It’s Mother’s Day and we are doing this interview! Actually, it’s kind of Mother’s month in May, so tell us about your Mom ☺ it’s apparent that you love her very much.
I have a pretty fantastic mom! She’s full of life, has a big heart, and loves to have fun! She’s extremely fashionable even at 75 years old she’s always looking good!
Your work takes you to creative places, you are a hair and fashion stylist as well as a producer where you create unique style experiences. Can you tell us about the niche you have carved out for yourself here in Calgary and beyond?
I love creating and collaborating and exploring the many sides of me! When an idea sparks, I like to see where it can take me, and it’s taken me on a wild journey of experiences. I have a lot of interests and passions, so it makes sense to blend them together to create something new that I feel inspired by and in turn hope others do as well.
You are a resident artist of nvrlnd, tell us about nvrlnd – we had not heard of it prior to you mentioning it!
A group of innovative artists took over a derelict hotel and converted it into an artist space. Each room was converted into studios where some of the most talented artists reside, creating all forms of art. My first introduction to nvrlnd. was the use of nvrlnd. boutique. I converted the space into a pop-up clothing boutique. It was the perfect space for it. The boutique hosts a variety of different inceptions like gallery shows, music events, live art classes, etc. Definitely a place to check out when everything reopens. Kelly Johnsgaard, Cory Nespor, Bramble Lee Pryde, and Carsten Rubeling have created the kind of space that inspires you as soon as you walk through the doors. As a newer resident there, I was encouraged to meet all the artists, collaborate, and share ideas. There's always someone to brainstorm with, talk about projects, and dream up big ideas. I’ve made some incredibly great friends. Surrounding myself with driven, creative, and talented humans has truly made me better.
As creative director of Concept X productions, you focus on experiences and events. How are your experiences and events different; what is your creative genius? ☺
My creative genius is being the vessel to bring ideas to life! We create our events around building memorable experiences for people. There are tons of different forms of art and I want to expose people to that. I couldn’t create the events we’ve done without my team - Sam Mendoza and Tom Barker. When we’re together ideas flow and experiences are made. I want people to see and experience fashion and music in a new way or feel music in a new way or in a way you didn’t know you could. That leaves an impression. That’s what we seek to create.
We are loving those recorder sessions, when did you pick up that skill? Was that part of your COVID projects, or did you pick that up in elementary school? Have you started any other projects while in self-isolation?
Omg the recorder...hahaha. I come from a lineage of musicians. Both my dad and my sister are professional musicians. I played many instruments growing up but none really that well. I didn’t like performing so I never stuck with playing. Often, my sister would receive a new instrument for her birthday. Because I love novel things, I would always take it from her, learn “Happy Birthday”, then never play the instrument again. It’s a running joke in my family. The recorder sessions started because my mom celebrated her 75th birthday in April and my sister thought it’d be funny to make her a video of us playing “Happy Birthday”. We got dressed up, played her a song and that was the beginning of our subpar quarantine band. We didn’t expect that people would like it or request more songs.
I have been doing some other interesting projects, more closely related to my skillset. I love up-cycled fashion and enjoy transforming existing things into something new. Early into quarantine, I started making leather jewelry, mostly necklaces, out of leather remnants and chains from retired necklaces. I’ve also been reworking a couple denim jackets. As a hairstylist, I’ll be going back to work soon, and I’ve decided to try out wearing coveralls as a work uniform. My creative project for the next couple weeks will be to style them up a bit. Maybe add some leather to them... who knows!
Your style is super cool, we love it and you rocked HK in the photoshoot. How do you put it all together? What’s your go-to in your closet?
I don’t have a secret to my style. I like black. I love oversized. I love shiny things and animal prints. And I love accessories - giant glasses, hats, headscarves, massive earrings, unique rings, and an excessive number of bracelets. Sometimes I look great. Sometimes I look over the top crazy, but I just roll with it! My rings and my bracelets are a necessity. The only time I take them off is to go through airport security (did I mention I love accessories?!?). My fav jewelry is from Calgary artisans - Le Lou Ula and Evstenroos. And shoes. I have always adored shoes. Colours, patterns, unusual materials, and styles. I love them all. Because I work on my feet all day it’s important to me that my shoes are interesting and comfortable. So, in summary...I wear a lot of basics and accessorize A LOT!
You are a huge champion of community and culture in Calgary, what do you love about Calgary and what do you think is still missing? Do you have a vision for the city?
I love the people here. I meet some of the coolest people, doing incredible things from all walks of life. Listening to their experiences, ideas, and thoughts broadens my knowledge and challenges my own ideas on various topics.
I want to contribute to the arts and culture here. Art isn’t missing, I just want it to have a higher profile. During quarantine people are baking, learning to draw or paint, learning guitar, watching Netflix, reading books, watching live-stream concerts. All art-based industries. It’s important. It enriches our lives, but there’s not always a lot of value put on it.
One of your projects was Inspire Project: Mini Heroes. A self-published tabletop book showcasing children as influential people of our past and present. Can you share more about this project and why you did it? What was the outcome?
This project changed my life. I had a random idea to dress kids up as influential people for a photography book. I put together a team of incredible women and we photographed 50 kids under the age of 6 years old in 7 months. It was wild. The kids were undeniably amazing…I have a lot of great stories from this project.
That the people that have changed the world in great ways started out as a child. Any kid could be the next Jane Goodall or Martin Luther King Jr.
We chose to partner the project with Dare to Care, a bully prevention charity. The proceeds from the book sales as well as fundraisers done under Inspire Project we have given to Dare to Care to help with their efforts across Canada.
Everything is so polarised right now, politics, COVID, news… even the city. What do you think are some of the solutions as we embark on a reopening? How do we respect the medical community direction, and yet bring back some of these experiences?
The world is going to look different for a while. Difficult times can spark new ideas (which we’ve already seen in abundance as people and businesses adapt to the current climate.) I think we’ll continue to see innovation and creativity. As a hairstylist, my industry is set to be in Phase 1 of the re-opening. The best thing I can do is follow the guidelines set out by the medical community and provide a safe environment for myself and my clients when we return to work. As we reopen the city, we need to extend patience and understanding to each other.
How are you coping with not ‘hanging’ with your besties right now?
Distant hangs, video chats, and phone chats have been great...thank god for technology. Truthfully, I miss eating and drinking at my favourite restaurants with friends like everyone else. Life is meant to be experienced in 3D!
Given your experience in fashion, do you believe the industry and us as consumers are starting to go in the right direction?
God, I hope so.
Build a relationship with the owners and their staff; trust me, they’ll making shopping way more enjoyable and you’ll feel good about your purchases.
Who had the biggest influence on you Leela? And don’t you think women are kicking ass in leadership today? Prime ministers, medical chiefs, and so many more. Who is your role model today?
I was thinking about this just the other day. A lot of my role models are friends of mine. I like to surround myself with people that motivate me. I leave conversations with friends and feel invigorated but also have an understanding of vulnerability. It’s good to learn from those that have paved the path and also those that are in the mud with you.
What do you want for girls growing up today, your advice for them?
Be nicer to each other. The world is tough on us; it’s easier with girlfriends in your corner.
What have been the most inspiring moments for you over the past two months?
My sister. My sister, Lisa Jacobs, ruptured a ligament in her ankle when she was touring as a bassist with “We Will Rock You”. Because of the pandemic she was unable to get it properly taken care of (surgery). Watching her determination to do whatever she can to heal, despite the pain, has been inspiring. She rests when she needs too (a good lesson for us all) and pushes through when she needs to get shit done. It’s a good reminder of what our bodies are capable of!
Another huge inspiration is all my boss friends.
I’m super fucking proud of all of them.
Is there anything that you want to share Leela that we haven’t touched on? Something that is very personal to you, that you believe others need to be aware of?
Life as an entrepreneur is hard. I’ve never questioned the decision to be one so much than in the last 6 weeks. I’ve had to make different financial decisions, shift my businesses, and really decide if working as an employee outweighs being an entrepreneur. I know that pivoting is a part of life, failure and success are a part of life and we all do our best. I have really a great support system where I can work out my ideas, questions, and worries. At the end of the day, I really love the life I’m creating.