Tell us about you & your family:
I have a lovely wife and two daughters, with a third due sometime in the summer of 2022. The past five years have been a bit crazy for us: We started a family (2 kids with a 3rd on the way), relocated from Chicago, Illinois, to Georgia. I created two small businesses and was recently elected as Senior Pastors at the church my wife grew up in. We formally make our transition into the role at the end of January. I'd say these are the best and biggest moments for us over the last five years.
If you could describe Cameron Leppo in three words, what would it be:
Perfectionist. Personable. Dreamer.
How did you get involved in fashion, and where do you look for creative inspiration:
While I was born on the East Coast, I spent a pretty good part of my childhood living in the south. I didn't come from a background of means, and I suppose this made a pretty significant impact on my clothing and cultural taste. Most men on both sides of my family are blue-collar workers, but my parents had a pretty good gauge of style, and I suppose it rubbed off on me a little bit as a younger guy. While most of our clothes came from discount stores like Value City (when they sold clothes and not just furniture), they were usually name brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Perry Ellis, or Nautica. While my tastes have evolved since I was younger, the insistence on details has remained strong.
I'm a hopeless perfectionist (seriously, I'm sure it's annoying to my poor wife), and I love the little details. I couldn't find exactly what I wanted to wear, so I decided to start designing my own clothes. I needed to get clothes that fit a guy that was 6'3," and 155lbs, and they didn't exist off-the-rack at the time, so it was a pretty simple solution (in my mind, at least).
My inspiration comes from everywhere: other stylish people like Simon Crompton of PermanentStyle.com or the Japanese bespoke shoemaker, Tomoyuki Watanabe, architectural design (I love art deco and mid-century modern styles), and even food. Anything with a creative flair speaks to me in one way or another. However, I have found that circumstance and lifestyle needs have really been the driving forces behind my creative decisions. After spending so much time emulating and appreciating the Europeans, I am gravitating more toward my roots in workwear and practicality.
When was your company first created:
I officially launched my menswear company, Sartoria Triarii, in 2017. We saw a gap in the womenswear market and decided after a few years of custom tailoring for men to launch SF in the summer of 2020.
What year did you design your first piece:
My first menswear piece was sometime after I graduated high school, so probably around 2006/07. I dabbled in custom womenswear for a few years before launching Sartoria Femmina in the summer of 2020.
The motive behind starting SF…
I wanted to do two things when I launched SF:
1. Bring a detailed sensibility to clothes we liked but weren't seeing outside the big fashion houses.
2. Celebrate the strength of women without the need to be half-naked all of the time.
It might seem trite, but seriously, I was so tired of reading supposed feminists talking about their freedom to express themselves by constantly being uncovered. Still, consequently, complaining men were objectifying them.
As if thousands of years of cultural and biological development could be ignored or rejected because they had a personal feeling it should be.
To me, that's not where a woman's strength is. I look at my wife, Ashley, and see someone who is an independent thinker, immensely talented vocalist, and public speaker, always selflessly giving to me and our girls, while dealing with the realities of a changing body type and being frustrated because clothes that used to fit didn't anymore. The problem is our culture keeps telling women they are strong and independent while pushing a certain body type as the only real measure of beauty. It has seriously depressed the real strength of women: the strength of character and individuality that each woman has, different from her sisters.
How do you pronounce Sartoria Femmina:
What was your inspiration for the SF x MOD Collection:
I wanted to satisfy a design itch of something approaching athleisure, but I didn't want to make it part of our [SF] online product range. To be honest, I liked the creative aspect without the long-term commitment.
Fortunately, I've been friends with the team at MOD since the company started, so I approached them with an idea to design a few pieces for the F/W'21 season. They're an amazing team of women who share my goal of female empowerment and celebrating diversity, so it seemed like a great fit to everyone involved. After some editing and revisions, we had the pieces. Each piece fits well within the MOD ethos while still being distinctly different.
Do you think there is a place for fashion to be comfortable yet still luxurious:
Honestly, I don't really think there are a lot of real luxury pieces available anymore. We have redefined the term over the past decade because the internet and resale markets have made truly "luxury" brands far more accessible than they ever were. For a long time, the concept of luxury was directly linked to exclusivity. If that definition remains constant, then we have to say that as retail, specifically fashion, has become more democratized, then luxury has eroded to very little or anything anymore. I would say if we are willing to redefine what luxury is, that is an indulgence or something that exceeds the average standard of comfort, then yes, fashion can be both comfortable and luxurious. I think if you like something, it is a luxury for you. Who cares if the label or marketing teams tell you otherwise.
How to prevent compromise in style when buying pieces:
My number one piece of advice when building a wardrobe is to wait! Impulse buying seldom works out. Also, try to build a core wardrobe around two things:
1. A color scheme that can be flexible with each of the other pieces within the capsule collection; 2. make sure those pieces reflect your ACTUAL lifestyle and not the lifestyle you wish you had.
Really, these are the core principles of menswear. There is a reason guys' wardrobes are so similar from one guy to the next: cold colors like navy and gray match nearly every skin tone and look good together. I know it's kind of boring; while women have such a broad range of colors and patterns, it also means you are constantly buying new pieces because the stuff in your closets is aging poorly. Fast fashion and loud, bold colors are much more susceptible to the winds of change. Because most of us lack buckets of money to spend on new high-end clothes, we settle for cheaply made and very fashion-forward pieces to fill in the gaps. It's a vicious cycle. Just slow down, plan your purchases by writing down a list of pieces and listing them in order of their priority, then buy one thing at a time and wear it for a while before buying the next piece. You'll learn quickly what does and doesn't work for you.
What is your goal for the two pieces you designed for SF x MOD?
2020 taught us a lot. One thing it did was force antiquated work cultures to modernize to meet the evolving needs of the population. When everyone is sick, no one is working, so working from home became much more prevalent. It also meant we were having Zoom calls in one room while feeding babies in the next room. I wanted to create something that looked professional on camera while also allowing working women to have the freedom to do all the other things life demands. People have gotten tired of lockdowns and wearing their pajamas every day all day but they don't miss the discomfort of high heels and fitted, structured blazers. I designed these pieces with a professional silhouette in mind but the comfort that sportswear and athleisure can provide. I just wanted to take the guesswork out of the equation by designing two pieces that would work in tandem as well as with other pieces in a girl's wardrobe.
The Bow Sweatshirt is fashionably oversized with a drop shoulder but in a beautiful blush pink piqué knit and a big bow on the front. It's stretchy but tactile.
The Tulip Skirt is cotton rather than polyester so it's certainly more office-appropriate but has spandex woven in so it can stretch as far as you can pull it. Super comfortable, but the cotton provides enough structure to keep the drape needed for a pencil skirt. It's also a really dusty black, almost faded in a way. When you wash it, the more it fades, the grayer it becomes, so it should match a lot of different colors and tones.
The MOD X Sartoria Femmina Collection will release Friday, 01.14.2022.
https://sartoriafemmina.com / https://www.instagram.com/sartoriafemmina/