Leah Abbott, Zalando Visionary Award judge: ”I feel like I’m always creating”

Leah Abbott is a fashion stylist, model and image curator. Working with major fashion brands and international music talent Skepta and Jorja Smith,  Leah creates 90s nostalgia street style with her looks.

This year, Leah is part of the jury for the Zalando Visionary Award, an award presented by Zalando each year during Copenhagen Fashion Week, which encourages fashion brands to explore alternative approaches in design and production, contributing to a more responsible and environmentally-friendly fashion industry. This year’s award winner is Paolina Russo.

In the interview below, Leah shares about her career in the fashion industry, her experience as a judge in the Zalando Visionary Award, and her expectations for this year’s edition of Copenhagen Fashion Week.


You weren’t always set on a career in fashion – what changed and how have you become the stylist and image curator that we know today?


I think a career in fashion was always part of my destiny but I just didn’t know how to tap into it growing up in an area with not much opportunity. Moving to London and meeting creative people who had somewhat ‘DIY’ lifestyles really opened up my perspective on what is possible and how passions and hobbies can become careers.


What are some of the challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?


I think there’s always the fact that I’m a woman and a woman of color, which undoubtedly affects opportunities in the very elitist world that is the fashion industry. I strive to maintain good morals and let great work speak for itself, using these factors as positive influences and inspiration in my work.


What does your creative process look like when it comes to creating looks for your clients?


I feel like I’m always creating whether I’m physically dressing someone or just home watching a movie –  I’m getting ideas, saving references, creating boards. I always have a clear direction I want to go in when I meet someone and feel their energy, so once this happens the next step is just finding the perfect pieces from brands which fit this direction.


What’s been a highlight of your career so far?


I’d have to say working and attending the Grammys in 2019. It’s such a momentous event I’ve grown up watching on TV, so to be there and have a purpose there felt very surreal.


How has your own style evolved over the years and who or what has been your biggest inspiration?


Naturally working in and exploring fashion is going to change anyone’s style. I have more access to brands, diverse people and niche pieces so this has really expanded my wardrobe and my love for items. I definitely no longer follow what’s ‘cool’ and just feel sure on what I love and if it looks good on me – that’s all that matters now!


As a part of the Zalando Visionary Award jury, you had to review lots of incredible brands – what made Paolina Russo stand out for you?


I’ve followed Paolina for a long time and have always first and foremost associated the brand with creativity and dedication to design and manufacturing, both of these were key in the deciding process for Zalando.  We wanted innovative brands that are thinking about the future – not just today. Paolina was a perfect fit here and clearly had amazing plans for what the Zalando Visionary Award could offer the brand.

Paolina Russo in Avebury


If you had a crystal ball, what do you predict is in the future for Paolina Russo?


I see a continuation of the brand’s already incredible creative ideas. Runway shows, bigger collections and collaborations, the natural path a talented brand can take with the right support.

Paolina Russo and Lucile Guilmard – model fitting


What are you looking forward to most when attending Copenhagen Fashion Week in August?


I love visiting Copenhagen and have been there a few times now for fashion week which is only getting bigger! I can’t wait to chat properly with the designers, see their progression and also note down some pieces to use in my own work.

Paolina Russo and Lucile Guilmard


What does being a change maker within the fashion industry mean to you?


I think being a change maker is to not shy away from things you’re not happy with in your industry. If you don’t see enough of something – create it, do it, and do it unapologetically!


Who are the visionaries in fashion that have inspired you over the years?


I really admire people who strive to reinvent themselves and explore different eras of themselves and their fashion, examples I love are Rihanna, Dua Lipa, Pharrell – so many greats to name that inspire me daily.



Copenhagen Fashion Week is the largest fashion week in the Nordic region and takes place twice a year, in January/February and August. Considered the fifth-largest fashion week in size, Copenhagen Fashion Week brings together top international press, buyers, and industry leaders from its global network, during four days of presentations and events, alongside the two trade shows CIFF and Revolver. Sustainability is at the core of Copenhagen Fashion Week, aiming to take significant measures to inspire and encourage the industry to take steps towards positive and responsible change.

In January 2020, Copenhagen Fashion Week unveiled an ambitious three-year sustainability action plan, introducing an innovative set of minimum requirements that brands must adhere to in order to participate in the official program starting from 2023. The action plan is reviewed and presented every three years, positioning CPHFW as a leading fashion week in terms of sustainability.