“Our generation has an opportunity to go back to a more natural way of life, and that is something that I am very passionate about,” states our newest Closet, the John Wayne-Isak Dinesen-Tom Joad-Annie Oakley-Jane Russell farmer and leather artisan, Leslie Crow. By waking up at 7am to collect eggs and clean up donkey shit, by growing her own vegetables and eating wild meat, by making her leather bags exclusively out of leftover deer hides (not deer-tanned cowhides that only increase the profit margins of large corporations), the Austin, Texas convert puts her money where her mouth is, while rocking the same free-spirit uniform that’s she had since she was 16, including her very own must-have accessories — a knife for cutting hay (and for self-defense during late-night runs to the gas station) and her mom’s Hopi silver bear claw cuff that symbolizes strength. Hailing from “a long line of strong, independent women who do whatever the fuck they want,” Leslie’s tenacity and fearlessness in creating her own path has us girl-crushing and inspired. She recently (and bravely) relocated from the thick of it in LA, where she has a state of the art boutique of handcrafted leather goods, Heyoka Leather, as well as a thriving circle of friends, to being all by herself in a bona fide log cabin on a ranch. When you grow up poor and off the beaten path (the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia, and West Maryland), and your parents teach you that struggles are there for you to overcome and that there is no ceiling that you can hit, the values payoff can be enormous, both personally and for the world. As Leslie recalls, “It was always possible to go beyond. It was always possible to do whatever you dreamed of. I took that very literally, and here I am.”
Just as Leslie turns a flower-power dress into a bad-ass crop top, she left her home and headed for the City of Angels, where she turned her modeling career into the education that she wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford by listening to designers while fit modeling and posing for art classes at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, where she soaked in everything the teacher said. But it was meeting Henry Duarte, an icon of genuine leather craftsmanship, who took Leslie under his wing and lead her to her current career path, which is proving that it is possible to be financially successful by creating must-have non-branded fashion that is recognizable purely through the style of its craftsman. In other words, like Leslie’s prized suede fringed jacket and snakeskin boots, the work speaks for itself, and that was the kind of designer she wanted to be.
Today, Leslie shatters the illusion that labels equal style and rejects the herd-like mentality that has intensified from 24/7 social media. "There’s so much freedom in being alone,” Leslie feels. “People are so distracted by their phones, TV, and friends, because they’re scared to look inside their souls and to really know themselves.” The wild horse tamer who sits on mountains for days at a time to gather herself has found that the isolation that comes with living a simplified, agrarian life has propelled her to create non-stop: "I'll lose track of time. All of a sudden it’s 8:00 at night and I haven't even eaten because I'm in the middle of ten projects at once."
The woman who still wears her high-school prom dress will never succumb to her biggest fear of holding herself back. Instead, she is one of her generation’s trailblazers, demonstrating that assimilation into earth-destroying global capitalism isn’t inevitable. No, we don’t have to consume meat filled with antibiotics, restrict ourselves to being a Carrie or a Hannah (she doesn't know who they are,) or pump out products at a trillion mph. As Leslie says, “If you can just find your inner strength and be confident that your path is the right on, then it doesn't matter what everybody else is doing. I wasn’t brought up growing my own food and living off the land.” But our turquoise-laced muse is a one-of-a-kind kind who's fervent about making a difference, learning how to be sustainable and leave a minimal ecological impact on the world, just like her grandma once did.
Elisa + Lily
Follow Leslie on Instagram: @coyotespiritchild
Follow Heyoka Leather on Twitter: @HeyokaLeather
Follow them on Instagram: @heyokaleather
Check out Heyoka Leather's website
Check out Tecolote Farm
Leslie's video was edited by Andrea Cruz