LAND OF CHELSEA LEYLAND
photographed by ANDREW KUYKENDALL. styled by KIM JOHNSON. interviewed by FIONA BYRNE. makeup by ALEX ALMEIDA. hair by LAURA POLKO. location LAFAYETTE HOUSE, NYC
OSKLEN bikini. IT’S OKAY MY DEAR dress. KAREN WALKER belt. AOKO SU bracelet. JEAN—MICHEL CAZABAT heels.
Chelsea Leyland walked into the Lafayette House in SoHo for our cover shoot (dressed in leather pants with blonde, completely- Carrie-Bradshawed-out hair), and though she was just off a plane from London, she was endearing and pleasant from the get-go. At SHK, we’re about personality. It was Chelsea’s style, character and passion to hone her craft that grabbed out attention. Her life, keeping in tune with the spirit of our Odyssey issue, is a fascinating journey of jetsetting around the world for exclusive gigs, attending the most VIP of events and working alongside some of the best designers of our time. Below, Leyland speaks with writer, Fiona Byrne, about what it’s like in the land of Chelsea.
She may have “fallen into” her career as a massively successful DJ, but Chelsea Leyland’s path was always headed towards the limelight. The 25-year-old’s move from London to New York City five years ago was for the purpose of attending the Lee Strasbourg Institute to study method acting, which she did for two years until she began spinning records at parties, runway shows and clubs.
HONOR NYC shirt, shorts & jacket. ANNDRA NEEN jewelry. BEAU COOPS FOR KAREN WALKER heels.
For Leyland, it wasn’t just a case of flipping a cross-fader between two channels and calling herself a DJ. She made a point of learning her skills in the true sense: by using vinyl. “I use turntables, and I’m quite proud that I DJ like a real DJ,” she says. “There are a lot of girls that don’t and there is a big difference. I use a computer, because that is where the music is stored, but the Serato program I use allows you to scratch and mix with your hands. To me that’s really important. You can’t really get that rhythm without touching the record.” However, she admits the skill required to use this program can be a challenge, even now. “I still find it difficult, I think it’s something you are always learning and improving. But that’s what’s kind of amazing about it, you practice your craft and you get better at it.” Despite being best known as a figure in the fashion party realm, Leyland’s favorite events to play are art openings. “I love playing art events. When you play a gallery opening you have a lot of freedom,” she explains. “The crowds tend to be a lot freer."
HONOR NYC shirt. KAREN WALKER sweater. TOPSHOP skirt. KAREN WALKER belt. ANNDRA NEEN jewelry. JEAN-MICHEL CAZABAT heels.
Fashion crowds can be really weird… Sometimes they want to be hip, and be educated, but I find high-end designers usually want to be quite safe. I mean, if I am DJing for a commercial brand or a corporate event then I will play Top 40, but I love playing ’50s, ’80s, some old French music… I try to be as diverse as possible. I’d say the genre I like to play the most is Hip Hop.”
OSKLEN bodysuit. ASHISH shirt & skirt. ANNDRA NEEN jewelry. CHRISSIE MORRIS shoes. stylist’s own belt.
On her nights off you will usually find Chelsea at home in the Brooklyn apartment she shares with her boyfriend Ben Pundole (Edition Hotel’s VP of Brand Development) and their cat Louie, or at her favorite restaurant Allswell in Williamsburg. “It was opened by one of the chefs from the Spotted Pig and it’s very English-y food, so it’s great for when you’re homesick,” she says. And late night? “If I want to go out, which I very rarely do, I go to raves which are all underground, hidden away in Bushwick. I go out maybe once every four months.” With a lingerie collaboration in the works, as well as an organic skincare line, Leyland’s future plans extend well beyond the turntables. “I am coming out with my own headphones; something that sounds good and that you can use to DJ, but also looks amazing. I’m collaborating with my favorite jewelry designer, so rather than it being a ‘headphone,’ it’s treated more like an accessory and will be something that’s really beautiful, yet also practical. It’s in the very early stages… Really exciting.”
TOPSHOP dress. CHEAP MONDAY belt. KAREN WALKER belt. IOSSELLIANI necklace. ANNDRA NEEN necklace
Her calendar is bursting with DJ gigs in Chicago, Vegas, London, Miami and more in the next couple of weeks alone, and Leyland’s schedule shows no signs of letting up anytime soon, but that hasn’t stopped her expanding horizons. “I just signed with a new agency, and TV hosting is something I’ve been doing a bit and want to do more of. So I’m excited about continuing down this route,” she explains. And how about utilizing her Lee Strasbourg training? “Acting is definitely something I want to go back to and I’ve actually started auditioning again. It’s still my passion, but I fell into DJing and it took over and I started loving that!”
This editorial was produced for & published in SHK Magazine's Spring 2014 "Odyssey" Issue.