Melissa de Leon | Blogger and Personal & Fashion Stylist
This lady and I go WAY back. I’m talking prepping for History of Fashion exams, fashion shows and working on school projects. Ah, college. Melissa and I both studied fashion design together at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Even though we live on opposite sides of the country now, we’ve stayed in touch since graduation and have supported one another on our various paths. It’s been a joy to watch this powerhouse woman grow and build a name for herself as stylist in the Triangle area. So grab your tea (or coffee) and let’s do this: WHH and Melissa de Leon Styling.
Poppyseed: MEL! Thanks so much for coming on Watch Her Hustle today. I’m so, so happy to have you here. Can you tell our readers what you do and where you are located?
Melissa de Leon: Hey! Thanks so much for having me! I am a blogger-turned-stylist living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
PS: Let’s jump right in. When and why did you start blogging?
MD: I started blogging my senior year of high school. I always had an interest in fashion, and wanted an outlet where I felt free to speak my mind, and share some of my outfits! Like most high school girls, I felt so odd and awkward and ugly and thought I could fit in by dressing like everyone else. I used fashion to cover up the person I didn’t like instead of using it as a tool to express myself. I look back at these past 10 years and it’s SO crazy - I started my blog in a very dark place, but as I put together outfits and took photos and wrote commentary on my outfits, it really gave me 10 years of healing from a lot of hurt and time to learn about myself. I never realized how much power and influence and publicity I would receive from a little homemade blog! It was really just meant for a depressed, high school girl to write and dream in a digital diary, and now it’s been used as a tool to reach thousands of readers and clients and share the importance of being vulnerable and owning up to your flaws, your differences and yourselves.
PS: That seriously gave me chills. I love how you turned a therapeutic outlet into a business all while learning more about yourself. Seriously, BA. Ok, but how did you pivot into styling?
MD: I honestly never sought out styling, but truly believe styling found me. I chuckle to myself as I say it - it sounds so cheesy right?! I majored in fashion design, and had every intention to be a fashion designer. While I was in college, I studied abroad in Paris and took a “Dress and Society” class which changed my life. Essentially, the course was a light version of a fashion psychology course, and I fell in love. That class really spurred on my interest in psychology and sociology and made me so passionate about what I do now. What I learned in that class made me do my own research and reading on my own, and what I have learned has really become the cornerstone of my business. My blog was also getting a lot more attention, and I really loved responding to comments about how unusual or interesting my style was. I started becoming recognizable on my college campus as the “girl that has a fashion blog”, and friends and family begun to ask me what to wear for job interviews, first dates, weddings. I even had friends who would text me mirror selfies of their outfits every morning! Finally, I just realized that this was what I was meant to do. All through high school all I wanted to do was change who I was and be like everyone else, but really my purpose was to be that strong voice with a unique style that could encourage other women to do the same. Take fashion and translate it into their own style.
PS: Love hearing the depth of this story. Are you styling and blogging full time or do you have a conventional job that pay the bills?
MD: Styling has now taken over as my full time job, and blogging has taken a backseat. I still do it on occasion, but most of my time is spent focused on my styling business and getting it off the ground.
PS: Who has empowered you the most?
MD: I honestly think every woman in my life has empowered me the most. My sister, my mother, my friends, my professors, my colleagues - literally every woman that I’ve met in high school, college and now in my career have greatly impacted my life and how I run my business. It’s amazing to see how different we all are in personality, characteristics, physical attributes, backgrounds, races, demographics… meeting and getting to know all these women reinforces my mission to help women find the style that is unique to them.
PS: Totally agree with you on this one. It’s amazing how many people can shape us and us them. So, now that you’ve gotten off the ground a bit, what advice would you give an aspiring stylist?
MD: I’d give several pieces of advice. First, don’t give up. Styling is hard and sometimes unheard of in most cities in the U.S., so I think it takes someone with tough skin to break the mold and create a voice. Second (I’ll quote Lucinda Chambers who is a recognized stylist in the industry): “Educate your eyes, expose yourself. Nothing is off limits. Everything is information.” We as stylists can never stop researching, reading, dreaming, daring, educating, and being educated. Lastly, and I think this is the most important - just listen. We become fashion therapists for our clients - people will pour out unwarranted information to you because they so badly want someone to hear their cries. Listen to their stories, their stressors, and their problems and figure out a way to solve those problems. Don’t try and avoid them or cover them up - most of the time you can find beauty hidden in the ugliest places.
PS: That was so good. I’d never thought about stylist being “fashion therapists” but can totally see that connection now. LOVE it! So, how has being an entrepreneur changed you?
MD: Being an entrepreneur has really challenged me. There are moments where I kick myself and wonder how stupid I must be to try to start my own business ill-equipped, but then it’s in the moments when I get a review from a client or work long hours on an editorial photoshoot when all those negative feelings fade. I’ve had to grow thicker skin, and come to the realization that as an artist, not everyone is going to appreciate my art. I’ve had to push myself to be more extroverted and put myself out there. I’ve had to be strong and risky and gutsy and bold when all I feel is insecure and defeated. But mostly, I think being an entrepreneur and forsaking a traditional, well-paying retail job for a start-up styling business has really allowed me to realize my passion. All the difficulties that come with trying to start a business are worth it when I get to do what I love. Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill said that. I’m thankful that being an entrepreneur has made me stronger and more equipped to do this job, even in the moments when I feel so unsuccessful and worn out.
PS: Girl, it’s like you’re in my head! Ha! But seriously, I totally know what your talking about. Ok, last question: what upcoming projects are you most excited about?
MD: Currently I’m in the planning period for a commercial shoot with a bag company from Kentucky. The photographer and I have some really cool inspiration for it, and I love when we start to see all the pieces of the puzzle being put together. For personal styling, this week is my first consultation with a client who has purchased my limited time Capsule Wardrobe package. I created this package after several friends and colleagues voiced the problem of having too much in their closet and wanting to pare down (again - LISTEN to their problems and find a solution). I’ve received such great feedback and I’m excited that people are purchasing it and seeing how it will benefit their life!
PS: We are so excited for you, Melissa! Thanks so much for chatting today. If you’re interested in styling head on over to “Melissa de Leon Styling” and be sure to follow her on Instagram at @melissadeleonstyling . Or if you want to chat more about her Capsule Wardrobe package or other services, shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out where everything started on her blog “Mel In Chanel” and her Instagram @melinchanel. Have a great weekend everyone. Until next time! XO, Rebekah #WatchHerHustleWithPoppyseed