Leslie studied Fashion Merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. After school, she worked at fashion brands in Texas and NY. In 2013, she was downsized from her position. On a whim, she moved to New Orleans because the music, food, and rich culture called her. There she worked as a teacher before starting a business teaching yoga to kids. Now, at 31, she is launching into her project of a lifetime: this fall she’ll be unveiling MISSARTEMISS, a fashion brand for young girls designed to empower and strengthen them as individuals and as a community.
wolf & heron: What values are important to you?
Leslie Phillips: Oh! I have several. I actually sat down and wrote them out back in 2015 when I had to figure out what was next for me.
w&h: Great! Tell me about them.
LP: First, it’s Freedom, or Independence. I didn’t see it coming, actually… it’s almost like I’ve gone rogue… but I prefer freedom and independence to what I experienced in the corporate environment. I like being able to manage everything.
Then it’s Curiosity, or Learning. I didn’t realize it until I moved to New Orleans and had to do stuff on my own, but I actually thrived by figuring it out as I went. I enjoy the research, and challenging myself to try new things.
Then it’s Creativity. It’s really important that I can express myself. It’s what attracted me to fashion in the first place, and part of the reason I’m working with kids’ fashion… you can express your creativity a bit more. We’re playing with absurdities in our prints and colors and designs, which is fun. I get to have a lot of freedom to think creatively.
w&h: Nice! I notice that freedom shows up as a value for you even in how you think about creativity as a value. So what is the impact you want to have in 20 or 30 years?
LP: I definitely want to still be working in girls’ apparel. It would be amazing if we were a global brand that was touching the lives of girls all over the world, empowering them and bringing them together through fashion.
w&h: What skill has been most important in getting you to where you are now?
LP: I would say resilience. I’ve had many opportunities to be resilient – probably more than I would have liked. When I was 16, I was in an accident with an 18-wheeler that caused me to have a traumatic brain injury and lots of surgeries. I had to re-learn many things, and my physical abilities were limited – I’m still dealing with some of that now. Then, I was downsized and suddenly jobless. Even after I moved to New Orleans, I had to push past challenges. I was still trying to find an office job or something nine-to-fivey because I had this construct in my head that it was what I was supposed to do. I got a job at a school, but I wasn’t fulfilled, and I had to come to terms with the fact that a “job” job wasn’t for me. Now as I’m launching MISSARTEMISS, I’ve had to deal with a lot – and there’s a lot I still don’t know! Being resilient and trusting that I’ll get through it is what makes it possible for me to keep going.
Leslie's Words of Wisdom
"I went through my past experiences, my failed attempts, my successes, and I came up with a list of values that now guides me."
On Vision & Purpose
"Being resilient and trusting that I’ll get through whatever is in front of me is what makes it possible for me to keep going."
"I meditate every day. I just sit quietly for 15 minutes or so."
"Knowledge is power. It’s really important to know as much as you can when trying to influence people."