I’m so excited to bring you the inaugural post of my new interview series: My Favorite Style Icons. This week we start by speaking with Leah Hoffmann, a writer whose avant-garde style I’ve been admiring for more than a few years now.
Lani: What is your first style memory?
Leah: When I was in the seventh or possibly the eighth grade, I was desperate to have one of those Levi’s “Button Your Fly” t-shirts. My mother took one look and deemed it irretrievably vulgar. Then I asked about the second shirt in the series: “Sit On It.” Needless to say, I didn’t get either of them.
Lani: I have to say, that is not the answer I was expecting!
Leah: If you want to go back even further, we could talk about the puffy-sleeved, pink-and-white striped blouse and skirt combo I adored at the age of 5, or fast forward to high school, when I was wearing my 6’6” dad’s khaki pants and trying to pull off a chain wallet…Then again, maybe that’s best left alone. I was something of a late bloomer.
Lani: Who is your style icon?
Leah: My mother. It took me years to see past the bulky silhouettes and shoulder pads of the eighties to the classic tweed, leather, and wool – not to mention the suede skirts that she packed up in the seventies – but I’m now so appreciative that I’ve made off with several of her pieces and adapted them to my own needs.
Lani: What is the best piece you ever bought?
Leah: When I was dirt poor in grad school, I spent $100 on a long, white, diaphanous Alberta Ferretti dress that I found in a consignment store. In my fantasy life, it was the sort of thing I might wear to a summer garden party. In my real life, it hung, neglected, at the back of my closet until I dyed it blue and wore it to a friend’s wedding.
Lani: What is the best deal you ever got?
Leah: Years ago, I got a pair of black wool trousers at a Helmut Lang sample sale for $25. I no longer have time to hunt for that kind of bargain, though I still have and wear the trousers.
Lani: Where do you buy most of your clothes?
Leah: I’m a cheapskate and I don’t like crowds, so I do a lot of shopping online: yoox, eBay. I used to go to sample sales, but I’m choosier now with my time and only go to ones that I know that I like.
Lani: Some of us would just say you are a smart, savvy shopper! How would you describe your style?
Leah: Evolving? I admire the work of avant-garde designers like Oliver Theyskens and Veronique Branquinho, but I try to keep things simple. I stick to clean lines, muted colors, and subtle accents. I’ve only just learned about belts. Give me another 30 years and I might actually learn to accessorize!
Lani: And I always thought your judicious use of accessories was deliberate! What piece do you wear the most?
Leah: I do most of my work from home, and my go-to outfit is a black top and jeans. When I need to look presentable, I wear a beige cashmere dress that I got a couple years ago at a Lutz and Patmos sample sale. I pair it with ankle boots and a leather belt my mother bought me; it’s a comfortable, idiot-proof ensemble.
Lani: Tell us about your closet set-up.
Leah: Right now, I’ve got one of those Metro garment rack set-ups stashed in a little half-room next to the bedroom. We live in and old, unrenovated Brooklyn townhouse, and there aren’t really any closets, but the rack seems to work pretty well. I’ve also started using wall hooks to hang my bags and jewelry – out of sight, out of mind, when it comes to me and accessories.
Lani: I love how you’ve used all my tricks! See the hangers and shoe boxes. With a wardrobe this organized and edited, I bet you wear most of it. What percentage would you say you wear?
Leah: I go through phases, like anyone, but I actually quite enjoy the biannual process of editing out the stuff I don’t wear, so with a few sentimental exceptions (and high heels, which I’m generally too tall for) I’d say I wear almost everything.
Lani: Oh, I love that! Thank you so much for giving us insight into your style development. You truly are a style icon!