Feminism and fashion with Leomie Anderson

Nicole Rayment gets an insight into the life of a truly atypical Victoria’s Secret Angel, discussing the world of fashion and her new brand LAPP

An international model, an activist and entrepreneur, twenty four year old Leomie Anderson is the epitome of the versatile IT girl. I had the opportunity to interview the Victoria’s Secret model before her talk at Christ Church’s Blue Boar Lecture Theatre. She discussed her decade in the fashion industry, being catapulted into supermodel stardom and her disquiet regarding the pressures young girls are facing. Leomie was invited by the Oxford Guild Business Society, as a part of the launch for the Guild’s Infinity Speakers Series, set up by Matthew Lawson, President of The Oxford Guild: “The Infinity series is a unique speaker series targeted at encouraging women and ethnic minorities to believe that they can succeed in any occupation they choose, and making sure that they have positive role models to which they can aspire. In the wake of a recent surge in racial tensions and divisive policies, we are fighting back against discrimination and striving to create a positive culture of belief that students can do anything they want to, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or background.”

A born-and-bred South Londoner, Leomie was scouted at fourteen years old during her daily commute home from school by an agent from Premier Model Management, her current modelling agency. “I was at the bus stop and a man approached me and asked “have you ever considered modelling?” I thought he was a pervert and ran away, which you should do at fourteen years old when someone asks you to model for them! I saw him again the next day, and he gave me a business card and asked me to give it to my mum. Two months later I was scouted by a different Premier agent—it wasn’t until then that I actually went into the agency, and the rest is history!” The supermodel made her national debut in 2011 as one of Premier’s New Faces, when she appeared on the Channel 4 documentary series ‘The Model Agency’. It delineated the realities of life both within her mother agency and the dazzling modelling industry. Perky, witty and charismatic, Anderson stole the nation’s heart and became a notable face within the fashion industry.

“The show was honestly very interesting because I didn’t know what to expect and what was going to end up being on the show. I love to talk (she giggles), so having someone follow me around with a camera was great! It was my first time going to New York and it was my first ever show season, so it could have been a complete mess. I could have been the girl used as the example of ‘modelling careers don’t always work out’. However, I was very lucky and ended up being booked by Marc Jacobs, and that launched my career.”
Leomie Anderson describes her personal style as tomboyish and said that having an older brother was always something that had influenced her digressive style and love for trainers. “You have to pay me to wear heels! I will only ever wear them for shows and special events”. She rocked up to the interview in a black fitted waist blazer paired with a baby pink elasticated waist belt, loose-fitting army pants, some old-school black Nike high-tops and a Vintage Chanel Sport Fanny Pack in black and white.

I was interested in finding out about the policing of a model’s style while working with a modelling agency, and whether or not Leomie herself fell victim to this. “That’s interesting (she laughs). Being in the fashion industry has taught me what I don’t want to wear more than anything actually. You’re constantly surrounded by models who are constantly told by their agencies “maybe you should wear this” and sometimes models’ styles can be policed, especially when they start from such a young age. I’m not saying that this completely erases an individual’s style, but it can make the model very uniform and I’ve always tried to break out of the mould. If I were to have paid attention to exactly how my agency wanted me to dress between the ages of fourteen to sixteen, I don’t think my style would have developed as much as it has. I’m very much a ‘break the rules’ type of person and I’m always down to experimenting with my style.”

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Leomie describes herself as an avid enthusiast for vintage high fashion, and accentuated upon how fortunate she is to be constantly exposed to exclusive vintage pieces at designers’ runway shows. With less of a zeal for current trends, and more of an esteem for vintage fashion, a decade in the industry has gifted Anderson with a distinctive fashion sense. “I love Chanel and I love watching vintage Chanel runway shows and documentaries (she points out her Vintage Chanel Sport Fanny Pack and laughs). I love the brand’s vibe and the fact that Coco Chanel was considered a rebel. In fashion, she was the first person to design the female power-suit which is so inspiring, so her brand is definitely my go-to for inspiration.” The model does not refrain from expressing her qualms on polemical female issues—social media has constituted the primary tool through which she candidly exhibits her concerns.

Last year Leomie sought to create a platform where other women could be heard, so she started up her own brand LAPP: Leomie Anderson the Project the Purpose. The brand consists of two elements, the first being a clothing line, which fuses her own personal style with her dedication to empowering young women with feminist messages, attempting to promote confidence, positivity and unity through fashion. The second element is a blog, which includes a wide variety of stories from women from different backgrounds with disparate, idiosyncratic experiences. From the unjust treatment of black models backstage at fashion week, to the pressures on teenage girls to send sexual images, Leomie seeks to shed light on what it truly means to be a woman in this day and age. “Young girls today cannot differentiate between what is real and what is photoshopped. The concept of social media and the fact that it is not a real representation of life, and just a snapshot, just a little fragment of what someone wants to show you, is so confusing for young girls. It gives them an unrealistic standard of beauty, making them more likely to consider surgery, and to look at Youtube tutorials on how to do their make-up, even if they are just going to school. I created LAPP because I felt like there was a missing piece in the market. I felt like there wasn’t something young women or young girls could visit that has a whole hub of different perspectives that are just for women.” […] I love how people can use fashion to communicate a message—it’s a very universal language. I wanted to create new slogans that empower women and play on pop culture, with an approach of ‘what’s hot right now’. For instance, my ‘Trump Dump’ t-shirt and my ‘This P***y Grabs Back’ hoodie (which Rihanna wore to the women’s march) are items that are ‘hot right now’, and have a powerful message. I’m all about making cute clothes that make people think.”

Something in particular that propelled the Victoria’s Secret Model to embark on her LAPP journey was being invited to speak at an all-girls secondary school. After her talk, she was approached by three girls who had told her that they knew people who had attempted to commit suicide after their nude images had been leaked. “I felt like those girls had nobody to speak to and nowhere to turn to, so I wanted to make them feel like they had somewhere to go, to be able to read stories from people who have had revenge porn leaked, or speak to women who have not engaged in sexual relations at all. In summary, the blog is all about issues that relate to women all coming from an honest place. Because of social media, young girls are receiving mixed messages and I wanted to create a place where it was just honest women writing about issues they cared about.”

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In 2015, Anderson’s winning personality and burgeoning ubiquity on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter skyrocketed her to a spot on the Victoria’s Secret Runway—the pinnacle of every professional model’s career. As she discussed landing the job as a VS Angel, the electrifying backstage atmosphere, and her favourite co-Angel, the model’s eyes glistened in delight. “When I first found out I was walking I cried! It was frustrating because I was living alone in New York at the time, so I couldn’t even go to my closest friends and share the news with them. I tried to call my mum, but she never has her phone on her, so it took her about half a day to find out I got the job! I was just so ecstatic because it was something I had really worked hard for and I still can’t put my excitement into words! The backstage atmosphere at Victoria’s Secret is amazing.” “It’s funny because so many people try to squeeze in stories about issues between models and so forth, but I really don’t know which backstage they’re talking about! Everyone is always excited and in good spirits. The fact that they [Victoria’s Secret] encourage all of the models to be themselves, have an amazing time, and exhibit their personalities shows something that fashion is missing at the moment.”

Taking the stage at Fashion Week in London, Paris, Milan, New York, and more, Anderson takes great pride in her job as a supermodel and her opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse at the works of esteemed designers. “The highlight of my career definitely has to be seeing the process behind all of the glitz and glamour. I love watching designers draw out their designs and put together their outfits. The passion that they have behind all of it is incredible, everyone always sees the magazines, the photoshoots, and the runways, but I love seeing designers building up things from scratch and how passionate they are about what they do.” The future for Anderson is beaming. Her blog reads are incessantly growing and she is already working on her next clothing collection which she soon hopes to release.

“At the moment, LAPP is getting on average 40,000 reads a month. I really didn’t know what to expect, but that’s a lot. I’m hoping that, by the end of the year, it will be hundreds of thousands. At the moment, I’m working on the next clothing collections for LAPP. This time, I’m doing something proper and real. My next collection is going to be called ‘Nudity’ which is about the policing of women’s bodies, something that I am really passionate about and am very much excited to bring out.” Leomie Anderson’s Oxford Guild talk was truly spellbinding. Humble, outspoken, and driven, she is the quintessence of a supermodel who utilises her renown dynamically with the hope of inspiring and empowering women. She does this both through her blog and her politically-conscious fashion. The Victoria’s Secret model strives to lend her social media following and prominent voice to other women who may be constrained in effectively communicating their concerns—LAPP functions as a medium through which they are able to do so.

An activist turned entrepreneur, she is triumphantly striving to create a sisterhood through globally unifying the female sex, regardless of their ethnicity, age and location.