Text by Victoria Moss Photography by Victoria Adamson Culture Fashion

Leila Yavari - Humanity Magazine

Leila Yavari’s background is as inspiring as her sense of style: raised in Bordeaux, France, and then Southern California after her family fled a post-revolutionary Iran in 1979, when she was one. While studying at UC Berkeley she led a double life, political science major in session, international model during vacation. “It was a really good thing for me. I tended to be a bit bookish, and it made me engage with people, go out and work with creatives,” she says. She stayed at the university as a post-grad and became a teaching fellow “looking at the economy of development and post-colonial theory,” until the call of international travel and full-time modeling became too much. “It came to a point where I had to make a choice. I felt that the experience of traveling was more adventurous than just reading about it in a book, and I thought, ‘I’m going to regret it if I don’t take this opportunity.’ I always thought I’d just come back to school,” she laughs. Neatly, this experience has directly fed into and shaped her career now, in her current position as fashion director of Stylebop.com. “As an international fashion retailer we speak to a really big audience, and my experience traveling and working in fashion has helped me become very sensitive to cultural nuances. When you’re buying you need to have that global customer at the forefront of your mind: how they work, what sizes they like, questions of modesty. Those are the things that you really have to have engaged with on the ground—for example, European women wear very different kinds of pants than women in Asia, but you don’t really understand that unless you see it.”

While living in Paris she became a sort of default correspondent for editor friends back in San Francisco. “They’d call me and be like, ‘Hey, Murakami’s doing a collaboration with Louis Vuitton—can you run over there and take a couple of pictures and write a piece about it?’ ’’ And so the next phase of her career began to evolve, and three years ago she signed on with Stylebop.com owners as fashion director, overseeing their visual and editorial content. What appealed to Yavari about the e-tailer was its intellectual attitude toward style. “We always say we’re bringing the catwalk to the sidewalk. It’s really about the mix between high and low. Our customer is a modern sophisticate, she’s a career woman, she’s independent, she’s busy and she wants fashionable solutions for everyday dressing. We approach fashion from the angle of design. Our online magazine is very art focused, so we cover all of the international fairs and talk about the artists we’re excited about. We want to give our customers access to sub-cultural movements and make sure they’re in the know before those artists become the next big thing.”

Alongside spotting emerging trends and brands, Yavari’s passion lies in the tech side of her world. “There’s a lot of space for innovation and creativity; the sky’s the limit in this field. We’re in the process of developing an app where you can virtually try on sunglasses, and I’d like to see virtual wardrobes. We want to be at the forefront of innovation, which is really exciting.”

One thing her role does make her is seriously busy. To get an idea of her schedule, Yavari has just flown in from New York Fashion Week. This morning, before we meet for breakfast—at 8 a.m.— she has already filmed a quick interview for Bloomberg. She’s in town for London’s leg of Fashion Month, then on to Milan and Paris. She is ostensibly based in Munich, where the Stylebop. com HQ is, but laughingly tells me, “I’m rarely there—I’m on the road probably nine months of the year. I don’t have kids at the moment, so I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can.” How does she manage a relationship among all this? “It takes a very special man to be as supportive as my boyfriend! He always tries to come out at the weekend, but he shows up and is like, ‘Let’s go out!’ And I’m like, ‘I have to be up at 7!’ ”

When she does get home she’s greeted by one of her Kathryn Garcia artworks. “She’s a longtime friend from California, and I really love her work. It’s in our foyer, so when you walk in the flat, the first thing you see is Kat’s work. I love that.” The rest of her home is “minimal and clean. I like mid-century vintage pieces, and I’m really into lighting. We have a beautiful chandelier in our bedroom and some 1970s lamps, but I’m the kind of person that would rather have an empty home and slowly build.” When she has time, her favorite getaway is the South of France. “That drive from Nice airport to Ramatuelle,” she muses, “it reminds me of my childhood in Southern California, just driving through the canyons to the coast. We also spend a lot of time in St. Tropez. It’s a magical place.”

Academic, model, business maven—I wonder if she thinks of herself as ambitious. “I don’t think I’m driven by ambition, I think I’m passionate. If I think about the women that I’ve left behind in Iran, I feel that if I don’t make something out of the opportunity I’ve been given, it’s an insult to them and everything they have to do every single day just to be able to exist.”


Leila Yavari - Humanity Magazine





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