This is Her Story: {Leslie Pennel of Esque}

Today's "This is Her Story" edition is probably one of my favs- simply just because I'm addicted to clothing/accessories/other tangible objects that will serve me no purpose in the hereafter ; )

This chica is changing the face of style in Northwest Arkansas and pretty soon, you might just be seeing pieces from her line Esque pop up in your neck of the woods.

Without further adeiu, meet the darling designer, Leslie:


Name: Leslie Pennel

Age: 29

Hometown: Morrow, AR

Profession: Clothing Designer

How would you describe your personal style?

Like a young Elizabeth Taylor after a three-week bender with Lewis Carroll.

When and how did you start Esque?

The short version? It has always brought me a great deal of pleasure to create a mood with my clothing, to write a story, to paint a picture, so to speak(Ok, I'm out of metaphors.) I, like everyone, have the basics - t-shirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. But, I feel more alive and inspired in something slightly more extravagant. (Example: a 70's polka dot mini dress, cowboy boots with tassels and a weird hat.)

At a young age, I was intrigued by fashion: design, sewing and illustration. It wasn't until my sophomore year of college in an undergraduate Chemistry class that I realized fashion was going to be my career choice. I was zoning out in Chem 1 yet again, sketching design ideas using chemical structures as prints for blouses, dresses and skirts. Epiphany! My lot in life is not to be a pharmacist, but a clothing designer. I switched my major from Biochemistry to Apparel Studies. During my senior year, I spent two months in Europe for my internship and returned chocked full of inspiration. I began to experiment with different forms of wearable art. I started altering used clothing to create a new and unique look, using vintage fabric put to modern patterns and vice versa, as well as, flirting with spray paint/stenciling and other mediums applied to clothing. This is when Esque was birthed-in 2005. I began selling a line of t-shirts at a local store that I worked at and making clothing for local fashion shows, including Art Amiss, Fayetteville's local art collective. Six years later, my line has changed a bit in nature but is ever flourishing.

Who are your design influences?

My style, philosophy and personal design aesthetic is a hodge-podge of everything; whether it be music, film, fabric, color, people, and/or places I’ve been.

As for brands, retailers, and designers that inspire me. I love Pixie Market and Anthropologie, Haute Hippie and Free People, and Viktor and Rolf.

What's on your iPod playlist while you're working?

Here are fifteen songs from today's playlist. My mood changes throughout the day. When I'm deep in design mode and coffee'd up, I listen to gangster rap or old gritty twang country. (I know, but really!)


Why?-The Hollows

Stars-Elevator Love Letter

Sarah Jaffe-Before You Go

Kendal Johansson-Blue Moon

Kanye West-Monster

Rufus Wainwright-Instant Pleasure

Randall Shreve and the Sideshow-Welcome to the Show

Jay-Z-Empire State of Mind

Land of Talk-Quarry Hymns

April March-Chick Habit

Ray LaMontagne-Within You

Alicia Keys-Never Felt This Way

Ludwig Van Beethoven- Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor

Loretta Lynn-You Ain't Woman Enough

What type of girl wears Esque?

An esque girl aims for uniqueness and authenticity. I'd like to think that she's persnickety and clever, as well as the type o'gal that appreciates the little things in life- word of the day, kitschy coffee mugs, day dreaming, the color red, ampersands, cotton candy, smiles from strangers, dry humor, vintage, irony, Anthropologie, twinkle lights..

Best career advice you've ever been given?

Be the best at what you do. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Get involved. Know your limits. Know your worth. Work and play at the same rate.

Biggest fashion no-no in your opinion?

Not being oneself. There are those who are "into fashion" and those who "have style". What separates the two, in my opinion, is when we try to follow every trend that comes around. Not every length and every cut is well suited for every woman. We each have our own body type, figure, personality, complexion, et al, that makes us so wonderfully unique. It's not necessary to spend a fortune on a new wardrobe each season. But, it is important to be true to yourself and what you feel comfortable in and for the pieces in your closet to fit your curves just right!

What celebs would you most like to dress?

I would love to work with Dree Hemingway, Sophia Coppola, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Zoey Deschanel..

If you could raid any one person's closet (famous or not, dead or alive) who would it be and why?

No contest. Rachel Zoe. Her style is so fantastic. I could spend days playing in her closet with big tears of joy streaming down my face. :)

What's your personal motto when it comes to dressing women?

Know who you are, be yourself, feel comfortable. There is something very intriguing and compelling about a woman who is in her own skin. Confidence and grace goes a long way.

Where can we pick up some Esque goodness for ourselves?

Locally, Esque is available at Maude and Ultra Studios. The Nouvelle Collection by Esque is available at Lola. Also, I have two stores out of state that will soon have my line on the floor - The Radish Underground in Portland, OR and The Pink Saloon in Wichita, KS.

Let' play Haute or Naute.

Leather shorts?

Faux fur?

The uber-controversial, loved and loathed Ugg Boot?
Naute, unless you're under the age of ten. Crocs fall under the same category.

Combat boots with frilly dresses?
I think this is cool if you go light on the makeup and hair. And, if it doesn't look too gothic or 80's.

Tights with peep toe shoes?
Meh. Depends. Most likely, naute. Unless, the person's being ironic.

Socks with heels?
Haute. I dig it.

Side note: I think four out of five of these trends need to be worn in a very specific way and be executed just right to look "haute!"

Any words of wisdom for other women looking to get into a creative profession like clothing design?

It involves practice, self motivation, learning from your mistakes, persistence, connections, luck, cock-eyed enthusiasm, passion, drive, spirit, mentors, the ability to sew through tears(!), etc. I think these are all important when being in a creative profession. So, own it and try hard to trust your own judgement. I've found that even the most risky business decisions prove to be the right ones when I've trusted my gut.

To learn more about this gutsy girl, check out her FB page. If ya live in Northwest Arkansas, Portland, OR, or Wichita, KS- check out Maude Boutique and Lola in Fayetteville, AR or Radish Underground (Portland) and Pink Saloon (Wichita).

Be blessed, lovelies-


  1. very cool. send your stuff on over to north carolina! we'd be happy to have ya ;)

  2. beautiful post:))

  3. I love what she says about clothing telling a story - so true.

  4. Thanks for this! I am looking forward to checking our her line in Portland! :)

  5. very awesome. i'm lovin her style. xo

  6. Oh I love this! Her style is exquisite.

  7. I really enjoyed this feature! Sounds like an fabulous women with great taste. Look forward to hearing more. XO


  8. This was such an interesting interview. I love getting to hear the backstory of fabulous ventures.

  9. What a fun post. Such an interesting girl!

  10. I'm loving these posts! She is just too fabulous for words. And her comment about Rachel Zoe and being in her closet totally made me laugh--because I'd definitely be the exact same way!


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