Colour conversation with stylist, Leesa Whisker
From the offices of Vogue to dressing rooms across the world, stylist and image coach Leesa Whisker has spent 25 years helping women
to transform their personal style and embrace colour in their lives, as she reveals in our latest Colour Conversation.
Have you always had a passion for clothes, colour and style?
My mum is an artist, so I grew up playing with colour, paint and fabric. I was quite shy as a child, but I did lots of drama, probably to improve my confidence, and although I’d be nervous about going on stage, costumes always transformed my nerves into excitement. It really imprinted on me that clothes could make you feel different; they could impact your sense of self and affect other people’s perceptions of you.
I remember my aunt, the designer Mariad Whisker, making a beautiful modern jacket and skirt for my grandmother. I watched as she tried it on for the first time, looking at her reflection in the mirror and holding herself differently. I caught a glimpse of this other woman inside of her. She looked so strong and elegant; wild but poised. I felt proud but also a little sad, because it was just a glimpse. I realised there were parts of her identity as a woman that went unexpressed in her life, but in that moment – in that rust-red linen suit, all modern asymmetric tailoring, with the skirt cut just below the knee – she transcended her age, her life and her body. That’s where my passion for clothes, colour and style lies.
Your work as a stylist and image consultant has taken you all over the world. Tell us more…
Yes, since 2003 it has taken me to New York, Paris, Milan, Copenhagen, Dublin, Madrid and London. I’ve been interviewed by TV, radio and international press, presented large corporate seminars and intimate group workshops, trained other experienced image consultants how to ‘style’ like a pro and consulted in all kinds of places, from the offices of Vogue to the homes of hundreds of men and women brave enough to let me into their wardrobes and their lives.
The internet has really opened up the way women are able to delve into their style and colour. What have been the benefits of working online for you and your clients?
It’s enabled me to connect and work with women wherever they are in the world and to live a location-independent life with my young family, first in Bali, now the Balearics. In 2018 I’d been working with one particular client for five years when she invited me to Copenhagen to detox her wardrobe and do an in-person shopping session. Between us we’d lived in five countries during those years and shared much of our personal journeys as women, yet when we arrived together in the same time zone for the first time, we realised we’d never actually met in person! It was this realisation of how deeply we can connect online that gave me the idea for the True Style Journey.
The True Style Journey sounds great. Can you talk us through what it involves…
The True Style Journey is where I guide a small group of a maximum of ten women through my True Style alignment process over 12 weeks. We meet every other week in an online ‘sharing circle’ so we transform our style and sense of self as we bond and share our journeys as women. It’s really empowering and full of love. I honestly believe that when we come together as women, there’s nothing we can’t do.
We cover all elements of getting confident with colour, how to make the most of our bodies and express our true style. We have a really cathartic wardrobe clear out and plan carefully what goes back in. Members get access to my personal style sourcebook and learn how to shop and style up new and individual outfits with sustainability in mind.
You’ll emerge style confident and empowered to achieve your goals with a real sense of sisterhood support. The work runs deep, transforming more than your wardrobe. Be prepared to have your sense of power and possibility transformed! The next True Style Journey begins in February 2021.
The Telegraph’s Fashion Director Lisa Armstrong says that you are “brilliant at getting to the nub of how you want to look, while letting you know as tactfully as humanly possible what will and won’t work”. What’s the secret to your success?
Being an empath. It means I quickly ‘get’ people. I get a sneak preview of their bigger picture. I use style to ground this potential physically, to help the client embody more of who they really are, so they can more easily identify and achieve their goals in life. It’s a joyful and magical process.
I work with the inner and the outer simultaneously. You’re missing a trick if you upgrade your image but don’t upgrade your ‘self’ at the same time. Style can really act as a catalyst to personal transformation.
You have recently launched your online Colour Confidence masterclass. Tell us about it. What does it involve and what can clients expect to get out of it?
I am so excited to share Colour Confidence! It’s a masterclass in colour based on my 25-plus years of experience as a stylist and image consultant. I’ve distilled everything I know into one comprehensive two and a half-hour video masterclass, so you can gain these skills for yourself and reap the benefits of colour confidence for years to come.
The course is broken down into nine modules, so you can take it at your own pace. It teaches you all you need to know about colour, alongside practical exercises to positively shift your relationship with yourself and your appearance when you’re navigating change. I guide you through a simple process to analyse your own colouring and identify what colours best suit you, then download your personal digital colour palette to store on your smartphone and computer for reference when shopping in store or online.
The masterclass includes detailed advice on hair colour, make-up and jewellery, opportunities to test your colour ‘eye’, lots of real life colour and style inspiration, tips on how to use colour to create different looks, to build a capsule wardrobe that really works and to create your own colour action plan.
Describe your style in three words…
Relaxed. Creative. Evolving.
What colours do you gravitate towards in your wardrobe?
I’m a Winter and I love neutrals with pops of colour. I’m generally pretty understated and comfort is key for me, but I love the odd hero piece, a bright yellow tweed coat worn with all charcoal or navy, for example. I always wear bright neon trainer socks with my Vejas or layer a bright colour top under a neutral. Navy, yellow, emerald green, bright red. It depends on my mood that day.
Do you have any favourite Kettlewell pieces that you always recommend to your clients?
The Silky Roll Neck is a go-to for trans-season layering, adding a pop of colour or tonal contrast under tops and maxi dresses. The Jersey Maxi Skirt is also a favourite. It’s so feminine and flattering. I think all my clients own at least one Faux Wrap Top. It’s the perfect invisible cosy layer under open neck blouses in winter. Right now, I’m excited about the new Lambswool Coatigan. It’s such a versatile, beautiful piece.
Five instant ways to make yourself look and feel great?
1. Practise kind eyes when you look in the mirror for one minute every day. The moment you realise you’re being self-critical look away and come back with kinder eyes. Become conscious of how you speak to yourself each day. I love this daily practice to build self-compassion.
2. Have a lash and brow tint – it lifts the face and opens up the eyes. I love natural lash extensions too. They instantly make me feel more feminine and mean I don’t have to faff about with eyeliner and mascara.
3. Wear the right size bra. Many of us are wearing bras that are too big in the back, too small in the cup. Get professionally sized. The best ones don’t use measuring tapes, it’s all done by sight. Try Rigby & Peller, Bravissimo or Bra Sense.
4. Push your sleeves up to just below the elbow. Such a simple thing, but it instantly slims the torso, lengthens legs and styles your look.
5. Kitchen disco! Blast your favourite track and shake it all out. Emotions are energy in motion, don’t let them get stuck or stagnate.
What common mistakes do women make when it comes to dressing?
Sticking with what used to work for you. Not having a full-length mirror in the bedroom. Wearing things in one way only and forgetting to ‘workshop’ outfits every once in a while. At least every season, spend an hour trying on existing clothing in new combinations – think contrast. Put smart with casual, masculine with feminine, old with new, layer things, expose a long sleeve under a short sleeve, mix it up and see what happens. Styling is essentially playing with clothes. Have some fun!
How do you think the Coronavirus will change fashion and the way we dress in the forseeable future?
I think as more people have had the chance to reflect on their lives during lockdown, so they’re making more considered choices in other areas of life including their style. Choosing what really lifts them, becoming more conscious consumers, less fast fashion, more sustainable style. And I hope a greater appreciation of craftsmanship, design and the makers – the other humans we’re connected to through the clothes we wear.
Favourite item of clothing?
My new white Hudson London ankle boots. Utterly impractical living in the depths of the Mallorcan countryside with all the red earth and dirt tracks, but oh so fabulous!
Last great colourful buy?
My Zoe Jordan sweater. I have been willing on winter just so I can wear it! I always make a point of telling a woman when I like her style and I met Zoe, because I commented on her sweater. When she told me it was her own design I was straight on to her website. She is so talented and her designs are unlike anything else I’ve seen. So colourful and unique. I feel more inspired when I wear it.