Sure, the Midwest is well known for what can be called “basic” style—jeans, sweatshirts, sneakers and the like. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But these fashion-forward Madisonians prove that style isn’t just throwing on whatever’s clean—it’s an integral part of who they are. Read on for five inspirational people who could give all of us a little schooling in panache.
J Henley (49)
Vice president of men’s design at Lands’ End
Lands’ End brings in talented designers, stylists and retail executives from all over the world. We’re lucky to have these stylish folks in nearby Dodgeville (the clothing company’s headquarters) as part of the fabric of our community. (See what we did there?) J Henley cut his teeth at Tommy Hilfiger, GAP and Champion/Hanes before joining Lands’ End 15 years ago.
As vice president of men’s design, he has shaped the brand’s direction from being known as a reliable place to get khakis, polos and button-ups to one that has upped its style game with slim-cut chinos, sun-washed linen shirts and suits and accessories you’d see in the pages of GQ.
The Pensacola, Florida, native is dad to Ruby and Ella and enjoys the Madison life, noting that Context, Good Style Shop, Odana Antiques, Rewind Decor, Atomic Interiors, Strictly Discs and Paul’s Bookstore are mainstays for him. And he’s still got a little bit of southern gentleman in him: “I grew up down south where going to church or a college football game meant putting on a uniform: navy blazer, oxford shirt, chinos, knit tie and bucks [a type of lace-up dress shoe]. Men young and old wore this uniform—oftentimes putting an individual twist on it. What I mostly learned was how to wear this uniform with confidence and conviction. I now wear a different uniform; however, the first thing I put on every morning is confidence and I wear it with conviction throughout the day.”
Biggest wardrobe splurge: “Alden Indy 405 boots, which I purchased while in college. I scraped my bartending tips together and didn’t eat for weeks to buy these. I still have them.”
Jessica Hamm (33)
Blogger at Bedknobs & Baubles and events manager at In Business magazine
A quick scroll through Jessica Hamm’s Instagram account reveals a love of cute dresses, bright lipstick and travel. While she says her day job is all about “the serious side of business,” the blog she started in 2011 is her outlet “to share my excitement about a pretty new dress or vintage necklace I bought.” The name is a play on the Disney movie “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”
Hamm was born in Madison and grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, and she returned to her birthplace to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison and remained here. Hamm’s style is playfully classic and she gravitates toward classic silhouettes. “I try to incorporate unexpected details in my ensemble. No matter what I’m wearing, jewelry takes center stage. I’m a sucker for costume jewels—both new and vintage.” Up next for Hamm? She and her boyfriend of six years are looking to buy a place this spring in the Atwood Avenue area.
Biggest splurge: “I splurged on a Hermès Clic Clac bracelet for my 30th birthday. While I’m a proponent of spending a decent amount of money on costume jewelry (you can always tell if it’s a cheap piece otherwise), it’s still an obscene amount of money for something that isn’t a precious metal or stone. That said, I never regretted adding the iconic piece to my collection.”
Angela Mondloch (30)
Owner of Saffron Avenue
Angela Mondloch originally started her blog/business venture Saffron Avenue in 2011 to foster her love of wedding planning, calligraphy and design. The one-woman venture has since blossomed into brand styling, website design, social media, calligraphy and art workshops. She has capitalized on the popularity of Instagram particularly, with more than 21,000 followers. Clients have ranged from an NBA player and his wife, a former Miss USA beauty queen, and others from around the world.
Like many creative minds, Mondloch tends to stick to the same daily uniform, which includes ripped boyfriend jeans (Madewell’s are her favorite), a white shirt and pumps. “My style is classic with a little edge. My overall [look] is modern and clean, and I like a lot of white. That goes for everything—my office, clothes and everything,” she says. And a visit to her Sun Prairie home that she shares with husband Kiley reveals the very essence of Mondloch’s elegant, chic mindset. “I’ve always mixed midcentury modern with transitional pieces. I have a midcentury modern sofa, but I might pair it with crown molding, built-in shelves and a faux fur rug. I blend those two worlds together, which I love doing. And however I can do calligraphy, I try to do it. If you see my house, you’ll see it—a lot.”
Biggest wardrobe splurge: “I just got some Schutz high heels from Shopbop [pictured above]. They’re strappy and neutral ... I love them, and they wrap around your ankle. It’s the most I’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes.”
Ryan Huber (40)
Owner of Context
For a guy whose friends say his style reminds them of Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando and James Dean, Ryan Huber fits the part. He even jokes he’s in a “motorcycle gang.” And Huber brings his signature style to the masses at Context, the specialty men’s boutique that he and close buddy Sam Parker opened in 2005.
“Online retail was about to explode and heritage denim was a niche product that guys wanted but could get in only a couple shops in a few large cities. When the right spot opened up on King Street, we pounced,” Huber says. He and Parker scout for up and coming brands from around the world but place a special emphasis on goods made in the U.S.
Huber’s a huge fan of footwear manufacturers Alden Shoe Company and Thorogood Boots. Thorogood is made by Weinbrenner Shoe Co., which has been making boots in Wisconsin since 1892. Huber’s own style is heavily influenced by his father Roy (he even named a pair of Alden boots the Roy boot), as well as Parker and his barber Lue at Ritual Barber. “Good style begins with knowing who you are. Confidence comes from wearing clothes that fit your body and your personality.”
Biggest wardrobe splurge: “I was looking for a leather motorcycle jacket for myself. I asked my buddy Nick Horween of Horween [Leather Co.] in Chicago if [the company] would be interested in working with Schott NYC on a reproduction of a leather jacket from 1947 that caught my eye. Both companies agreed, but the minimum production order was over 100 units. We went for it. They all sold very quickly due to some press in GQ, but that was one expensive jacket nonetheless.”
Semi-retired, former social media and marketing manager at Hilldale Shopping Center
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet Leslie Watkins, you know she’s a tour de force of positivity, style and chummy attitude. She’s the type of person you feel comfortable with immediately. The Jersey City, New Jersey, native came to Madison when she was 16 for her mother’s job transfer and never left. It’s apparent she’s passionate about her adopted city, as she’s very involved in the community. She is on the board of the Madison Children’s Museum, and previously served on the boards of Four Seasons Theatre, Capital City Theatre, and the Dane County Arts Commission, and she was also involved with fundraising for the Center for Patient Partnerships and Wisconsin Public Television.
But her style never takes a backseat to work or play, and she’s usually in black with “a pop of color and something fab in the way of an accessory.” Style icons include her grandmother Doris Gaines, Lena Horne, Michelle Obama, Diana Vreeland and Iris Apfel. Yet another giveaway that she’s a fashion girl: her Twitter and Instagram profiles are appropriately titled Madisonshopgirl. “Yes, I admit it, I’m addicted to social media!” she says.
Biggest wardrobe splurge: “In my 20s I bought a Willie Wear coat at Henri Bendel that cost over $400 when I was probably making $2 an hour.”
Shayna Mace is a contributor to Madison Magazine.