303 Style Profile is an ongoing series highlighting unique locals and they’re incredible style and stories. Go here to see past profiles.
Esther Lee Leach has come a long way on her journey in the fashion industry. Born in the Caribbean on the island of Saint Lucia, Lee Leach has done tremendous things on her career path. She has an immense, admirable body of work and vast experience that cannot be ignored in her positions as a journalist, creative director, fashion editor, television host, model and film/television producer. Armed with a Master of Arts degree in Fashion Journalism from the London College of Fashion, she has grown to become a jack of all trades and master of all — a force to be reckoned with.
When Lee Leach moved to Cherry Creek with her family, she noticed a gap. This vibrant district was lacking a publication that could cover, document and capture the stories of the people and showcase what was going on with the local fashion scene. The ever so tenacious and curious Lee Leach, who is always looking for ways to tell fashion stories to those around her, was prepared for this exact moment. “Cherry Creek has hundreds of clothing stores in Cherry Creek North and the Cherry Creek Shopping Center but there was no publication covering the fashion industry in the area.” She decided to become part of the solution and created a digital weekly online magazine that covers style and beauty in the up-scale district of Cherry Creek. What started as a weekly publication is now about to change and become monthly with even more in-depth content for her readers. Armored with zeal, determination and a passion to inspire, Lee Leach is inviting us to the homes of well-known personalities in Cherry Creek, showing us the latest trends while furthering the stories of this vibrant fashion district in her own way like no one has to date. We recently sat down with her to discuss her passion for the local fashion scene here in Denver and her future plans for Cherry Creek Fashion.
303 Magazine: Could you tell us about your background and fashion experiences and what inspired you to write about fashion?
Esther Lee Leach: My involvement in fashion began at 14 when I started modeling in the Caribbean. I am from the island of Saint Lucia and was very involved in the fashion and media industries. I produced and hosted television shows and was also a writer and Senior Fashion Editor at SHE Caribbean Magazine. In 2007, I moved to London and earned my Masters of Arts degree in Fashion Journalism from the London College of Fashion. I then moved to New York, San Francisco and have finally settled with my husband and three-year-old son in Denver.
303: What was the journey like to starting Cherry Creek Fashion?
ELL: I knew that I wanted to create something that was missing in this market — a publication that I would want to read. I brainstormed for the name first, got the domain and then began working on the concept and magazine segments. After finalizing this, I designed the website, logo and tweaked everything to ensure that I was putting out a quality product.
303: What is Cherry Creek Fashion in three words?
ELL: Inclusive, Inspiring and Encouraging.
303: You recently made the announcement that Cherry Creek Fashion is moving to a monthly issue, tell us more about that?
ELL: Cherry Creek Fashion began as a weekly because I wanted to keep offering constant content to readers. We have now grown so fast that we need to become a more mature brand covering a wider range of topics. I now want to offer readers much more in-depth content that they can enjoy throughout the month. Each monthly issue will be bigger and so much better. To take advantage of that growth, I had to change the frequency. The magazine is also partnering with the event website Anniebloj.com to plan some very cool events in Cherry Creek.
303: How do you decide which stories to tell?
ELL: There are so many interesting people doing very cool things in Cherry Creek and Denver so sometimes it can be hard to choose. I always go with the people pursuing their dreams and building fascinating careers and business. I like highlighting personalities that will inspire other people to be greater.
303: What have you learned throughout this whole experience of CCF?
ELL: The best thing that I have learned is how amazing the creative community of Denver is. We are so lucky in this city to have a community that is positive and wants to work together to raise the level. I love reaching out to other editors, stylists and fashion industry people.
303: What do you hope for people to gain and learn from Cherry Creek Fashion?
ELL: I want people to be inspired by other people’s stories. Everyone has an interesting story and it is so great when we can learn something from others that helps us to be greater and improve our lives. I also want people to be aware of the growing fashion industry in the city and to support the many small businesses in Cherry Creek.
303: What is your best advice for building connections and getting noticed in the fashion industry? What do young women do wrong?
ELL: Denver has a very strong community feel so just reach out to people. I love using the direct message feature on Instagram. I have reached out to many people that I admire through this and have become very close friends and collaborators with some of them. People are always willing to meet for coffee and talk about their career, so reach out and ask. I think that young women need to believe in themselves and know that their ideas matter. Don’t spend too much time sitting on the fence, go out there and build your company.
303: How do you think that CCF is helping to showcase diversity?
ELL: I love using the word inclusion. I include everybody! I love opening up a magazine and seeing a woman who looks like me — a black woman with an afro. I get so excited by this representation and I am instantly more interested in the publication or brand. It is just more interesting to have different ethnicities, shapes, heights, aesthetics, etc. The world is diverse so naturally, our fashion publications should reflect that. Those who hold on to the old ‘Euro centric only model’ will not survive in this new world. It is just the right thing to do to be inclusive and show all of the rainbow of people in this great city.
303: How would you define your personal style and the style of Denver?
ELL: Black, Black, Black! Most of my wardrobe is made up of black pieces. I would describe my style as London rocker chic with a dash of classic.
Denver has such a mix of style because we are all coming from very different places in the country and the world. Athleisure is definitely a huge trend here because of the outdoor lifestyle but we have a growing segment of people that are edgy and cool and really into the cutting edge fashion brands.
303: What’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself if you could go back to when you were a new grad and starting your career?
ELL: I would say to reach out to more people that I admire for career advice. When you are younger, you are sometimes not as forward as you should be.
303: Give us an example of a real working week for you—sort of like a “dear diary.”
ELL: In a week, I usually have 2-3 photo shoots at homes or boutiques. The other days, I have meetings with people that I would like to interview to find out more about them and their careers. When I am not shooting or meeting people, I can usually be found in my office editing photos or interviews while listening to Rihanna or Caribbean music like Soca or Dancehall. I also spend some time every week planning my editorial calendar, coming up with new ideas for the magazine or visiting stores to scope out the new merchandise for upcoming stories.
303: What does fashion mean to you and how do you think it helps in bettering or advancing people?
ELL: Fashion is so much more than what we put on our bodies. It can really affect the way we feel about ourselves and the way we are perceived by other people. We can use this powerful messaging tool to create our brand and increase our confidence. The fashion industry is also one of the biggest in the world and is responsible for supporting the incomes of many families. It is also an industry with a high number of female entrepreneurs.
303: What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
ELL: I want to expand the reach of Cherry Creek Fashion and really grow the audience. I am planning some very cool events now, so hopefully I will have many more in the years to come. I also want to do some special print editions of the magazine.
303: What are your favorite spots in Cherry Creek?
ELL: There are so many fantastic places in Cherry Creek! One of my favorites is Aviano on Detriot Street and their new location on 2nd Avenue. Their coffee is just the best and I usually get a cortado while having meetings there. The restaurant scene here is excellent. A couple of my favorites are the Narrative at the Jacquard and Quality Italian at the Halcyon Hotel. Olive & Finch on 1st Avenue is one of the best places for a good breakfast. There are also so many great women-owned boutiques in Cherry Creek like Kouture Consignment, Garbarini and Aline.
All photography by Danielle Webster.