By Diana Cavagnaro | Fashion Files
Leonard Simpson’s name is synonymous with fashion in San Diego and has been a prominent fashion expert here and throughout the nation for over two decades. His expertise is legendary in film, television, theater, and the fashion industry. It all began when he was 15 years old, dreaming of working in theater and fashion production. He went on to study design, lighting, and theater in New York, graduating with a degree in fashion and theater production. He interned with professionals in the field and attended as many shows as possible to learn the craft.
Simpson began his business in jewelry just by accident. One day he was driving to Los Angeles and stopped in a store that was going out of business in Laguna Beach. They had buttons from France, which he thought would be great for earrings, so he bought everything in the store for $600. He developed a line and brought them to Saks Fifth Avenue to sell. Its fashion director, Barbara Zobell, took them to the buyer who bought them and filled the jewelry cases in New York and here in San Diego. He was also able to sell them to boutiques throughout the U.S. starting with Capriccio’s in La Jolla.
Burl Stiff wrote an article after seeing supermodel Travis Vardell modeling Simpson’s jewelry. Stiff was so impressed that he wrote a full-page article in the arts section of the Union Tribune. At the same time, Bob Mackie saw the earrings at Saks and asked Simpson to design jewelry to match his gowns. The next exciting moment in his career was when Diana Ross wore his earrings, along with Bob Mackie’s gowns, for her concerts.
This was around the time that Simpson started Fashion Forward, which is a full theatrical production company designed for runways. Pat O’Connor, who was CEO of Fashion Career College (FCC), gave him his first opportunity to produce a fashion show in San Diego. He developed this show and called it the “Golden Hanger’s” for FCC. He now had three jobs: designing earrings, a personal stylist and a fashion show producer. Locally, he began doing “Style Spots” on NBC, CBS, and ABC before he was referred to KUSI to start doing weekly TV segments. He became known as the “San Diego Style Guy” producing weekly segments for the next 10 years working with Sandra Mass. KUSI is a generous supporter of local charities and boutiques in San Diego.
Kimberly Hunt (ABC 10) was responsible for getting him to do “Oscar Live on the Red Carpet” for many years. Then TV writer Ester Paul asked him to host the San Diego Emmy’s and produce entertainment during the show. The three events he is most proud of are: producing a fashion show at Hollywood Hyland Center; the opening of the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards); and producing a three-hour musical fashion show in New York named “Follow the Dream.”
After being blessed to work with charities over the past decades in San Diego and the U.S., Simpson began the “10 Best Dressed Awards” honoring San Diegans for their philanthropy. Alberta Davidson gave him the opportunity to produce 300 fashion shows in fashion centers and malls throughout the country owned by Trizec Properties and The Hahn Company, which included the opening of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. This opportunity led to Simpson becoming fashion director for South Coast Plaza for two years.
In addition to all of these accomplishments, Simpson was the star in a 2002 movie named “Fashionable LA.” His character was Peter Hugo, who was what else … a fashion director! Fast forward to today and Simpson has developed a new line of jewelry with his initials: LGS Couture Jewelry. The inspiration is baroque architecture from beautiful cities in the U.S. and Europe. The line includes earrings, cuffs, headbands or chokers, and specialty evening handbags. The latest trend is for headbands, especially for adults. The color trends are deep royal gems such as ruby and emeralds along with navy and a splash of gray and brushed silver. Fabrication is velvets, brocades, and silks. To see it, order it, and have it visit: facebook.com/fashionforward or email at: Leonardsimpsonfashion@gmail.com
Nov. 3 – SoCal Etsy Guild Market San Diego from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. in Westfield Mission Valley with handmade vendors, local designers, and live art. This outdoor event happens the first Saturday of every month.
Nov. 17 – The Glow Up fashion Show presented by Cold Peace. Located at Encore Event Center at 8253 Ronson Road. The attire is all white (casual) but you are free to wear a pop of color. Tickets are $10-$25. To purchase tickets: eventbrite.com/event/50705225695.
—Diana Cavagnaro is an internationally renowned Couture Milliner based in the Historic Gaslamp Quarter. Learn more about our hat designer, teacher & blogger at www.DianaCavagnaro.com.