Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Sophie Haber

A true free-spirit with a multitude of talents, Sophie Haber exemplifies "wanderlust" and what it means to trust the new experiences travel affords. I had the honor of interviewing her and hearing the beauty and depth of her perspective on her ever-shifting "home."

Leah Lou Style + Sophie Haber

Travel From Within with Sophie Haber

by Leah "Lou" Zorn

Each of us is multi-dimensional with stunning facets that reveal our depth, interests, personality, and values. For Sophie Haber, flowing with the nomadic lifestyle allows her to be photographer, model, collaborator, artist, leader, lover, and a strong community supporter, in any setting. She reveals how her path led by wanderlust has led her to live and love abundantly.

To travel, move, and love boundlessly requires a connection with oneself and to the world around you. According to Sophie, “our world is so vast with so many creative beings. We all came onto this earth for a reason and have a story to share with one another. Nobody is perfect and when we can let our “ego” go that is when you can be in tune with the harmony within. “

Sophie’s commitment to the stories and diversity of others has led her and partner Eliot, to build One Sky One People—a group of photographers who partner with artisans around the world to support their craft and empower one another. Sophie and Eliot’s like-minded community captures these cultural moments through the lens of their camera and the sharing of stories, creative experience, and global wares. “I believe community and collaboration go hand in hand. If you are immersed in a community you are already collaborating. I believe our future is community--we need to have a better connection with each other and learn from one another. It’s an amazing feeling being able to collaborate and share your visions with another person. This is the ultimate love,” she shares.

Their lust for travel has led them around the world with goals to begin deepening their roots in Australia. “Our journey is now within and manifesting a soulful life on this beautiful land.” Sophie considers herself both “a nester and a nomad.” She explains further, “comfort for me is home. I used to be a homebody and really needed that space to be able to feel this comfort, but as I started to fly and travel, It was just a feeling. Home is within, and that is something I think I will always be seeking.”

Wandering may seem out of reach for some, but anyone can take advantage of this expansiveness in their own unique lives, without leaving their city or town. As Sophie reminds us, “you can find freedom in the most chaotic cities, it all starts in your mind. By just going outside and finding a park, that’s all you need sometimes to fulfill this craving to wander!”

We can also fulfill our connection to community, as Sophie examines, by “gathering more, creating with each other more, and celebrating with one another. It’s ok to ask for help and speak out with each other, that is what we are all here for. We are all pure love and should spread that love to all.”

Disfunkshion Magazine

Sophie Haber's One Sky One People >>here<<

Leah Lou Style

Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Dumblonde

When Disfunkshion magazine requests an interview, I always "do my homework" on the subject. I browse the internet to see what I can learn about them, to ground myself in who they are and what to showcase, and to judge if I am connected to sharing their depth. It's google search & gut check!

Dumblonde presented a new challenge for me: an electro-dance/pop musical group. Plus, these women started their musical careers as members of P.Diddy's girl group "Danity Kane" from his show "Making the Band." They had since parted ways with the group and it's "old guard" and were committed to carving their own place in the industry, on their terms.

So long as I didn't have to mention ANY of that history, or pretend to have expertise on "electro-pop," I was willing to take the assignment. I began this interview with the desire to showcase who these women are TODAY, who they want to be for their audience, and who they are for one another. Plus according to videos online and radio interviews alike, they were constantly being asked about their past. If I was moving forward with such force and success (and a badass sisterhood), the last thing I would want, would be to continue to address what was behind me. 

Your Roots are Showing: A Closer Look at Dumblonde

by Leah "Lou" Zorn

With pure soul, depth, courage and trust in one another, the women behind the independent alternative Dance/Pop group, Dumblonde, are making music their way and unapologetically.

From initial idea and sound, to vision and artistry, the duo Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex are touching every part of the creative process and balancing each role effectively. As Shannon explains, the creative execution comes from “above all, staying true to your vision and not allowing complacency, negativity, others opinions, or being tired to rule the outcome.” Which may sound easy for some, but with 48+hour video shoots, city tours, practices and performances, these women choose to lean on one another and balance their strengths. For Aubrey, their partnership means “[they] each excel in what each other lacks; and because [they] are VERY smart blondes, [they] are always paying attention to how powerful that message is.”

The balance the pair achieves so brilliantly is attributed to two central themes the women shared separately: Passion and fearlessness. These elements drive who they are day-to-day and the bigger picture of their reach and influence. Shannon cultivates the desire to be, “remembered for my compassion and love. Nobody is perfect, [she] prays to be known for how [she] accepts others for how imperfect they are but true to their heart.” This compassion is exactly what Aubrey looks to Shannon for. “She taught me that unconditional love is real and reminds me daily of the patience that is required to achieve it.” As an artist who continues to evolve, Aubrey wants Dumblonde to be remembered for, “fearlessness to constantly overcome and reinvent professionally and personally, and being unafraid to step outside the box and take risks with our sound, brand, visuals and overall creativity.”

Their candid soul and drive for unadulterated artistry carve a point of view that transcends music alone. It is Aubrey’s hope that independent creators gain more opportunity and access in the music industry. Especially because for her, “The entire point of art is creation and exploration and stepping outside boxes. When the business becomes more important than the freedom of that, the art suffers…when the art suffers so do the people that are inspired by it.” The lesson she shares applies to anyone following the depths of their creativity and those who are then willing to support and empower others in doing the same. As Shannon aptly states it, “Just believe in your own beauty and light. What you bring nobody else can or ever will. There is power in that knowledge. Don’t get in your own way and always encourage your sister…your journeys are unique and your God given purpose is real.”

*The lovely ladies even indulged in some quick "fun facts" with me, at the conclusion of the interview.

Favorite Food/Drink  

  • Shannon: Really good Italian & a glass of wine
  • Aubrey: sushi and a moscow mule  

Favorite Guilty Pleasures

  • Shan: riding horses, vodka martinis straight up
  • Aubrey: Dog parks, vending machine snacks

Favorite Book

  • Aubrey: The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
  • Shannon: Girl Boss (currently reading)

 Your Spirit Animal 

  • Shannon: I would have to say a horse. I’ve always been drawn to them in a deep way. To me they are regal, elegant full of strength and yet striking and full of grace. They are independent, trusting, loyal and can only be tamed as far as they allow. Forever wild at heart they are still humble and meek enough to serve others needs. 
  •  Aubrey: bird. They soar.. roam.. have a view of the overall picture more than the specifics. Are the link between heaven and earth.  

How would you describe your personal style?

  • Aubrey: constantly evolving, and I love taking risks. 
  • Shannon: Simple/Classic

Who wears the pants in the relationship?

  • Aubrey: Shan. Ewe I don't like pants. 
  • Shannon: depends on the day

Describe the other in one word.

  •  Shannon: She is “passionate”
  • Aubrey: she is "compassionate"

 

You can explore more of the talent and creativity of Dumblonde >>here<<

Disfunkshion Magazine >>here<<

>>Leah Lou Style<<

Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Maryam Montague

My next interview for Disfunkshion Magazine, required me to dialogue with an incredibly diverse woman, Maryam Montague. As soon as I was given my assignment, and learned my subject lived in Morocco,  I quickly dug into my research and the depths of Maryam. I was eager to learn more about the multiple mediums of creativity she uses for both personal expression and community support. Maryam teaches us to champion our pursuits and celebrate our intrigues, our individuality, and our vastness. Read on below to hear more on her perspective and how she is connecting her global audience to Morocco's abundant artistry. 

The Practice of Dynamism with Maryam Montague

by Leah "Lou" Zorn

A truly multi-faceted woman and an inspiration to many, Maryam Montague is a visionary and an entrepreneur who is limitless in her creative expression. Through her vast capabilities and her successful businesses, Maryam is both a force and a foundation. She is a catalyst for the creativity and empowerment of others. 

Maryam's connection to culture begins with her personal draw to new ideas, thirst for a challenge, and execution of different ways to interact with the world around her. She mentions, “When I am outside of my comfort zone and working on a challenging project, that’s when I feel the most alive and inspired, particularly when my ideas start to come together in new ways.”  Through this stimulation and a commitment to humanitarianism, Maryam has grown many projects under her self-titled brand. “I created my brand to be an aspirational lifestyle destination for the modern nomad. It is under that umbrella that I have my blog, My Marrakesh, my shop, my hotel and my charity, Project Soar.”

Each venture began as a curiosity, manifested into an idea, and was put into motion as a personal practice. “I look at the world through curious eyes and am constantly traveling, studying, learning and collecting… A decorative detail, ritual, or belief will often act as a springboard for a series of actions or products.” This momentum flows freely within her own home--a Moroccan boutique hotel appropriately named, Peacock Pavilions. It is within these walls that Maryam, her husband, her children and even her pets open their hearts to guests from around the globe.  

Nestled among olive groves in Marrakesh, Peacock Pavilions is a hot bed for inspiration, interior design, and personal connection. Built in nomadic fashion and with carefully curated wares, the hotel makes conscious living and artisan goods accessible to all. By focusing on wellness and creativity retreats Peacock Pavilions continually attracts leaders and individuals seeking what Maryam knows Marrakesh to source: “Inspiration and renewal.” Through the hotel and the education shared on its grounds, she "encourage[es] people to contemplate a nomadic-inspired lifestyle...[by providing] a safe and beautiful space for them to try it”

If you can’t cross the globe, you can access Maryam’s collaborations, reflections, and locally sourced products from her shop, blog, social media platforms and her latest book, “Marrakesh by Design.” Each endeavor supports the work of Project Soar, yet another facet of Maryam and her generous spirit. Her non-profit organization provides art, sports, and health education programming to “keep [local] girls in school, breaking the cycle of girl brides and early motherhood, while preparing girls to lead full and productive lives.” As she continues to share this work and her personal disciplines, she hopes her children learn to “view the world compassionately and make a real contribution to making the world a better place.”

Maryam is an example that each of us is capable of living a life of social influence, creativity, and connection with our community. As women, Maryam believes it is especially important that we explore the idea of our own dynamism. She mentions, “I believe that women lead far more unidimensional lives than they were created for.  Too often they limit themselves to motherhood, marriage and their one 9-5 job.  I believe that multiple worlds reside in each of us.” We can all share in the abundance of life if we are willing to use curiosity to fuel our own potential. By sharing our ideas, supporting one another and trusting in our unique abilities, we can shape our world.

For additional empowerment and to explore the world of Maryam Montague, check out the links below:

Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Shop | Hotel | Charity 

read more about the work and spirit of Disfunkshion Magazine >>here<<

>>Leah Lou Style<<

Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Cat Lee

At the end of 2015, I reached out to a magazine that I stumbled across on Instagram. They had a free-spirited vibe with loads of female empowerment undertones and used wildly vivid colors and energy (hell yeah!). As soon as I saw they had both a headquarters in Hawaii and Florida, I knew I had to reach out. 

I crafted an email sharing who I was, my website, and a selection of my writing. I offered to provide style &/or writing content, then took a deep breath and sent the email off into the hands of "the web." To my surprise and excitement, I quickly received an email back from the editor-in-chief herself; providing praise for my work and point-of-view, and the chance to share both through the magazine. We discussed potential writing options and the promise I would have "a go" at an article in the near future. Soon enough, I was given my first interview with a beautifully genuine Australian artist, Cat Lee.

I found something I connected to, took a risk for my creativity, and remain open to the diversity and adventure I gain through writing. 

Now on my tenth article for the magazine, and thriving in the variety through creativity, I am pleased to share that very first opportunity----my published work, my crafted words, and the magic of an interviewer and a subject who though miles apart, connected so quickly and effortlessly. 

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Disfunkshion Magazine, Volume 23

                                                     Disfunkshion Magazine, Volume 23

you can read her feature below:

Unbound Creative Visions with Cat Lee

by: Leah Lou

"the tallest poppy is the first to see the sunrise"

She spends her days immersed in nature and paying attention to its subtle movements; to the gifts and inspiration that come from meditation, creative play, and choosing each moment. From conceiving an idea to developing it in full fruition, Australian artist Cat Lee is living, examining, and constructing a creative life. 

To live a creative life requires finding your personal joy and having the confidence to go after it day, after day, after day. Like an artist with a unique point-of-view, you can curate a life that brings you vibrancy, an understanding of the world around you, and a respect for your unique role in it. Cat believes “we all are creating our life; our own future; by every choice. I know the life I’d like to live and the world I would like to live in, so, I use this as a guide to how I choose to act; how I choose to see; who I choose to spend time with; what I choose to think; what I choose to hear and what I choose to say.”

Through the use of rich color and a deep respect for nature, Cat Lee can create pieces with both vigor and extravagance while evoking a peaceful and relatable energy. From where she stands, “there is so much sadness in the world and I truly believe happiness is so important to lift our energy to enable us to create change.” She chooses to adorn each of her animal pieces to provide that gateway to happiness and reveal the essence of that animal, as well as to shape her audience’s connection to these feeling creatures. 

It is because of her connection and conviction that she is able to express herself so freely. When it comes to her art, “I find starting the hardest part and I realize it’s because the first step is totally up to me.  Once the foundation has been laid, I let go of all control and allow the artwork to tell me what it requires.”

The power and freedom of personal choice requires that same first step; placing trust in the work and committing to the beauty of the end result. When Cat begins a piece, she “makes a huge mess of the foundation and works to resolve it. Starting with mess is so much easier than perfection.” The same can be said of each of us who steps into each day with the history and mess of the weeks, months, and years before. The mess is what provides experience, character, and pure personality. As a single mother and former “9-to-5” worker, Lee puts a great amount of work into the direction her life is going now. She too is inspired by and “energized when I’m around others who recognize their true calling and are bravely living it.”

So how do we express ourselves freely and walk through our own lives with courage, choice, and artistry? We stand tall. We give voice and expression to our own truth. We become like poppies. Cat introduced the deeply rooted cultural and social term, “tall poppy syndrome; a tendency for Australian people to keep others small if they seem like they’re breaking out of what’s the norm.” For her, the term criticizes those individuals who want to showcase their talents, celebrate their own merits, and simply be their best selves, no matter how weird. To stunt the growth of one another and push for “normalcy” would mean we all stop growing, learning, and sharing from different vantage points. We shape one another best by being ourselves. In doing so, we give each other the safe space to create from our mess, layer our own canvas, and develop at our own pace. 

What does Cat Lee wish women would be more aware of? She mentions, “I absolutely hope the message comes across to other women; young and young at heart; that regardless of what anyone says, you must Be Yourself; build each other up and there’s no need to compete.  The people in the world who we look up to and who are inspiring others the most are those who are truly being themselves.” 

You can find more of Cat Lee's work >>here<< 

and view the work and spirit of Disfunkshion Magazine >>here<<

>>Leah Lou Style<<

Party Style + Collaboration with The Flair Exchange

A month ago I had the fabulous opportunity to pair personal style with whimsical party products; showcasing the ease of executing both for any occasion. I met the mastermind behind this collaboration (Carmen of The Flair Exchange) for quick cocktails and we connected instantly. Not only did our project merry personal and party flair, but it brought together local, driven, and creative women to share their individual talents. 

Check out more images + my style tips over on The Flair Exchange's blog:

  • Learn why a dress is chic and effortless party attire >>here<<
  • Learn how to rock sequins and load on the gems for a confident New Year's Eve >>here<<

{all images by the incredible Amalie Orrange}

it's time I gave my creativity a paid vacation

I love how the universe works. I truly do. Not only do I find myself expressing this gratitude after positive opportunities for my style business but also later down the road when another moment didn't go "as planned." The disappointments careen in other directions that then benefit, support, and acknowledge my own creativity.

I have worked hard to be someone comfortable taking risks (having the self-awareness to know that the combination of excitement and feeling like I'm going to throw up is an indicator of a risk I should take), engaging in difficult conversations, and trying new things. With these traits and the commitment to my own creativity, I both go after my own potential projects and open myself up to the ones that are placed in my lap (come across an email/come up in conversation). 

I know with conviction that a couple things contribute to this formula of opportunity, and after I have been willing to put myself and my creative work out there. 

  • Authenticity
    • When I am true to this core value, people both know where I stand and for what I stand for. They trust I will bring my whole self to a project and if I cannot, they know that I will voice that. There is never a guessing game, a facade, or for lack of a better word... no bullshit.
  • Boldness
    • If my name is attached to a project then we are playing BIG, making a splash, and doing a complete "about face" from anything "normal," predictable, or safe. Boldness has afforded me just about everything in my life: my style philosophy, my relationships (definitely landed my husband), my vigor, my path to living a life of meaning. Boldness drives me to stand for different.
  • Self Encouragement
    • Other people's complements are great (fantastic really) but no one is going to pump me up in my hardest moments or when I need a stern pep-talk with myself. And it's not their job to. There are moments that I need a random dance party, a killer playlist, to not wear a bra (or pants) and to make room for self-care. More often than not, I have to take a deep breath and whisper to myself "like a boss" to write a tough email, give honest feedback that I know may not land, or just fucking tackle a to-do list for which NO ONE else is pushing me to do.
  • Intuition
    • Tapping into what "feels right" and what just doesn't sit well with me means there are opportunities I have chosen not to take, ideas not to jump on, and conversations where I have had to be the one to say "no thank you." When I have not exercised or ignored my intuition is when I have later kicked myself, run myself ragged, and neglected to stand up for my value and worth therefore I did not receive either from the situation. It's a hard but valuable lesson.
    • Intuition gives another great lesson in not having to explain yourself for why you do or do not want to do something (why's are exhaustive and only create a comparison game where one person's importance is slated against another's). Intuition doesn't need explanation, she needs your commitment. 
  • Humor
    • I can't live without laughter and I can't live a creative life without finding the humor in its peaks and valleys. Humor shifts my sanity and keeps me forward-moving. 

Alright now how do I book this vaycay for my creativity? 

I recently read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert and gleaned what my unique self needed from her words, her spirit, and her perspective on creative living. Plus she taught me to talk to my creativity like a sassy girlfriend (perfect personification and just the companion I need for my business!). She also uses her curse words effectively and expressively so I felt a kindred connection to her. 

Once I read these words (see below), the biggest shift happened for me in that the weight of forcing my creativity into shouldering my expenses, was lifted.

I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life...

I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or often bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.
— Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth shares how even into her first 3 novels, she always kept a day job. She wrote in the wee hours, during breaks, and made time for writing outside of what was required of her to pay her bills. Believe it or not this is the first time I have heard someone express that you can and should have a day job WHILE still living a creative life.

There is an overwhelming push to turn your creativity into this wildly recognized career fueled by 40K+ instagram followers, brand partnerships, and work so hard creatively that you leave your job as a barista, nurse, teacher, part-time nanny, etc. There is a social (and conversational) pressure to reach a point in your creative work that your entire household can retire today; only then can you have validity in your pursuit and worth in your work.

Elizabeth is right in that my creativity would want to run for the hills, stop taking risks to be seen, become stifled by the burden of stipulations and pushed to exhaustion. This behavior would be a HUGE disservice to organic processes, playfulness of expression, and the sharing of what I consider my gifts. Losing my ability or desire to create is one risk I WILL NOT take. 

Sure its fabulous to be recognized, to gain new followers on social media, and to make money. Hello, that stuff rocks! But I no longer want to tell my creativity to "get its act together" so I can force a year's worth of paychecks out of it. I will keep my day jobs and thus sharpen the skills I glean from the variety of expression. In my own moments I will continue to curate, I will style, I will provide my services (and get paid for it). I will give my creativity the freedom that comes from a paid vacation; perspective, without the fear of the electricity back home being cut off. 

The pressure is off creativity! You can continue to bring opportunities my way and I can continue to live a life of choice. Inspiration not desperation is the space I want to grow and play in.

 

authentic friendships + shared space

I’m coming off of a lot of west coast vibes and meaningful “friend-time” which is not a complaint and absolutely an expression of gratitude (and possibly involves a drum circle).
 
My first trek started in Arizona for a wedding, moved to a wedding and anniversary in Portland two weeks later, quickly followed by a flight out to and five days in California. “Hashtag blessed," some might say. 

Now that I am home and slowly adjusting to the eastern timezone, I am reflecting on the gifts that travel always stows and sneaks past TSA for me.
 

Perspective and gratitude.

 
Deep, unconditional, and genuine friendship was the catalyst for each and every trip. It’s hard to believe that at the age of 27 I have both cultivated and maintained several quality friendships and across many different groups. 

We have seen, experienced, counseled and supported one another through pivotal and trivial moments in life. We can be exactly who we are in the comfort of one another, while understanding and respecting our differences. Each person has taught me how to be a friend and when to be a better friend.

I’m sharing this because I know how hard it is to find these people and I know the work it takes to keep them. I know what confidence in a friendship brings, and I know the security of shared successes and failures.
 
Yes these are quick summations and yes they are positive but this end result required constant commitment to both respect and honesty. Respect for one another as separate people with separate expectations of every experience, separate lenses with which to see and interact with the world and separate ways in expressing ourselves. I felt this the most in California and here’s where the honesty plays its role…
 
This past week I was in San Diego and Palm Springs for a girls trip with Emily and Caroline, relationships we started at the age of 3 and 5, respectively. Despite having known each other for so long, we had yet to take a trip to celebrate just us; there was always another reason (bachelorette, wedding, “home-for-the-holidays”). Throughout the trip we had small moments of big impact. Moments where our expectations and personalities collided, differed, and then shared space. Because of our commitment to allowing one another to both be who they are and express that, we were able to talk with pure honesty.

Honesty isn't always a soft embrace and can often feel like a head-on collision. 

Each of us was willing to be authentic in expressing our true feelings (at one point I did use the term “steam-rolling”) and vulnerable to the unknown and the discomfort that comes with that. Each of us supported one another in justified feelings, emotions, and actions. Each of us held the safe space required to do so; we were allowed to be ourselves with the accountability and support of someone who is different. No one got mad, no one got nasty.
 
I encourage you to take a look at the relationships in your life where you can be your best self. Where you are challenged to be honest, asked to engage, and accepted with respect. Think of the people you can count on and can count on you. Where can you hold space for someone to share authentically with you about the good and bad sides of humanity and of ourselves. Think big by sharing in the small moments. 

lululemon lifestyle shoot

It's no secret i lurrrrrve me some lululemon and quite frequently sneak it into my outfits...even when I'm not working out. I partnered with the gorgeous new Winter Park location to create looks that showcase that very notion; style AND function, beauty AND strength. 

Of course I had to utilize the talented Amalie Orrange Photography to capture our work and take advantage of the morning light off "the avenue." You can also find our models, Riki and Kurt, in the store and happy to help you find the right clothes to support both your workout and now...your streetwear.

 Check out all the looks below!

LULULEMON-Lululemon with Copyright-RikiCUHood.jpg

Clothing and models provided by lululemon athletica Winter Park

Accessories & Styling by me, Leah Lou

Photography by Amalie Orrange Photography

 

 

A glimpse at my decision-making + a cool travel app

Today I'm sharing more of my entrepreneurial side; Sharing insight into my reasoning when it comes to taking on a project outside of my normal closet or styling gig.
I am doing more writing and embracing another facet of my creativity. I am a firm believer that when you make a declaration into "the universe" that the world "conspires" to bring more of that delaration into your view.

"your thoughts create words, your words create action and your actions shape your behavior (i'm sure this is an exact quote of someone's)." 

I declared I wanted to do more writing and share my words and now mixes of opportunities are falling into my inbox. Some have been paid and some are strictly promotional. Either way I have learned to put the opportunity through these filters:

  • *gut check!* what is my intuition telling me? "explore this further? run away NOW! or this absolutely sends my creativity soaring!"
  • does this make sense for me and my brand (core values)?
  • will this require a lot of my time and energy aka does this measure up to the time (and $) I would or should exert elsewhere
  • will this create traffic to my website and build brand awareness?

So when I was randomly asked to be a "local expert" for a travel app (Stay.com) and emailed about an opportunity to provide a list of 8 shopping destinations in Orlando, here is what I did:

  • looked up the app/website
    • if my name is attached to ANYTHING you better believe I'm going to fact-check and make sure it's something I support or think is rad/useful
  • thought about how I could re-shape what was being asked of me to fit my personal and business mantras
    • I'm not a big "shopper" nor do I subscribe to trends forcing you to buy stuff all the time, so how could I look at this list differently and make it intentional
    • I asked if I could provide my own write-up/blurbs about the businesses I would recommend; making them personal and showcase what makes these shops true gems (be sure to click the purple "local's pick" underneath each shop, to access this)
  • made sure I was clear on what I was getting out of the "free" work
    • since promotion was involved, what did stay.com commit to doing for me in return for my time and what parts of my brand were they willing to include publically
  • made sure I was clear on exactly what was asked of me
    • always one to bring my best but also one to over give or think when it isn't always necessary. they wanted short blurbs so that was all they would get; power-packed 1-2 sentences.
  • set a deadline for myself, was prompt in providing what they asked of me and shared why I agreed to the work
    • since I advocate for local and small businesses, that was exactly who I wanted to showcase in this list. I was sure to share that in my agreement and in turn, created a genuine connection with the stay.com rep. I was corresponding with

I'm sharing all this because I too filter my decisions, evaluate them against all parts of my life (personal, business, down-time), make requests, and don't claim that any single part of that is easy. 

Plus the app is suuuuuper cool and useful. I would love for you to check it out and support my ci-tay!

>>Click here to get my "guide"<<

plus check this sneaky peak!

I learn and experience deeply along this journey of mine and I will continue to share of myself and encourage you to do the same.

 

Safari Inspiration: 2 Chic Ways to Wear It

A few years ago I took the opportunity to spend three weeks volunteering in a rural village in Africa. The beauty of the people, landscape, and wildlife has never left me. Expansive plains and majestic creatures feet from our lodging truly made me value simplicity, nature, and the present moment. At times I have to take myself back there just to tap into that source.

This post shows you two ways to wear African-inspired prints (one giraffe, the other zebra) with chic pieces and bold accessories. 

Beaded ring:Zou Zou Boutique

Horn Bangle: Rifle Paper Co. 

Bracelet: hand-made by an artist at the Riverside Arts Market 

I decided to make these pants more "safari" than "nautical" inspired; Since the stripes are black and thin, they lend themselves toward a variety of unexpected looks. The trick to a high-waist anything with a belt, is to keep your top tighter or tucked in so that you keep the focus on your beautiful waist and don't lose your feminine shape.

  Giraffe Print Tank: h&m

Striped Flowy Wide-leg Pants: Zara

*Druzy Cuff, Bracelet, and Ring were gifts or hand-picked from places I don't remember

Fedora Hat: Zara

Necklace: Dora Mae Jewelry (one-of-a-kind vintage-made-modern pieces)

This Zebra print dress has been incredibly versatile and easy to throw on for hot days, a quick errand, and even a trip to the beach. The zipper detail allows for some adjustment in fit through the chest and the shirt-tail hem allows for both a flirty leg and some booty-coverage. I drew out the black detail of the zebras and added my trusty black gladiators to give this look some edge.  

Give "Safari-Inspired" looks a try--see what creative ways you can put your own spin to it!

Dress: Splendid purchased from Therapie Boutique

Gladiators: old Urban Outfitters find

All Images: Amalie Orrange 

Wear the Cheekies

In the realm of fashion there can be both creative freedom and confusing restrictives. With so many rules and consumers being spoon-fed ideas of what's "in" and "on trend," carving out what you actually like can be quite the challenge. To even attempt this, one has to navigate the clothing cuts and options you are given, try A LOT on, and sometimes still leave empty-handed. And as the option you're looking for doesn't reveal itself as easily as you'd hoped, and you're dizzied by the fitting room... you realize it may not even exist at all. *sigh*

If this scenario sounds familiar then you've gone shopping recently. Maybe you too have been shocked by what is available to you and what isn't. In this moment, I am specifically referring to bathing suit options. But you could easily turn that sentence into a MadLib and replace "bathing suit" with just about any clothing article. 

Mind you, I have had the same bathing suit for the past 3 (ugh...maybe more) years and have worn it into the ground. So much so that the elastic of the bandeau top no longer does its supportive job and it is now considered, a "backyard ONLY" bathing suit. My lack of cute/sassy swimwear is a sad representation of this Florida girl and I was determined to improve that. 

If you are like me or erhhmm... most women, nothing sounds more enjoyable than going bathing suit shopping. Except maybe a full body wax by a russian woman with a hairy chin-mole and a constant deadpan expression. I have to be mentally prepped for either scenario and possibly skip breakfast. 

My first attempt at a new suit left me questioning how much ass is too much ass to reveal? Between thongs, moderate cheekies, and butt-floss, there was no "full coverage" bottom to be found. Was I out of touch? Am I allowed to wear something like that around other people? Yeesh!

Thanks to a group conversation during a personal training session (I was working on my new booty goals, for gosh sakes!) a girlfriend of mine who only wears brazilian cut bathing suits gave me a newfound sense of feminism that could only be manifested through a strip of fabric over my beautiful bum. I wanted that freedom, I wanted to care very little about how much of my butt-dimple(s) I would be revealing. The thirst was real folks but my own insecurities still stood in my way.

What really sealed the deal of embracing the cheekie cut bathing suit was catching a glimpse of a mom in my neighborhood TOTALLY rocking the booty-exposing bottoms while walking up from our community pool. Let me paint the motivating picture further....her butt was out OUT, flat as an ironing board, her tone was pale and SHE.WAS.OWNING.IT! This is not body-shaming people! This is taking what you have, being incredibly realistic, and not giving a f**k. I loved it, channeled it, and went to the surf shop the very next day. *Yes I did leave with a sexy, comfy, supportive new suit. Check it below.

This is not me nor my body. You can find the suit here:  O'Neill

This is not me nor my body. You can find the suit here: O'Neill

Let's talk about what can hold us back when trying something new, revealing, or "unconventional." 

Things that stand in our way:

  • Perceived judgment and opinions of other women.
    • Wow, is this one a dangerous double-edge sword; these perceptions weaken and divide us as women. Because style is visual, these judgments (real or perceived) can be felt in a snap, our confidence can be shaken, and we can refrain from doing/wearing something that truly makes us happy. Yeeesh! Nobody wins with this one. 
  • Unwanted attention of jeering men (gross) or what I will call the "construction worker catcall (yes i know it's not all construction workers, roofers, group of guys in a rusty saturn, haggard guy smoking a cigarette on the side of the grocery-store whose eyes are burning a hole into your butt as you're walking in and making sure you tuck your dress in between your legs so it doesn't fly up in a freakish breeze)."
    • This is a toughy. No matter what you're wearing, these type of responses can make anyone feel completely naked, mentally rattled, and overall skeeved. I'm sorry mamas but I don't have any words of advice for this one. I always think I will stand strong and say the perfect thing to take back the control in this situation; it has yet to happen. 
  • Ourselves
    • Most of us know we can be our own worst critic and our ability to magnify our imperfections will get in the way of confidence, style freedom, and rocking exactly what we want to wear. That growing voice of personal judgment is loudest in front of a mirror and critical of creativity. Imperfections are what make us unique & special but until you embrace them, that sentiment means nothing.

Now that we've explored our psyche a bit...What can we gain when we metaphorically/phsyically "Wear the Cheekies?"

  • Confidence
    • This is lethal and should be wielded. You are beautiful, you are awesome and now you know it. 
  • Goal Setting & Achieving
    • Once I decided my rear had to get in gear, I shared my goals with my trainer and we worked to actively reach them. Decide what is both reasonable and healthy for you then assemble the right people to both get you there and hold you accountable. Have you been wanting to rock a crop top like your friend Miranda? Share your goals with her and you can be sure she will follow-up with and support you through it. 
  • Empowerment
    • Talk about the secret sauce! The intoxicating power of embracing exactly who you are will open doors of self-love, acceptance, and body joy. Once I hit this layer of "I'm doing this for me," it was as if I was giving a big, bubbly, juicy bootylicious middle finger to other peoples unwanted/unwarranted opinions and saying hello to my own femininity. 

So mamas

Wear the cheekies, rock the crop top, don the bright pink lipstick...maybe just not all at once ;)

Spring Florals and India Vibes

I'm going to reveal something about my photo shoots here...

Too soon? Do we know each other well enough yet?

When Amalie and I style and shoot together, we stop at spots that speak to us in the moment. The pre-planning/location scouting is minimal and the intuition/spontenaity is maximal. Yes, that is where the magic happens. For this look we wanted to marry the deep green of my dress with a bright, BRIGHT pop of another hue. Naturally The Orange Studio came to mind. 

We were also on the hunt for a bougainvillea, as they are currently in full and glorious bloom in the sunshine state. This sprawling one invited us into someone's side yard and left us feeling like we were a part of an Anthropologie catalog.  

Messy bun and straight eyeliner: Me

Earrings: Larissa Loden

Bracelets: Vintage Chloe Lane Boutique

Clutch: Marshalls find

Stunning Dress: Calypso St. Barth

Fringe Ankle Booties: Dolce Vita

All Images by the soulful Amalie Orrange Photography

Hats Off

I'm almost ashamed to admit (ALMOST) that I've had this hat for 2+ years (yikes...probably more!) and this is my first time wearing it. There's something committal about a large-brimmed hat that makes it a challenge to just casually add to an outfit. Sometimes a big 'ol brim makes me feel matronly or too "themey (think Kentucky Derby, Mother's Day brunch, garden party, etc.)."Even putting this look together, knowing I wanted something with this beauty of a brim, took all the right parts and pieces. 

Check each of them out below:

Hands down (is there an available pun in this?!?) this has become my favorite "clutch" because of it's texture, design depth, boho vibe, and combination of neutrals. I snagged it from Anthropologie on sale and it's even made its way into the branding of my business (check the hand-drawn version out here: http://www.leahloustyle.com/services). This bad boy is just too cool. I love pairing it with some vintage Indian-inspired bangles that make wrist stacking fun and easy. 

The nameplate necklace in ebony acrylic by Moon & Lola, is another favorite branding accessory of mine and is great on its own and even better when layered. I love how creative you can get with a nameplate; you can think beyond your norm by doing your husband's name, pet, or favorite saying. The more personal, the better in my book!

And finally, the last thing I put on are my shoes. Dolce Vita always delivers on style, comfortability, and sass. Win, win, WIN. They know my bodday! I love the gridded panel that keeps this peep-toe pair unique. 

Dress & Bag: Anthropologie

Shoes: Dolce Vita

Hat: Sandiego Hat Company; troved at Therapie Boutique

Nameplate Necklace: Moon & Lola

Killer Images: Amalie Orrange Photography

Festival Fringe

Music Festival season is upon us and whether you attend, soak up all the fashion through social media, or don't even know what I'm talking about...there's inspiration to be had from the care-free vibes and effortless looks. 

Fringe has been inching its way into the fashion scene for awhile and is fully realized with the current style focus on the hippy trippy, classicly-cool era of the 1970s. I love bringing texture and movement to my outfits and the construction of fringe does just that in one swoop! 

As the weather heats up, the promise of summer seems to call for light-weight and easy breezy.

Layered turquoise and gold accents draw out the navy of this fabulous susana monaco high-neck shift dress (zou zou boutique) and the taupes of the kimono (therapie boutique). 

Sonya Renee's take on the classic hoop is both unique and beautiful; I love how their hammered texture shimmers when they catch light. Stackable rings by Wanderlust + Co are playful, funky, and a great way to try out the "midi" ring. 

These beaded bracelets from Chavez for Charity, are easy to layer (I could load up my entire arm!) and go toward a variety of charities. Talk about a "feel-good!"

 

Vintage jewelry always adds a personalized touch and era inspiration to any outfit. Lately I can't help but don any long beaded necklace from Dora Mae. She has the time and vision to take vintage treasures and give them new life and new luster. 

To complete the entire look, I HAD to throw in more fringe (the more, the fringier right?!?!?) with some killer peep-toe booties from Dolce Vita. I'm not much for heels so these babies add some femininity, edge, and bring some strut to my stuff! 

Images by the talented Amalie Orrange Photography 

&GO: a lifeSTYLE showcase

my recap of a style movement initiative brought to you by Leah Lou and lululemon athletica

logo by Rachael of c3

Like most great ideas... mine are formed in the think-tank that is my bathroom shower. When they've made it from sudsy shower to keeping me up at night and inspiring me while I'm brushing my teeth, driving, and drinking my coffee...then I know it's an idea worth sharing.

My sharing came during a workout session with a dear friend who works at lululemon in the Mall at Millenia. Lauryn was a former co-worker, a current close friend, lover of style and accessories, and fabulous "idea grabber." I say this because we love to swap ideas and become sounding boards for one another. I shared my vision for the busy-women of Orlando... a vision where these women who already go from being mom, to career, to workout (and all the activities for herself and her family in between), embrace the idea of working their workout gear into their wardrobe in a way that truly works for them both functionally and fashionably. How would they embrace this style movement?

  • attending a fashion show that
    • highlights local community figure-heads as the models (those attending the event would also come to support their friends and further the law of attraction).
    • incorporates active-wear into looks that work for the workplace, date-night, errands around town, and a play-date with your kiddos (styled alongside clothing most women would have in their closet; ***this is where my stylist skills shine!***)
    • supports local businesses and initiatives through showcasing accessories in the show that could then be shopped on sight; making these inspirations tangible. *ticket sales also went directly to support Market Colors
    • evokes the elements of a woman most of us want to be--chic, fun, dynamic and empowered.

From there we collaborated to make this idea a reality and began planning all the parts and pieces. We utilized our connections in the community, relationships we had fostered, and the notion that "it never hurts to ask." The event began to form and all the right people were coming together to volunteer their time. As a big believer in the the natural pull of the universe, I was already seeing the "law of attraction" (like attracts like) come into full effect.

&GO was taking shape!

graphics/invite by Caroline of Made Vibrant

Lauryn and I felt like we were planning our weddings all over again! ha! Plus, per usual, I was tackling multiple big projects and ended up closing on a home the VERY SAME DAY as the event. I would not change a thing.

&Go-0486.jpg

all images courtesy of Cameron Mora

 

The evening was a complete success because:

  • attendees were giving us amazing feedback, saying things like "I feel like I'm in sex & the city," "I don't think I'm cool enough to be here!-- (NOT true!)" and "I can't believe this is happening in Orlando...I feel like I'm in New York or L.A.!"
  • every vendor present was women-driven and promoting/gaining recognition and sales for their brand and business
  • the models (community rockstars) were able to put their nerves and novice aside and have a blast with one another. I saw women enjoying a night away from their usual responsibilities; constant smiles, laughter, and feelings of connection were emitting from backstage of the fashion show
  • I furthered the mission of leah lou by talking about who the models were as women (I styled and MC'd the fashion show) and how their outfits influenced and added to their daily lives.
  • women were networking and enjoying themselves until long after the event was over
  • attendees were asking when the next &GO event would be

I am proud that an event like &GO succeeded in our community and inspired a sense of connection, support, and empowerment. I am grateful to the partnership and support from lululemon and specifically the team at the Mall at Millenia.

You never know... maybe I will create more events like this in the future.

 

Kudos and huge thank you to all our vendors:

 

Second Annual 30-Day Style Challenge: Mad for Plaid

Welcome folks!

This is my very first blog post on my shiny new website annnnnnd in lovely squarespace (versus my former site host, wordpress). We're faaaancy over here!

To kick off and motivate my continued blogging, I'm doing another 30-Day Style Challenge where I will wear a particular clothing style for 30 days straight.  I'll showcase different ways to style it, inspire creativity & playfulness, and personally challenge my own style mechanics. Last year I dubbed my challenge #chambrayaday and rocked "chambray" for the entire month of October (you can check that out here).

This year I am paying homage to the burly lumberjacks (think Brawny paper towel man-friend) of "Movember" by donning the phenom pattern that is plaid, check, and tartan. This ladycakes is going #madforplaid for 30 days of killer looks. Bammo!

 

plaid shirt line-up

The beautiful thing about plaid is that it can wardrobe every socio-economic class, cross generational gaps, and make just about everyone seem "in the know" (vague for "on trend" I s'pose..."with the times" blah blah)

It's remarkably true! Just think about who's claimed plaid as their own and how beautifully it works for each of these groups:

  • 90s grunge hipster/emo kid/"millenial" dabbling in the decade (with a Kurt Cobain absenteeism and a pair of "just enough lived-in" Doc Martens)
  • College Co-Ed Prepster (Ralph Lauren interiors, perfectly pressed khakis, the scent of suppressed family secrets and a taste for martinis)
  • Lumberjack (rogue bearded guy with an axe and a perceived and somehow sexy sense of adventure)
  • Garden Gnomes (not positive about this one but I just get the vibe)
  • Backwoodser and Cowboy/Cowgirl (PBR, camo, worn-in jeans and an achey-breaky heart)
  • West Coast/Westerner Cool Kid (think San Fran, Seattle, Portland, and a penchant for local coffee spots)
  • Chicy-Chic ladyfriend (not a real category but it's my way to describe the ladies who street style, fashion blog, and make their looks seem effortlessly feminine)

I could keep dreaming these twisted tartan characters up but.... I'd rather not show my hand. Anyhoo, the fun part about all of this is I usually have some random events on my calendar that require my style challenges to get uber crafty. For instance, last year I had to dress up a denim shirt (chambray) for a wedding. This year so far, I will pack on the plaid for a fashion show that requires cocktail attire (stay tuned) and an upscale style presence. All of which I excel at ;)

Follow my #madforplaid journey daily on my blog, instagram and facebook pages. You can view my looks and give me your opinions and even join in on the fun by tagging me in your own plaid looks. We will keep the creativity loop going by inspiring one another!

 

 

America The Brave... & Stylishly Bold

Yesterday was a big day for the U.S. of A as the men’s national soccer team defeated Nigeria in a “friendly” at the EverBank Stadium in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL.

Style Empowerment | Chambrayaday 30 Day Challenge Recap

Whether you followed my "chambrayaday" challenge or you’re just tuning in now, I’m recapping what I learned while donning a piece of chambray every.single.day for 30 days straight.