#womenwhoinspire: Melissa De Leon, Fashion + Personal Stylist
This past Spring, I was asked to assist my dear friend, Samantha Ray with LULA Hair + Makeup, to make up models at the once yearly Anthropologie fashion show in North Hills. Going in, I didn't know who the models were or how they were procured to be in the show, but typically, the shop would select models of all ages, skin types, and features. My first pretty lady to doll up that day was none other than the influencer, fashion blogger, and now, personal stylist, Melissa De Leon, or Mel In Chanel as she coined herself upon entering the arena of fashion blogging (cute, right?). I kept thinking to myself, "I know this girl" or things like "Her eyebrows are ah-mazing!" Of course, being the teensy tiny market that it is, it was true that I was familiar with Mel as I had been following her for some time on social media. Go figure!? Mel's personality was refreshing, humble, and yet, still a maverick in the fashion industry. Per usual, I could keep on about her beauty and accolades, but I'll let her tell you herself. Enjoy!
J: I absolutely LOVE the name Mel In Chanel! What inspired the idea of the blog? Have you always been into fashion?
M: Thank you! My creative sister is great with catchphrases and words, so she was the one who actually came up with my name! I wanted something catchy, easy to remember and hinted to fashion - Mel in Chanel was the first thing that popped out of her mouth when I was looking for ideas, and I was instantly sold. Most of my close friends call me ‘Mel’, and some even playfully call me ‘Mel in Chanel’!
I started the blog back in high school, as an outlet where I could share my feelings and show some cute outfits; like a creative e-diary. I went through the same period of low-self esteem and depression that many high school girls go through. I didn’t intentionally start the blog as a place to open up about personal things, but I’m so thankful that it evolved in that way. The more I shared, the more I received feedback from readers who validated my feelings, or who felt encouraged to know that someone was suffering like they were. So, I wanted to make a space where I (and my readers) could be vulnerable, open up, feel empowered and work their way towards confidence. I studied fashion design in college (so yes, I was always in to fashion), and it wasn’t until college when I took a class focused on fashion psychology that I felt like my blog could really make a difference. I began learning why people dress the way they do, I began to appreciate other styles, and ultimately I came to the realization that being fashionable had nothing to do with following trends or wearing the most expensive clothes - being fashionable was when a woman took ownership of herself, flaws and all, and proudly displayed her herself on the outside and to the world. This was the same confidence that I was desperately trying to look for, and I realized then that I hadn’t quite healed from all the high school junk I went through. I was still hurting, I was still hiding and I was still pretty unhappy.
Ultimately, I think my blog made me who I am today. In a weird way, I feel as though all my work trying to help other women feel beautiful and confident led to me finding my own beauty and confidence. I was typing the words that I really wanted someone to tell me, but I hadn’t allowed myself to take to heart. Through my blog, and that fashion psychology class, I found my true passion was styling, and just last year started my styling business to put all my efforts through my blog to work on real women. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, a lot of prayer, a lot of counseling, but I can now say I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished through both my businesses, and I’m really proud of the person I’ve become. Without all my baggage from my past, I wouldn’t be where I am today, that’s just the truth. I’m so thankful for my journey and where it led me!
J: You also provide services as a professional personal and fashion stylist with your company, Melissa de Leon Styling; tell me at what point you knew you could move into doing this as a business? Was that always the ultimate goal?
M: Like I said before, my blog and fashion psychology course is really what led me to my styling career. After I took that fashion psychology course, I had the privilege of studying abroad in Paris and was exposed to the grandeur and complexities of the industry. I definitely felt a little lost (Not physically, but mentally! Trust me, I welcome any opportunity to get lost in Paris!) - I had gone to college to be a fashion designer but was realizing that it was no longer my real passion. After talking to my family and close friends, they helped me realize the interest I always had was styling, and my natural talent for it. I had always dreamed about being the next Grace Coddington and working for Vogue, but I hadn’t pursued my interest because I had no idea how to get there! When I graduated college, I took a job working for Anthropologie as their Personal Stylist. I learned so much from that job, but didn’t love the retail aspect. I had worked retail since I was 14 years old, and really desired to have a business of my own where I could pull the clothes my clients really needed and help all types of women. It wasn’t until September of last year when I put in my notice and took the leap of faith!
J: What does a typical day in the life of a stylist + fashion blogger look like?
M: For blogging, every day is somewhat repetitive and I’ve gotten very comfortable with my cycle. For the most part I’m taking photos of outfits and then posting them to Instagram. I typically post 2-3 photos a day to keep up my engagement with my followers, but with my styling business taking up the majority of my time, I post once a day. Fortunately (and somewhat unfortunately), blogging has become less about having a website platform and more about Instagram, so my usual well-written and really long blog posts that I used to post twice a week and been limited to once or twice every two weeks! You’re always having to know what social platform is trending, and right now… Instagram is where it’s at for bloggers. After blogging for 7 years, I’ve become very comfortable with my system so I know the protocol and checklist that I need to get done everyday. I start my day checking and responding to emails and then scheduling my Instagram posts for the next few days. Now, everything in the blogging world is about being unintentional and about real life (which I love!), so I’m constantly in blog-mode. I don’t think that will ever stop!
For styling, every day is different, which can be both exciting and really challenging. Since I’m still at the beginning stages of my styling business, the majority of my time is used researching, holding meetings with clients and figuring out ways to market my business! I’ve been feeling stuck in my business as of late, so I’m actually taking an online certification course for personal styling that will give me credibility and boost my knowledge. It’s helpful to take a class personalized to my career, so I now know what I need to do to give this a real go! Styling is all about forecasting trends, fashion shows, brand knowledge, clothing construction and design… you have to know it all! I’m constantly flipping through magazines, watching popular TV shows, streaming fashion shows online, and constantly shopping. I basically know every single item of clothing that is on the racks of every store in Raleigh. In order to provide the best service for your clients, you have to know what is out there! My girlfriends think it’s hilarious (and ridiculously helpful). We’ll have a girls night out and one of my girlfriends will comment on someone’s shoes and I tell them “Hint hint. They’re on sale at __ right now” or “Those are from the new ___ fall collection”. I guess I’ve become my own fashion resource!
J: Our community is mainly women. What tidbit(s) of advice (one or two simple things) would you offer to ladies to help them live more stylishly?
M: I tell this to all my clients: being fashionable is when a woman takes ownership of herself - whoever she is. I think ultimately, any woman has the ability to look and feel stylish when she has the confidence to be who she really is. So often you can get caught up in the fads and trends and lose sight of who you are. I think living stylishly simply means to live the life you’ve been given with the beautiful body, and soul you’ve been given.
J: Fashion is all about creativity. Where do you garner inspiration from?
M: I have a lot of resources I use for inspiration, but my biggest source of inspiration comes from magazines. I’m a huge magazine collector (some may call it hoarding), I tear out editorials, advertising campaigns, or even red carpet photos that inspire me through lighting, mood, color, texture…. anything. It takes me weeks (sometimes months) to read through one Vogue, cover to cover. I look at every single page, and keep the pages that speak to me most. Currently I have an ongoing file folder that is overstuffed with clippings. Eventually, I’ll need to invest in a filing cabinet…
J: What has been your biggest struggle professionally? How did you endure it (or are enduring it currently!)?
M: I think for my blog it’s become not to play the number/success game. So often I can look at other bloggers who have more followers than me, or more likes than me and wonder why I don’t have that. Ultimately, I have to look at my work on my blog or on my Instagram and be proud of the person I am and the brand that I’m creating. No matter what industry you’re in, you can get so caught up in the number game and being envious of other people’s success. At the end of the day, I’m fully confident in the person I’m portraying online, because it’s me. To me, numbers don’t matter if you’re creating great content and living authentically.
Since it’s my first year of styling (my 1st year anniversary was this week!), I think it’s been like any start-up company - how to get paying clients! I’ve had to put myself out there and really hustle for work. I’m thankful that I have friends and family who are a call/text away that can boost my confidence when I feel really down. I look forward to the day when I have a steady stream of clients rolling in, and when I’m not always on the hunt for work!
J: Is there a specific individual who has been monumental to your success? If so, who? And in what way?
M: There’s a lot of people out there I could give a shout out to, but I have to say my mom. I’m blessed to have a mother who has always valued education, a sense of humor, and working hard. Ever since my sister and I were little, she would tell us our strengths and invest in our talents. Both of my parents encouraged my creativity and didn’t dissuade me from studying fashion because they knew it was my natural gift and an industry I loved. I’m thankful to have parents who supported me and sacrificed for me and loved me. I actually recently “hired” my mom to be my executive assistant for my styling business! In all honesty, I don’t trust anyone more with handling my business, and I know she would fight for my business just as much as I would because she has always fought for me. Eventually when I go on to hire a styling assistant or interns, I want them to be an advocate for Melissa de Leon Styling. My mom has always been my advocate from day one, so I can’t think of anyone better to be a part of my start-up team.
J: We all have one book, blog, or podcast that we’d recommend to others as a “must” check out. What is that for you?
M: For blogs, I can’t pick a favorite so I’ll name three that are a MUST follow for fashion lovers: Aimee Song of Song of Style, Chriselle Lim of The Chriselle Factor, Jenny Cipoletti of Margo and Me, and Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes. Oh wait. That was four (Whoops).
As far as books go, I’m currently reading through Lara Casey’s “Make it Happen”. It’s great for business owners or entrepreneurs who need a little encouragement and a motivational kickstarter for their business. It’s been a real life changer for me, I’ve cried almost on every page.
J: My mantra is “Take it one day at a time.” Do you have a specific motto that you live by?
I feel like my mantra changes pretty frequently, but right now it is “You are enough”. It’s one I like to share with my clients and readers as well. Something I know I often forget and most people don’t even believe.
J: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with the readers and I?
M: I love hearing from readers, meeting up for coffee, making new friends and/or collaborating with small businesses! I’m pretty much an open book, so if anyone ever wants to talk about my styling business, blogging, or even get a little personal, I’m game! You can find my emails on my Instagram page(s), @melinchanel or @melissadeleonstyling, and I would love to hear from you!