Leith Clark: Girl of Our Dreams

You can easily imagine up a life for Leith Clark. You already know her friends and saw her get married in Vogue’s Miss V column over the summer. She drifts on and off Twitter vaguely Instagramming and her signature’s inked through the pages of her lush Lula zine, while her ‘girls’ cover the glossies and sit in front rows and set trends.

I dreamed all of these things about Leith, but had no idea what she was really like until last week when I saw her interviewed as part of the Laurence King series at Kings Place for the launch of Stylists: New Fashion Visionaries by Katie Baron. In Lula she created a neat, softened, modest, pastel-tinged and hyper-stylised femininity and indulged her muses – Kirsten Dunst, Karen Elson – in a way that a mainstream magazine never could – but perhaps in a way that a filmmaker or a painter might (pretentious, moi? Well she is a visionary). The Lula look’s not for everyone (particularly if your occasional style icons are the XX), but regardless of personal taste, it’s an ideal that many have fallen for.

However fascinated we are by Leith’s fantasy life as-seen-on-screen (check out this slightly creepy LC  Tumblr), the reality is somewhere parallel to that. During the interview with author Katie Baron she’s precise and thorough; the focussed professional in dainty, glittery slingbacks, an elegant beaded a-line dress and minimal make-up, a real-life Lula girl.

In a room mostly full of local CSM students, getting a bit of background about how she came to be the queen of the kwai-scene was important – so she explained (in extreme summary) that she dropped out of her journalism degree at college in Toronto, called up Interview in New York and got an internship there before moving on to London where she made it to Vogue. She’s careful to mention that once she arrived in London her parents stopped supporting her financially (she’d persuaded them to fund her months in NY by pointing out it was cheaper than her being at college) and she had to get whatever bar work/etc she could in between Vogueing and occasional sleep. The message is: I worked ridiculously hard to get here.

It wasn’t just hard work that pushed her beyond the Vogue offices though, it was passion and an idea inspired by a sense of disappointment in the limitations of the magazine formats that already existed that prompted a gentle rebellion.

Lula, she explained, was a reaction to the kind of ‘fashion-fierceness’ epitomised by shoots where ‘girls are all tied-up’ (she almost visibly shuddered at this thought) and ‘magazines that were about reminding you what you didn’t have, not what you wanted.’ She was also bored of reading interviews with celebrities and feeling frustrated that the interviewer didn’t tell you anything you wanted to know. According to Leith there’s not enough feminism in generally in the media either – and just because her look is anti-fierce doesn’t mean that her Lula girls aren’t tough.

In terms of the future, for magazines to survive (ah, everyone’s favourite question!), she said that more than ever they need to be unique and have a specific point of view, name-checking The Gentlewoman. On her future Lula muse wishlist are Yoko Ono, Gloria Steinem, Pussy Riot, Hilary Clinton and FEMEN, the Ukranian feminist activists with flowers in their hair (very Lula)…

PS. incidental question: is Lula half-named after Luella? Hope so.

Below:  Michelle Williams styled by LC on the ELLE subscriber cover December 2011

Below that: Kirsten Dunst styled by LC in the book STYLISTS

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Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //

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