We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you?” These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
On a Thursday morning in April, Lennon Stella appears on my Zoom screen for our interview dressed impeccably, as if she may, at any moment, saunter over a friend’s summertime backyard soirée, where they’d serve fresh watermelon margaritas and three different types of Spanish cheeses. It is, obviously, the occasion for which I’ll be outfitting myself through September, regardless of what my day holds. Our interview is off to an inspiring start.
Stella — an indie-pop musician by day and an all-star thrifter, also by day — is taking a hiatus from her Nashville hometown to record in Los Angeles. Her sun-soaked L.A. digs are a far cry from Canada, where she grew up and first made a name for herself on YouTube before landing a plum starring gig on ABC’s “Nashville” in 2012. When the show wrapped in 2018, Stella opted to go solo, releasing her debut album, “Three. Two. One.,” last April.
With projects dotting the horizon, the last year has allowed Stella to slow down and start building a life that’s decidedly more low-key than one that revolves around touring with 5 Seconds of Summer. In quarantine, she’s done as the Gen Z-ers do, like getting into Depop, while doing pop-star things, too, like booking Bonnaroo. Read on for our conversation, where she shared her formula to unique, fulfilling personal style. FYI: It all starts with a pair of beat-up Dr. Martens.
“When I was young, as far back as I can remember, my mom and I would go to Goodwill and remake the pieces we got. That was just my whole childhood — all of my clothes, they were designed like that. She’d take a dress, cut it up, make it into a shirt and then sew the back or tie the front, or whatever it was. We were very creative together. That opened my world, and that’s the way I shop now, where I want to find really unique pieces. My mom started that love of fashion in me.
“What I like is forever evolving. I love the idea of not boxing myself in and wearing whatever it is I feel like that day, instead of being stuck on a specific style. When you see something you like, you know. Personal style is freedom, and it’s supposed to be creative and about expressing yourself. And as humans, we feel different every day.
“I’ve been really liking Depop. Especially in quarantine, not being able to actually go out and dig for stuff, Depop is such a great option. I think a lot of people are becoming more open to it. Even those who typically wouldn’t thrift are finding Depop and loving the stuff on there. My sister’s good with it. She finds all the scores.
“When I travel, I love going into random thrift shops where you have to dig a little bit. But when I first came to L.A., I’d run into Brandy Melville to get all my basics. I don’t have a specific spot I’m always shopping at. I’m always finding new ones, and I’ll wear out that one place.
“I also love the way Pinterest works. Honestly, for fashion inspiration, I get most of it from Pinterest. Whenever I have a certain event and I’m pulling reference photos for a stylist, Pinterest is the first place I go.
“Whenever there’s an event coming up or if I have a day of press, I typically use a stylist. I’ve been working with one woman for the past couple of years now. We don’t even have to do the back and forth anymore because she gets me so well. And she’s a thrift master.
“I’ve always had the same stylist with my tours. We’ll do a fitting and get a bunch of clothes for the whole duration of the tour. But I’m still finding what I want, if I want to be a bit more extravagant or if I want it to be more casual. I’m literally in jeans and a T-shirt sometimes.
“The past two tours, I’ve worn my Dr. Martens pretty consistently, like every single night onstage. That’s the biggest thing with touring, I think, is finding a pair of shoes you can wear throughout. My Docs are like, true cushions. They’ve shaped around my feet. But it’s a painful experience to get to that point. I remember, there was a whole thing where my luggage didn’t make it for the first bit of my tour — this was the European tour I did before COVID — and I had to go buy new shoes. It was pretty excruciating having to go from my comfortable, worn-in Docs to then getting new shoes.
“I love a jacket. My family makes fun of me, even though they’re the same way. And all through summer, no matter how hot it gets, I’m always, always, always wearing boots. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian and it’s in my blood to want to dress like it’s cold out. But I can always justify jackets — like, ‘Okay, I can splurge on this because I can put it over a million different outfits’ — but if it’s a shirt or a pair of jeans, you can only wear it a couple times in one week. A jacket you can wear every day.
“Leather jackets are probably my number-one go-to. I have one that my mom bought from a thrift store in Nashville. I think it’s a men’s jacket — it’s just black leather — but I wear that one every single day. You’ll probably never see me without it.
“I just did a Melrose Trading Post spree because I can’t step foot in public right now and not shop a crazy amount, because I’m so deprived. I got this little scarf I’m using as a shirt and a very ’70s leather belt. [I was talking to this] old man, who was the cutest person to ever exist, and he was like, ‘I think you need this one.’
“I think what’s ultimately trendy right now, and for the past little while, has been just expressing yourself, and I love to see that. I see that even with the younger generation, as my sisters are growing up. It’s cool to be just yourself.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.