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Issue: 
August 2016
Storytelling by Design

Stylist Leona Mizrahi creates a story by hand through fashion

Written By

Written By: 
Ashley Daniels

Style is what separates the A-listers from the listless. It’s what makes heads turn and trends explode. A stylist, therefore, wields the magic wand to set it all in motion from head to toe. She’s the catalyst for each client making it to the top of the list at each and every event. Or not.

Celebrity stylist Leona Mizrahi, however, considers herself less of a magician and more of a liberator.

“I’m a catalyst for other women’s shine,” she says. “Being on hand to help someone step into themselves—to help them feel stunning and confident—that is where my craft and gratitude collide. Total illumination to liberation.”

Style, in other words, isn’t just something you see from the outside, but feel from the inside. Which really makes all the difference. It makes you you.

“It’s just helping any woman walking a little taller,” explains Mizrahi over the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “I worked with Charlize Theron recently, and although she doesn’t need much—she already owns her own security and empowerment—it happens a lot with red carpet styling. I’ve assisted on jobs with Laverne Cox from Orange is the New Black and these actresses are all working really hard to make it, to shine.”

Mizrahi, 38, is a shining star in her own right. A celeb stylist with no formal training, she’s progressed through the industry food chain through good old-fashioned skills, success stories and word-of-mouth.

Her family moved to Myrtle Beach from L.A. when she was 10 and Mizrahi grew up in our trademark salt and sand, as well as her family’s line of beachwear stores. The Myrtle Beach High alum went on to attend Coastal Carolina University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s in English.

“Myrtle Beach is still home for me,” she says. “Every time I come back, I have to hit the beach for sure and have dinner at Miyabi. I may even visit Broadway, but not the club scene. Maybe the aquarium instead with my son.”

After college, Mizrahi was suffering from small-town growing pains, so she combated them by moving to New York City for four years. She worked as a manager at a high-end hair salon in the penthouse of an old Bergdorf Goodman department store building, which is where style walked into her life and the door of opportunity opened.

“It was my first introduction to high-end design and style,” she says. “Living in New York for a year is like five years anywhere else. The city has such a rapid rhythm, such a heartbeat, that you become elevated and move at that same rapid pace.”

Mizrahi also got to take in the costumes of Broadway and the clothing design from the likes of Tom Ford and Alexander Wang on the runway during Fashion Week.

“The designers are actually artists,” she says, “and I can appreciate the design and what their brand represents.”

Mizrahi knew the Big Apple, however, could only serve as a temporary home because she craved other needs as a water baby born in warmer weather. L.A. and her warmth, water, diversity and culture were calling.

She helped a friend open a Tory Burch boutique off Rodeo Drive, where she happened to meet celeb stylist Tanya Gill (of Sandra Bullock fame) and began to intern for her. But it wasn’t paid work and she got burnt out from the grind of long hours—sometimes 18 hours at a time.

“There’s no schooling for it. You just have to get in there and get your hands dirty,” says Mizrahi. “It’s really like moving closets.”

Mizrahi doesn’t mind the work; she just wanted it to pay off. After managing a hair salon (a familiar line of work) in Manhattan Beach, California, she returned to styling on her own terms—and with her own brand. “I’d been wondering, how I can work part-time and spend time with my 2-year-old?” she says. “I got my break when a friend mentioned me to a mentor.”

And, for the past four years, her styling career has hit the red carpet running. Her folio includes styling for Love, a new series by Judd Apatow on Netflix; Twinning, a reality show on VH1; The Real World/Road Rules Challenge after shows on MTV; Zuri Hall, host on E! News; and editorial projects for international magazine spreads, as well as The Home Depot, Google, Warner Brothers Music and UPS. Mizrahi has also assisted A-list celeb stylists Mark Holmes, Leslie Fremar and Christina Pacelli for collaborations on national commercials, syndicated TV shows, coveted red carpet events and in working with Grammy- and Oscar-nominated artists.

So what’s woven into the threads Mizrahi chooses for each project? A story. She says her personal life experiences inspire everything she touches and creates, calling it “the spirit of a destination and the essence of a culture.” That means adventure, raw nature and the diverse cultures she’s witnessed in her travels throughout Greece, Israel, Mexico, Panama and all around the U.S.

“Two things I’m drawn to are storytelling through wardrobe and building a character through wardrobe,” says Mizrahi. “Like the stylists for the Game of Thrones series, that’s my favorite. And then there’s Sandy Powell, who did Cinderella and Carol. Stylists like this do their research.”

And Mizrahi follows suit, with a balance of art, fashion and history, along with a collective palette of contemporary style, pop culture, modern films and the environment in which she immerses herself.

A wardrobe stylist may involve some hard labor of moving closets, but Mizrahi’s work is an artistic movement with each storyline she creates full of an innate passion.

For more info on Leona Mizrahi, visit www.leonamizrahi.com.

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PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF LEONA MIZRAHI

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