We Meet Babein Stylist, Model And Skepta Squad Member Leah Abbott
To chat Fashion Week, Missy Elliot style and feeling the right energy.
Leah Abbott is the 22-year-old model you'll probably recognize first from her music video appearances in Skepta's 'Shutdown', 808 INK's 'Suede Jaw' and more – but as soon as you cop a load of her killer styling work and flawless Instagram, there ain't no separating this tastemaking talent from her fashion-centric realm. On the 'Gram, she has cultivated a signature style of slick hair, vamped-up silhouettes, '90s and '00s influences and “extra” everything – spotlessly pieced together to earn her recognition from the highest places in the game.
We caught up with Leah to talk fashion obsessions, style icons and life as a stylist.
Hi Leah, it was lovely meeting you at the ASOS Fashion Week closing party – your style really stood out. How important is Fashion Week for you?
To be honest, I’m not a massive fan of Fashion Week in London! LOL, I feel people sometimes exploit it as a popularity/who’s-there contest and take away from the actual art of fashion which it is intended to show. I feel I get more inspiration and the chance to appreciate fashion on a casual everyday basis. I do, however, think it’s a great opportunity for young scouted models; I have met loads this week who are super excited to be walking their first shows, some of which have never modeled before and were scouted on the street!
At what age did you start becoming fascinated with fashion?
Its definitely always been something in my life for as long as I remember, really without being conscious of what exactly I was doing. I didn’t grow up in London and remember for both my 13th and 14th birthdays my main present was a trip to London specifically to go shopping! Haha, that’s all I wanted.
How did you get into styling?
I managed to get into it literally just by going out as a ‘newbie’ in London and having people consistently comment on my outfits, which was never really a ‘thing’ where I grew up. At first I was kind of baffled as I didn’t think I was doing anything particularly noticeable, as well as the fact that I was pretty curvy. I never really put myself in the field of fashion. However, as I started to get asked to lend out items I had, and for pictures of my looks, it clocked to me that maybe I was doing something significant and finally I had found my path!
Aside from this, I really got my name noticed and got more high profile fashion work after being scouted for Skepta’s iconic ‘Shutdown’ video, and after that a few more of his and some other artists. I guess people gravitated to the fact that I stood next to these guys, not in a particularly sexual way, but as a strong woman with presence and confidence – I assume I got that from being surrounded by male friends. A lot of the time I styled myself for these videos too, and as people found this out they began to ask me to help them out with additional projects and styling other girls in the same way, more so to give them the same strong ‘vibe’ rather than an identical ‘look’.
How would you describe your style?
I always find this question so difficult as I literally can’t! One thing I have always gravitated towards and have consistently been described as is, of course, the late '90s/'00s R&B style, so the classic Aaliyah/Miss Elliot/Mya vibe, but I really do tie this in with a lot of random things. At the moment I'm really into long '70s style bright dresses but I know this will change soon!
How would you say the London style differs from the rest of the world?
London style is just something you can’t avoid! I would say it’s definitely influenced by the need to keep up with the fast pace and travel – so more sporty, casual looks for the majority which involve sick trainers, baggy bottoms... but with a lot of sauce of course!
Please “walk” us through your morning beauty routine: what do you do to leave the house flawless?
Haha I really don’t do anything major, particularly as I rarely wear a lot of make up, so this saves major time! I of course get up, jump in the shower and always wash my hair as it’s naturally curly/afro textured it’s a lot easier to deal with when wet. I tend to slick it back out of my face the majority of the time, as I move around a lot I know this style will stay neat and out of the way. I also use tones of Vaseline as I love to look shiny and glowing, so I put a little on my eyelids, cheekbones and lips always. Other than that it’s just a case of seeing what I feel like wearing that day, matched with a fabulous cute bag and done!
How can people prepare for a career in styling, did you have to learn anything the hard way?
It’s really a hands-on profession. I was lucky enough to be almost mothered by an amazing woman called Luci Ellis who taught me the ropes and showed me how much more it is than just picking good outfits! Be prepared for an enormous amount of emailing, blisters from picking up and returning tons of clothes you may not ever use and most importantly people having much different tastes to you – just because you think something is great and stylish does NOT mean it will work for the client! You need to push yourself out of your own style box.
Who are your style icons?
I always just refer to the people around me – boys and girls. I feel like we are living in the biggest fashion school ever at the moment! In terms of celebrities I would always look backwards and refer to Missy Elliott as she really owns the sexy but not over-sexualized swag look I go for; also, Toni Braxton is a favorite but the majority of inspiration comes from her videos rather than single outfits!
How do you approach a styling project? Where do you find inspiration?
Well first of all if it’s with a client/model I haven’t worked with before I will always research into looks they have done already. For me you can give someone the flyest look ever but if they don’t have the right energy or vibe for it, this will shine through and it will become costume-like, so it’s so important to really tailor looks to what suits their personality: being uncomfortable shines through like a torch on camera! I would then go into emailing PR, looking into brands which may cater to what I’m after, alongside raiding my own archive and favorite vintage shops for unique goodies. I of course do often work with mood boards, but a lot of inspiration just come from random ideas in my head so I would never mimic an image. It really is all about understanding the person and their energy.
The item of clothing you are wearing most often is…?
I have recently got a tiny brown and gold little Louis Vuitton fur handbag – an obsession of mine. With a bit of lip gloss, it gives me serious JLo vibes.
Being a stylist can drain your creativity, no? How do you stay soulful and current?
Well alongside working as a stylist I also work in a super cool vintage shop on a few days and get so much from there! The team's style varies from the 1920s to the '00s and we also have great conversations about this, alongside so many cool young and old people coming in and styling themselves on a daily basis.
And last one: How can people contact you and work with you?
Drop me a DM!