Pop over to the Instagram feed of O.C. personal stylist Leslie Christen and here’s what you won’t find: endless selfies. Instead, there’s a beautifully curated collection of behind-the-scenes images of photo shoots she’s styling, fresh outfit ideas, breathtaking photos of travels to her family home in Croatia, and visits to Africa for the charity founded by her son. We asked how her refreshing aesthetic and recent globe-trotting translate to the world of style.
We hear the term personal style tossed around a lot. But how do you define it?
I think it’s staying true to your personality. I’ve styled a lot of people who want to look a certain way, but
it’s not who they are.
So then how do you help people uncover their own style? Is it like going on a journey to Oz and discovering that you had it all along but didn’t know it?
Sometimes. I might go into someone’s wardrobe and see what they’re really wearing the most or liking. And I expand on that. Maybe they love prints. We work together to build a great foundation and then to add a pop of something fun—a bright shoe or an accessory.
What are some of the key pieces to have in your wardrobe right now?
A leather jacket, a floral maxi dress, a kimono top, or a long duster to throw over jeans. A lot of women don’t like their butts or waist, and it’s a great way to camouflage those areas that you’re not as comfortable showing.
Do you have go-to shopping haunts in Orange County?
I do. I shop a lot at Bardot, Laguna Supply, and Aris. The owner of Aris used to work for Prada, and I love that he knows his clients really well and shops with them in mind.
How do people find you in this digital age?
Instagram and Facebook. I hardly get any referrals because people don’t want to tell others they use a stylist. I’ve been with a client when they run into someone they know, and they’ll introduce me as “my friend Leslie.” That’s fine. I’m used to being behind the scenes.
When it comes to style, what do O.C. women do better than anyone?
They do casual elegance really well. Women are looking chic in boyfriend jeans and sneakers now. I think it stems from not wanting to wear yoga gear anymore. And they also do ladies-who-do‑lunch well, like the women from the Harvesters (philanthropic) group.
How does the O.C. woman need to step up her style?
I’d like to see her find her own style and really dress for herself and stop trying to seek acceptance from people. And I’d like to see more elevated style—people trying harder. I tell women to shop at a store that you like where there’s a salesperson you trust. I tell them to try new boutiques and to buy stuff that’s a little more expensive and better quality.
Are these women afraid to go outside their comfort zone?
I’ve met a lot of women who are afraid to be different than their friends, and it starts to become homogenous when everyone dresses alike. So many women lack confidence, even the gorgeous ones. I’ve had women break down and tell me after we’ve worked together that they’ve never felt so good in clothes before. And that’s the hope. My ultimate goal is for the client not to have to continue to work with me down the road.
Speaking of being a risk taker, you packed up your family and moved to Croatia for part of the year and traveled to Africa for Play Well Africa—the charity your son Micah started at age 6 to provide Legos and other learning tools to families and schools in Uganda, Kenya, and Botswana. Did this change how you feel about fashion and clothes?
It made me question a lot of what I was doing. I was really knocked back by seeing how poor some people were, and it really got to my soul. The one thing I kept hearing was “Stop giving us your used clothes.” Those clothes get resold out in the streets, and it discourages people from buying local. They want to start their own fashion industry.
Did that spur you to action?
Yes. In Uganda they were practicing making clothing out of paper because they couldn’t afford material. The paper clothes were so beautiful. I’m going to partner with Erin Bianchi at Fashion Camp here in O.C. to bring materials to some of the sewing schools we visited.
After what you’ve seen on your travels, what would you say is the best way for people to donate clothes?
I want people to make better decisions about buying stuff. Donate to a church or women’s shelter—and only your best stuff. And when you’re buying: Less is more. Buy better-quality pieces that will last a long time.