Editor’s Note: Style and substance 

Behind the scenes of the CL Style issue.

“Who is this Leslie Joy Ickowitz?” inquired CL’s theater critic, Mark Leib, when I ran into him recently during an intermission at the Straz.

I wasn’t sure at first whether the question was a loaded one (to be followed perhaps by, “I completely disagree with her opinions on hemlines!” or some such). But it turns out Mark was curious because Leslie, CL’s new style editor, had made a sweet gesture; she’d sent him an email complimenting him on a review.

That’s typical of Leslie. She’s an enthusiast, with a generosity of spirit and and an eye for quality that has marked every issue of her gorgeous online style magazine, VERTICAL Tampa Bay, since its debut three years ago. That combination led us to bring her on as a regular columnist (“High On Style” in our Play section) and as editor of CL’s annual Style Issue.

Her taste in people, no surprise, is as impeccable as her taste in fashion. I know this first-hand because my house was ground zero for the “Decades” fashion shoot that she curated; you get to know people when they’re hanging around your house and your neighborhood all day poofing hair, positioning wardrobe racks, changing outfits, and scouting locations. The exuberant photographer Mariana Mosli and her colleague/husband Khaled of Kismis Ink Photography were a blast to be around, utterly professional but fun, too. Models Vimala Faith and Chloe Alexis Knowling, besides being exquisite to look at, rocked the vintage fashions as if they’d been born to them, and Bill Baker and Pamela Bloomgren (hair and makeup, respectively) turned out perfect looks with speed and aplomb. Becca Barton, Leslie’s assistant on the shoot, took on a variety of tasks with quiet good humor. Leslie brought with her a treasure trove of fabulosity unearthed in local vintage boutiques and styled her finds with imaginative flair, and CL’s creative director, Todd Bates, put it all together, as usual, with taste and intelligence.

It was Leslie’s idea to focus on vintage fashions for this issue, and to use the Historic Roser Park neighborhood of St. Petersburg as a backdrop. I couldn’t argue with her choice. Not that I’m biased or anything, but I’ve believed since moving to Roser Park seven years ago that it’s one of the hidden treasures of Tampa Bay. And I do mean hidden: though it’s just south of St. Pete’s downtown near the Bayfront Medical Center, we’ve had many longtime St. Pete residents visit us, including natives, who comment that they’d never even known it existed. It’s not Brigadoon, though; it’s a national historic district and St. Pete’s first “suburb,” founded by developer Charles Roser, who may or may not have invented the Fig Newton (long story). One of its distinctive characteristics, in addition to the hills, the brick streets, and Booker Creek, is its architecture — old homes with good bones mostly maintained with care. Tampa Bay isn’t always known as a place that respects its architectural heritage — St. Augustine gets all the props for that — but Roser and many other such ’hoods in Tampa Bay (Seminole Heights and Hyde Park in Tampa, the Old Northeast and the Old Southeast in St. Petersburg) prove differently.

That’s why, elsewhere in this Style Issue, you’ll find a column by Linda Saul-Sena about buildings that have stood the test of time. Or have until now — at least one of the vintage buildings on her list, the St. Pete Pier, has an uncertain future, one which Mitch Perry reviews in his news story, “A Bridge Too Far?” Time will tell whether the future holds a landmark that we’ll still be admiring the next time we do a vintage issue — say, in 2060, when “vintage” will mean styles from 2012.

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