TALKING CALIFORNIA STYLE WITH STYLIST CONNI JESPERSEN
by Trina Hendry
When people think of California style, words like "casual," "hip," "boho," and "beachy" immediately come to the minds of many. But is this an accurate representation of modern-day Cali style? To get to the bottom of it, we reached out to a true California gal—San Diego-based stylist and blogger, Conni Jespersen of Art in the Find, to decipher exactly what California style is and how any aspiring California girl can achieve this look.
Conni is a self-proclaimed style junkie who loves solving fashion conundrums, and is passionate about empowering women to feel confident in their clothes. We originally discovered her via her Instagram account, and were immediately drawn to her effortless style, color and texture combinations, and, of course, pretty photography. Her lifestyle blog is a place where women can find affordable style ideas, recommendations for where to shop or dine in Southern California, travel inspiration and the occasional DIY project. We asked her to share some style tips, as well as give us the inside scoop on where to hang out in San Diego.
"Dressing should not be boring. It's unique, an experience. What works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for another. So I'd say California vibe is more about an attitude."
How did you become a stylist?
I started out in education and have my degree in child development, liberal arts, and a teaching credential. I realized after teaching for eight years that I had a lot of other outside interests. I've always had an interest in history, fashion, and overall style and I wanted to explore those more. So in my last year of teaching, I started my blog, Art in the Find, wrote my heart out about style, and took night classes at a local community college to get a fashion merchandising credential. From there, I networked, networked, networked, did a lot of free-lancing, and styled my friends' photo shoots for local publications. I hit the ground and just kept running! I started booking clients six months or so after that. Word of mouth is so, so powerful and helps my business tremendously.
You describe your style as California-sophisticated-chic. What is California-sophisticated chic and how can we have it?
Ha! Well you can't have mine (just kidding!) but you can explore, play, and, over time, gravitate towards things you love. I have ALWAYS loved color, patterns, and prints. I am a California native and think that the fact that we live in such a diverse, sunny state really helps with that! I also love tailored pieces, which flatter the figure, and that's where the sophistication comes in. The chic is a bit of femininity, whether it's a ruffle, bow, or lace—something with texture that really gives an outfit a special touch. So overall, adding a fun detail and a pop of color, along with a bit of the tailored look, that's California-sophisticated-chic!
Tell us about Art in the Find.
Art in the Find is both about my styling business and my style blog. The name comes from the belief that there is an art to finding the right pieces for each person. It's part of what I love to do! I love the hunt, the acquisition, finding just the right piece for a client or blog follower! Art also implies color, of which I'm very passionate about! My personality is pretty smiley, bright, and fun, which is where the color comes in. Art in the Find blog is a place where you can find affordable style inspiration for the everyday, busy gal.
As a California native, how have you seen California style evolve over the years? How would you describe it now?
For the last two or three years, we've been in a minimalist style trend. Lots of basics, creams, simple patterns, black and white pieces. Staples, capsule wardrobes. People are craving simplicity in pieces, quality-made, know-where-it's-coming-from type pieces. It's been devoid of color. A lot of that has to do with the social influences. We're trusting the opinions of those we follow to give us sound, trusted advice for great pieces we can have for a long time. We are on the cusp of a color/texture boom though. We've reached the peak of the minimal trend. You'll start to see it in the next year or so. Lots of texture coming back, vivid, vibrant colors mixed in with those minimal pieces. It's going to be a fun juxtaposition.
Can you share some tips on how a woman can easily work the California vibe into their own personal style regardless of where she’s living?
California is all about making life fun. Have you seen the ads for "Funner, California"? That's exactly how it should be. Dressing should not be boring. It's unique, an experience. What works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for another. So I'd say California vibe is more about an attitude. It's about ownership. I know when I'm comfortable in a piece and I rock it, and when I'm not. No matter where you live, you should feel fun, happy, confident in your everyday wear.
Are there key pieces every "California girl" should have?
A good pair of dark-wash denim you love—jeans always go that extra mile, a great pair of heels and flats that you feel empowered wearing, a comfortable layer—I love a great cashmere cardigan, and a fabulous go-to dress regardless of color—it doesn't have to be a LBD, but a Fabulous Dress, or FD as I like to call it, lol!
Does style differ in say, SF, LA and San Diego? If so, how?
Definitely. It's really all about demographics and industry/economics. What people do for a living where they live. SF has such a vibrant business/professional minded industry downtown, along with a very diverse creative crowd, with expendable income to use on unique one-off shops, etc. So there are a lot more of those tucked in and around the city. Same with LA. LA, has a very boho, chic vibe because of the varied creative industries but also that fast-pace, keep-up mentality. It's a lot more about seeing and being seen, so you have to put more effort into looking effortless. It's very fashion forward. San Diego is so unique in that it is very beachy and laid back but with a some professional-minded industries. So, there is an array of casual comfort mixed with business casual. Not as many one-off, boutique shops geared towards fashion. I think I might be a rare, colorful bird in that San Diego style mix, lol!
What are your favourite pieces in your closet right now?
I have and will always forever wear my jean jacket. I bought it when I was 22 at J.Crew and have had it for-ev-er! It's the best. I'm also wearing my tan leather moto jacket to death. My husband bought it for me for our anniversary a few years ago and it still gets plenty of wear. I have to say, I'm a shoe gal, I wear loafers, flats, and anything embellished with abandon! I'm not afraid to rock a fabulous pair of shoes. I'm also quite obsessed with stripes. They never go out of style. A striped shirt with jeans, leggings, or pants, and flats, done and done!
Favorite boutiques in California?
Wow, that's a big area to cover, lol! In San Diego, definitely vocabulary boutique; Pigment for home stuff; and a lovely new shop, Thread and Seed just opened up. I also love the Hi Sweetheart gift boutique in La Jolla. In LA, I love shopping on Melrose, of course, as well as at Heidi Merrick, Clare Vivier, and Jenni Kayne! And, for shoes, I love, love, love Freda Salvador in San Francisco.
We know you also style men. What is the key to embracing California style for men?
Keep it a bit casually polished/smart. It's definitely okay to rock a tee shirt and flip flops but a great button down and jeans with a fun pair of Vans just looks so much more pulled together!
Can you share a few tips for keeping our closets organized?
It's so so important to edit, edit, edit. Almost every season—or at least twice a year. We go through shifts in our lifestyle, our job, our weight, and our style as we age. Editing your closet—taking out seasonal items, getting rid of what you haven't worn in over a year—just makes getting dressed more efficient and enjoyable! Using bins to store sandals in the summer, a shoe rack to keep shoes neat and tidy, and containers to store seasonal items, are just some of the ways to keep your closet organized.
What are your favorite weekend hangouts in San Diego?
La Jolla just opened up the cutest cafe called Parakeet Cafe. They have the. best. avocado toast! I love shopping in North Park—again, Pigment is a super fun shop, and so is all the pink at Holy Matcha. Mimi and Red is also a cute boutique there. North Park and South Park are lovely gems to spend time in and around. I also love walking around Balboa Park and taking a peek into the museums.
What does your perfect weekend in San Diego look like?
Waking up, reading for a bit while the coffee brews. Then, bike riding with my husband and puppy, Miles, to brunch, wine tasting at our local wine spot in Bird Rock, and either having friends over for a poolside BBQ or heading out to dinner with them in the evening. I love the solitude of a great book followed by the company of friends and loved ones. It makes for a well-rounded weekend!
What do you love most about California?
The landscape and varied climates! You can go from mountains, to desert, to ocean all within a couple of hours. Our state is so vast and so diverse that living in both Northern California and Southern California has given me such great perspective. It has such beauty and such depth to it. Our state is so perfect for road tripping!