it on. I am a serial layerer. I like length, movement, basics in an unexpected fashion, a classic bohemian, natural fabrics, a men’s dress shirt, a southwestern gypsy. I was once described as Carmen Sandeigo. 95% of the time I am wearing vintage. When I shop I look for the following: sweater dresses, wide brimmed fedoras, long tunics, flared jeans, Indian border prints, denim in all forms, mechanic suits, high heeled cowboy boots, brutalist jewelry. Do you have all day? I could go on and on. A have a mile long list of things I am hunting for.
My style works for me because it comes from my center. I am just doing me and being authentic to my stylistic expression. I don’t follow trends – I follow my heart.
I do swoon over the visual eccentricities of the Olsen twins, Erin Wasson, Natalie Joos, the kapalicarsi – Turkey’s Grand Bazaar – I will get there someday, and the deepest, most tranquil blues of Greece.
You must have some beautiful pieces in your collection, but what would be your most treasured item?
I have some stunners. My dearest friend, Patty, has given me some beautiful things. My most treasured is from her, a 1930’s black sequin jacket in an asymmetrical silhouette. I also found a 1940’s Nina Ricci goldenrod silk gown in a tulip silhouette that makes me cry. Most recently an ivory off-the-shoulder gauze dress with a lace panel in a trojan horse pattern that I will save for the most special occasion.
If you’d like to check out the other stylish Pittsburghers I’ve interviewed, and find out more about #stylishpittsburgh campaign then head over here!
And if you’re a local boutique or style-obsessed Pittsburhger and would like to be featured, or maybe you know someone who you think deserves to be featured? Get in touch!!