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Leslie Medlin

Leslie is styling the Elsie Tunic and Della Pant in Black
I've long wanted to interview the women who have inspired me or influenced me in some way in my journey of creating this slow-fashion business. First up is Leslie Medlin, mother, designer, and purveyor of ethical fashion.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m 30, have been married for 4.5 years to my husband, Ryan, and we just had a son, Cade Bolder, in December — we like to call him #cadethebold. My background/education is fashion design, and I started a business right after I graduated college doing a combination of designing clothes and doing contract merchandising/creative installations. I always worked for independent clothing boutiques alongside my business endeavors, and I have gotten so much great experience in seeing the partnership between design and merchandising.

I pursued all of that until we moved from Texas to Raleigh, NC in 2016. After our move, I decided to take a step back and figure out where I wanted to go next, but before I had time to really land career-wise again, we found out we were pregnant with Cade. As we processed the future, we felt strongly about me focusing on our son for the coming season. So, currently, I am “at home” with Cade, and I’m not pursuing anything specific from a business standpoint. But I am of the opinion & passion that intentional motherhood does not have to look a certain way, so though I don’t know what the future holds, I’m still loving the fashion industry & endeavor to forward style by things like investing in brands I care about & talking about them on my Instagram. I know this is just the beginning of all I can and will do. 

I have long admired your style. What are you most inspired by when choosing pieces?

That’s so kind! Clothing is my language for life, so I’m very calculated in what makes me love something. My biggest inspirations have always been color, silhouette, and the way fabric falls and folds on the body. Hilariously enough, I’ve been in a really long phase of not wearing a ton of bright colors (if you knew me prior to 2014, I barely owned a pair of black shoes!), but my core passion is color & my long-standing favorites are “spicy” yellow & poppy red. And I’m ready to make a return this coming fall season in starting to choose pieces with pops of color (you know, after rocking the heck out of this matching black linen set!)

Silhouette has been my most consistent and obvious inspiration as an adult. I’ve always loved oversized, severe silhouettes, but I’m also very aware of and comfortable with my more broad shoulders/big bones, so I think those kinds of shapes just look really great on me. When I see a piece that stands more away from the body than highlighting it, I’m hooked. And I know that’s a popular silhouette right now, but it’s really my love for life. I believe clothes are made to stand out & and create shapes for the eyes in addition to the shape of our bodies.  

You recently became a mom—congrats! How has your style changed with the changing life seasons?

Thank you so much! Motherhood has definitely been a shift for the independent woman in me, but it’s been so cool to see how much of “me” still remains even though I feel like I have a whole new identity.

And similarly, I actually don’t feel like my style has changed too drastically. While I was pregnant, I felt super passionate about doing maternity style the Leslie-way, and I made a lot of efforts to purchase things that I would have purchased anyway and just make them work for a belly and beyond. I started #wearmaternitywell to document the journey. Obviously, my mostly oversized closet worked well for a growing belly, and I wanted to keep that same perspective as I journeyed through postpartum. I spent the couple of years before motherhood really curating my closet, and I wanted to know that those things would still work in the transition.

The biggest thing that I would say is different now is the increasing amount of casual wear I have wanted to invest in. I always took pride in getting dressed every day if I wasn’t leaving the house, but practically, I know now that some days are meant for leisure — for being okay just playing on the floor with Cade and not “thinking” about my clothes. So I have invested in more athleisure and lounge wear in this stage of life and have enjoyed finding great brands that focus on those pieces. And additionally, I’ve enjoyed buying pieces that can be paired both with lounge and day wear — like your Elsie tunic! Seriously! I’ve worn that with side-striped athletic pants & with block heels. Love having that versatility. 

That is so awesome to hear! I'm all about versatility, and am of the belief that clothing shouldn't be so delicate that you can't live life in it.

What are you passionate about, and how does that influence you in your day-to-day?

Love this question. I would say my greatest passions are:

1. Living confidently
2. Dressing confidently
3. Inspiring confidence in others
4. Being intentional to create beauty in every area of my life—and—
5. Doing all of those things with authenticity

I think those all go together. In my day-to-day, I aspire to be confident in who I am, so I can inspire others to be confident in who they are. I have always believed that dress and identity are linked—how you dress is an indicator of what you think about/how you see yourself. and likewise, I believe you can change how you see yourself if you change how you dress. And I’m constantly noticing those things about people I encounter. That’s the reason I studied fashion design, and also my purpose for being on Instagram, too—I want to inspire people to take joy in how they dress and carry themselves. 

You’re a big advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion, can you tell me how you discovered it, and what you’ve learned along the way?

Such a fun question. My mother has always loved style—and she raised me with an eye for beauty, but also an eye for sales, haha! So up until adulthood, I was all about what is now called fast-fashion and getting more for my money. But after I got married, two things happened—my style took a major turn, and I started to feel like excessive shopping and deal-hunting was bringing me less contentment rather than more.

I happened across a brand or two that had these amazing, oversized style silhouettes and yet were so simple & understated. The shape was like what I had been looking for and yet missing all of my life—like saying more with less. The price was higher than I’d ever paid for my clothes, but something about them seemed totally worth it. And after convincing my husband of the purchase, I got the first piece in the mail. And when I saw how it looked on me, and how it felt to really invest in a piece of clothing versus just throwing another cheap piece of trend-based, “affordable” clothing into my closet, something flipped in me.

And over the last couple of years, I’ve been on a journey of re-inventing my style, my spending habits, and perspective on “money well spent” one joyful investment at a time. Something about being a designer, and yet mindlessly trend-buying, putting my money toward big, no-face brands and not knowing their process never felt right. Now I feel I’m really being true to myself every time I add to my closet. I still buy from big brands every now and then, but it’s with a totally different mindset and goal. And to me, that’s movement toward the mindset that breeds the most beautiful expression of myself and most contentment. And isn't that the ultimate goal of dress?

And with my current break from my own creative pursuits, I have loved promoting other makers who are risking, creating, and pioneering. And I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned on this journey—I don’t have to be immensely successful personally to advocate for & promote the success of others.  And that mindset has taught me to be more personally confident and content. I’m so amazed at the growth of the slow fashion community and love being a part of it in each season of my life, however I can.

I can totally relate to your journey. I was also heavily purchasing from fast fashion stores while in design school. Looking back, it seems contradictory in a way. But it's always humbling to look back at where I started, and how we are all a part of the shift toward more mindful purchasing.

Have you incorporated sustainable/ethical living into other areas of your life?

When my husband and I moved to Raleigh, I became friends with, and then started working for, a woman who had just opened a design store for home & lifestyle goods called Port of Raleigh, @portofraleigh. I’ve always loved to curate my home, as well as my closet, but I really was not well-versed in the interiors world. And working for her has opened me up to the world of being intentional with making home a place of joy, like I want my closet to be. I’ve been changed by revelations like buying a quality, design-focused piece that brings true joy, has both beauty and function, and wanting to take care of it so it will last instead of buying cheap things and expecting them to break, just replacing them over and over. So I’d like to think that my home is now a much more sustainable and thoughtful place for our family to dwell. And I’ve loved learning about another aspect of the design industry along the way! 

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled?

Hands down, ITALY. I studied abroad in Florence during college, and I would totally live there. Italy is this perfect combination of classy/classic and eclectic. Old world history & pioneering ideas. Color mixed with neutral. Timeless and trendy. I loved the people, the streets, the piazzas, the clothes, the language, and the food. Its also where I got all the inspiration and vision for my college senior design collection, so it just holds many places in my heart.

I also studied abroad in Florence! It was such an amazing city to live in for a few months. I'm not sure I took full advantage while I was there, but I'm glad I got the chance to do so!

Where would you most like to go right now?

Back to Europe & back to NYC. there’s just endlessness to discover in both. 

Any packing tips for travel? What are your go-to pieces and must-haves?

I’ve worn the same black dress for plane rides for the last two years. It’s one of my closet favs, and I actually own two of them because it’s such a workhorse for me and expresses my core style. I like being consistent in that, but hilariously enough, with the rest of packing, I am the complete opposite. I hardly ever pack the same things twice. I like being spontaneous when I travel. That makes me a chronic over-packer, but it’s just something I know about myself and take into account when planning. I like being able to decide “who I want to be” after I get to a place—having the freedom to be typical or brand new.

Some of my go-tos are:

1. Having a least 3 different types of shoes so I’m always prepared for any occasion—a tennis shoe, a flat, and something for dressing up
2. A black dress
3. A layering piece to add interest
4. Something I’ve never worn before to give an opportunity for creating/inspiration

I’ve always seen travel as the perfect time to try out new versions of myself. That probably goes against every packing blog post ever, ha, but I love doing it that way.

What brings you joy?

What brings me the most joy is living to be inspired by beauty, getting to participate in spreading that beauty, and influencing others for good along the way.

Find Leslie at @lesliemariemedlin and

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