Reading: She Turned Her Shopping Obsession Into A Business

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She Turned Her Shopping Obsession Into A Business

Designer Leslie Hsu loved picking clothes for friends. Then she began to charge for it.

By Lesley Jane Seymour

Photo of Leslie Hsu
Photo by Marika Alzadon

Becoming a personal shopper wasn’t exactly the plan for Leslie Hsu, a first-generation Chinese American. She started her career doing fabric research for Calvin Klein and worked her way up to licensing & designing handbags for UGG and True Religion, then launching handbags for interior designer Jonathan Adler.

“I was at dinner with seven girlfriends and each one was wearing something I’d picked for her. They were laughing: ‘Leslie got me this scarf!’ I said, ‘I find so much great stuff [on the internet] and I don’t need it all.’ They said, ‘We’ll buy it!’”

The next morning, Hsu opened an Instagram account and filled it with items she loved. Three people signed up immediately and began buying. Today she runs LesliesFinds–a personal shopping service solely operated on social media, namely Facebook and Instagram. She has about 1,500 followers nationwide and hundreds officially subscribed to buy, including several who buy items from her weekly.

“I order every item [first] and try it on,” she says. “Everything looks good online—not just because the model is six feet tall and 110 pounds but because the clothing is pinned and tucked. And they mess with the color [in post-production]. I also find that things sometimes run big or small or the fabric quality is bad. I’ll let you know if something feels like the softest fabric ever, or if a pair of joggers is really tight around the ankles–you can’t really read that [in the site’s copy]. But I tell you everything you need to know about it [in my post].”

I first met Hsu at a table of strangers at a fancy New York restaurant dinner arranged by uber-connector Ulrika “Red” Nilsson. Looking at Leslie, with her long, black hair, impeccably tailored Prada-esque jumpsuit, and smart, red-rimmed glasses, we all guessed she was a lawyer. When she admitted that she paid around $150 for the jumpsuit, I was in fashion awe and knew we were so wrong. “I dress a little immature,” the 45-year-old admits, in an effort to explain the quirky, trendy edge to her style.

When it comes to buying for clients, Leslie tries to choose things that will command compliments. “I am attracted to things that are unique in some way,” she says. “Like denim stilettos or a white tee with only one sleeve.” And she won’t share an item that she doesn’t absolutely love herself. “I only posted white jeans after trying on about 40 pairs myself. I’m really picky and want the pieces to have a universally good fit. I don’t get paid by anybody but [my customers].”

Prices generally range from $20 to $300. Hsu says her customer sweet spot is women 35 to 55, many of whom share the looks with their teenage daughters. “My girls who are 16 and 14 literally get dressed in my closet,” she says. “I love that they do that because I don’t have to buy them their own things!”

LesliesFinds has caught on so much that now her services are expanding to personal shopping for individuals (some of whom she’s never even met in person) and home decor. “It’s amazing what Facebook and photos can do. I can literally personally shop for people anywhere and get to know them, their style, and their bodies from photos and some lovely conversation.” When it comes to home organizing, she says that spending some time simply moving things around can give your space a new look. “If you can trust my taste and eye and judgment on a good price, then I can personalize and style just about anything for you.”

Here’s how her service works: Click this Facebook link or this Instagram link to sign up. Email Leslie@LeslieHsu.com to fill out the form with your credit card, billing, and shipping info. When you see an item you like on her social media pages, go to the comment feed and express your interest and your size. Leslie will respond and order them for you. She will bill you separately an additional 15 percent to cover her scouting and processing services.

“If this continues to take off, it would be my dream: I’m getting messages from people I haven’t heard from since sixth grade. I can order for people while I’m on vacation on the beach in Anguilla. It makes people feel good about themselves—and they haven’t spent a zillion dollars.”

 

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How to Dress After 40: Leslie Hsu answers your most pressing style questions

 

Want more expert style tips? Join Leslie Hsu and Tania Sterl, founder of Sterl on Style, on Wednesday, June 6th at 8PM EST. You can join from anywhere in the world and ask the experts your questions directly. Reserve your spot today!

 

  1. Shari

    Love ! I love fashion and don’t believe in spending a lot when there are so many places to find quality at a discount. I will be joining Leslie’s instagram account momentarily! Great idea for a business, too. Hmmmm.

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