SLUG Style: Kalei
Art and Fashion
Salt Lake City is quickly becoming a magnet for fashion enthusiasts and opportunists alike. Kaleihinano Hoopono Taylor-Stroud, who goes by Kalei, is spearheading the movement through her organization Salt Lake Fashion Collective (SLFC). What was once a exclusive, limited club is now becoming more inclusive as a space for creatives to connect.
Kalei loves fashion, particularly the experimentation and the maximalism of it all. It could be because she’s a Taurus (you know they love luxury) or because she grew up in such an eclectic environment. Whatever it is brought her to her current state of “sexy grandma,” a phrase she uses to describe herself. “I grew up playing tennis, and I was really competitive,” says Taylor-Stroud. “My goal in college was to be a professional tennis coach or player, and my parents were like, ‘Okay, well, what are your other goals?’ I’m like, ‘I want to do fashion design.’” It’s a career path that Taylor-Stroud laments every girl in the early aughts wanted to pursue—still, fashion stuck with her.
From her successful styling business and studying health promotion education with an emphasis in community at University of Utah, Kalei ideated SLFC. “As a woman of color in Utah and also as a creative, it was really hard to connect with people who are influencers because they don’t really represent me here,” explains Kalei. “So that’s the reason I started the Instagram account, Cultivating Creative Connection Salt Lake City (CCCslc) with it’s show SLFC because I wanted to offer the same connections to creatives who are just starting out.”
“I started experimenting more with [scandalous clothing] along with athletic wear because I was a tennis player. All of it kind of just sped together and created my style now, which I think is constantly evolving.”
Last August, SLFC hosted its first fashion show where local designers could present their pieces and where influencers and creatives alike could connect. The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) will host their second show on Feb. 11. “We’re gonna have designers and models set up in their spaces like art pieces,” says Kalei. “People will be able to go and interact with the models and designers and ask about the pieces and feel the texture of the pieces. [They’ll be able to] ask how it feels on the models bodies, ask the designer how they created it and what their inspiration was, a way for people to really find that connection.” Finally, there will be a runway walk with models. “You [will be able to see] how the pieces flow and move, and it’s going to be like a typical fashion show. But I like to think of it more like a museum art pop-up,” she says.
While Kalei loves a fashion show, she is also passionate about another side of fashion: personal style. Although she had a dislike for sewing, that didn’t stop Taylor-Stroud from developing her own sense of style. “I grew up in Utah, North Carolina and Los Angeles—I have a lot of outside influences my personal style,” explains Kalei. “I moved back to Utah, and I was growing up here in high school, and my style was very preppy—like, J.Crew preppy. I used to be in an emo phase and grew into a preppy girl.” She quickly concedes that she’s grateful for that era of experimentation.
Kalei’s style continued to transform once she enrolled in college. “I was experimenting more with pieces that were a little less modest because I grew up in the Mormon church, and so I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna wear something scandalous.’” Kalei’s rebellious streak led her to dress in a way that provoked a reaction, such as mini skirts and cut-out tops. “I started experimenting more with [scandalous clothing] along with athletic wear because I was a tennis player,” explains Kalei. “All of it kind of just sped together and created my style now, which I think is constantly evolving.” We’re now to “sexy grandma.” “It’s vintage but with a tinge of sexiness,” she says.
“As a woman of color in Utah and also as a creative, it was really hard to connect with people who are influencers because they don’t really represent me here.”
With an appetite for fashion and a stint working at Nordstrom, Kalei grew a voracious appetite for styling and figured she could turn this love into a job as a professional fashion stylist. “[I started] my fashion styling business with my friend who worked at Nordstrom, and it just took off from there,” Kalei says. “ Sauce Media Group … hired me to be their personal stylist and wardrobe stylist for their clients. I started working with some local brands like Fawn Design and Cara Loren, who’s an influencer, and then a few other small influencers and just brilliant people,” she says.
Kalei derives inspiration from her favorite designers, Jacquemus and Loewe, her favorite celebrities and influencers, and the sustainable fashion movement. “I do [also] love the mega influencers like Bella Hadid and Matilda Djerf. They’re icons in their own right,” says Kalei.
“My goal with [styling] people as a personal stylist and a fashion stylist is to get them into their personal style because everyone is so different”—Kalei explains that finding one’s own style is more sustainable than hopping onto trends. “You’ll have those pieces that last forever,” says Kalei. “Like, that little cute crop top that Bella Hadid wore and is probably never going to wear again that you bought, and [you] probably won’t wear [it] again either.”
This doesn’t mean Kalei doesn’t keep up with trends or doesn’t gather inspiration from street style. “It’s also really important to say, ‘I really like my personal style,’” she says. “But, I’m gonna use little parts of this person’s style to add to mine’ in a way that’s sustainable and you’ll be able to have these pieces forever.”
Starting as something Kalei thought might be nothing more than a resume filler, SLFC’s future is bright. While she floats ideas of doing seasonal shows and even taking the collective internationally, for now she’s having fun with it. Find Kalei’s styling account on Instagram @styles.kalei and see SLFC’s work at @cccslc.