“Ladybrille’s 15 Questions with . . .” is a feature that salutes some of the most important names in the fashion and entertainment industries around the globe, with a particular emphasis on Africa. We hope you are as inspired as we are with the brilliant men and women in these industries that make the world go round. Our feature today is with Leslie Asfour, a Fashion Professor and Insider; and cousin of Gabriel Asfour of the popular fashion label ThreeAsFour.
DISCLAIMER: Ladybrille’s Editor-in-Chief, Uduak Oduok, has been an invited guest at Delta College School of Fashion speaking and model events. Enjoy.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Describe your current career(s). What exactly do you do?
Leslie Asfour: I am a fashion professor. That is my formal title. However, for the past twenty years I’ve developed and grown a very successful fashion program at the most unlikely place, at a community college in Stockton, California! For the last two decades, I’ve been writing new and innovative courses, recruiting quality faculty, designing and producing innovative and influential events and training students to be successful in the industry.
I’ve been responsible for all aspects of the program, including integrating the industry into everything we do, from in-class projects to events that bring our students closer to the industry.
On the side, I also use my 30+ years of experience in the industry to help people who own businesses and brands. As a consultant, I’ve assisted many in the business in the areas of retail design, rehabilitation, brand development, marketing, visual merchandising and clientele development.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: For the past three years at Delta College, you have pulled off some of the most amazing fashion events, ‘Meet the Fashion Industry Insiders’ being one of them. What motivates you to do this?
Leslie Asfour: I was lucky in college to have an incredible advisor/mentor who introduced me to the industry in a meaningful way. I hope to do that and more for my students and to expose the community to the amazing talent in our program.
I am motivated by many things. Other professionals in the fashion and design industry, their passion and drive, their insight and creativity inspire me to continue to develop the program and the students and expose the students to all of the cool people out there. I try to network as often as possible and attend industry events to keep me anchored to the reality of the industry. I meet some amazing people from designers to brand developers to retail store designers and am inspired by their passion and insight and I want to share what I learn from them. I also love being able to introduce people from the industry to others who they might never meet, but who I believe are impressive and quality professionals.
The students themselves also motivate me. Some come into the program with so much passion and drive and are able to ingest all they can and get out into the industry and do some amazing things!
I feel strongly that education for students today is not just the classroom experience. If they can’t connect what they learn in the class to something tangible, then the time in the classroom is meaningless. The world moves so fast, the industry changes so quickly, so it’s important that every minute I have with them is as impactful as I can make it and that the events we produce and the people we bring together are focused around providing the students with every tool I have to make a difference in their careers. When students tell me that they were inspired by one of our events, by meeting someone from the industry who said something to them that motivated and encouraged them, then I’m going my job.
The reality is that the college is not located in a “Fashion city.” So, I bring fashion to the city.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you believe is your purpose here on earth?
Leslie Asfour: I think I’m still trying to figure that out, but am glad I can lend insight, direction, support and inspiration to others in the meantime.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How do you define success?
Leslie Asfour: I think success is having a sense of commitment to your dreams and goals and accomplishing them through hard work. It’s also being able to let go of the dreams or goals that may no longer resonate as you grow through life. I have found that every five or ten years, my idea of success changes, as well.
I don’t relate success to wealth or material things. I believe it’s a strong sense of your own hard work translating to something meaningful in your life.
I also believe success is about giving back, teaching others, helping others. If you’ve reached a goal, help others reach theirs. That sense of reward will make you feel incredible, unlike anything money or material things can.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Share with us your fondest childhood memory?
Leslie Asfour: I have many, but most are embedded in my upbringing and family. My father was an immigrant, without much, but worked hard to provide us with a great childhood – I have three (3) sisters. Growing up in San Francisco, we had many incredible experiences on a daily basis. Elementary school was in downtown, on our way home, we would walk through China Town, get rice paper candy and origami papers, take the cable car and muni to Golden Gate Park, stop at the Japanese Tea Garden, eat fortune cookies, then to the De Young for art lessons. The next stop was home to jump on our bikes to head to the park to hang out with friends then home for dinner! Times were different then, but the independence we enjoyed helped me live my life with adventure and enthusiasm for different experiences.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: As someone who works closely with and influences a lot of young people, share the best advice you have ever received that you can pass on to them?
Leslie Asfour: The best advice I can give is to do what you love. Don’t work in something that just brings you a pay check. Find a way to get paid to do what you love. You’re going to spend the majority of your life working, so it might as well be a passionate life.
The best way to find that passion and that thing you’re going to love doing is to experience as much as you can while you can, experiment with different interests. If you’re in school, taking the usual classes, but nothing’s sparking a real interest, I mean a passionate interest, then change it up. Take a photo class, an art class, an extra PE class, or do something extra-curricular that you think might interest you. That interest might be something that can translate into a career you love.
Learning is essential. Learn about a lot of different things. Knowing a little about a lot goes a long way. Be open to learning new things and experiencing new things. Turn off the tv, the video games, the computer and get out and experience something you might not otherwise experience. Go see a museum exhibit, a foreign film, an artists’ showing. Travel, take day trips, find a cool old book that sparks your interest. Expose yourself to all that’s out there.
I think the other important thing is to have a mentor. Find someone you respect in the industry you want to work and intern with that person (yes, work for free) and learn all you can, learn what made that person successful and take his/her advice.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What keeps you awake at night?
Leslie Asfour: Everything! Sometimes my mind runs a mile a minute, coming up with new ideas, events, marketing tools and class activities for my students, as well as new business ideas. Other times, it’s stress. The public educational system in California is very strained and right now, it’s a difficult environment in which to work and can take a toll on those trying to be innovative and creative within a very confined system.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What drives you?
Leslie Asfour: Primarily, my students and my strong desire to do all I can do mold them so they will be successful!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What inspires you?
Leslie Asfour: Many things… my students inspire me, my former students now in the industry inspire me. To know I had something to do with their success tells me that I’m in the right place. I am also inspired by creative and motivated people in the industry who are doing amazing things.
My parents and family inspire me and remind me of where I came and who I really am, my heritage, my ancestry. I find inspiration in knowing how hard my father worked to provide us with a great life.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What are the daily principles you live by?
Leslie Asfour: I’ve always believed that if at the end of this life, I have no real regrets, then I’ve lived a good life. I try always to say what I think, speak my mind and do what’s right for my own integrity and for others.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: When all is said and done, what is the legacy you hope to leave behind?
Leslie Asfour: I hope to inspire people, give them all I know and help them to succeed in their lives. I also hope to be remembered as a good friend, sister, and daughter and that I lived my life with integrity and honesty.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us your favorite restaurant to visit?
Leslie Asfour: I have a few standard ones I visit. I prefer somewhere I know I’ll get great service and great food… I am a foodie and find that when I travel, the best experiences are often around a table of food, sharing thoughts with interesting people.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us your favorite food to eat?
Leslie Asfour: I have an eclectic palette, like Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian, Hispanic foods.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: When was the last time you had a good massage?
Leslie Asfour: I can’t remember, but I know I’m due!
Photocredit: Stan Rapada
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.