42 In Style/ Substance

My Red Leopardification

A quick flick through my Instagram feed or a scroll through my blog shows you immediately that I love colour. Colour lifts my mood and rejuvenates my face. However, when I’m buying clothes, I’ve always been much more about the style of an item than its exact colour. Even if something was the ‘wrong’ colour for me, I’d make it work the best I could with makeup and accessories. It seems like an impossibly tall order to find something in my size, in my budget, in a style that I like, AND in the perfect colour for my skin tone.

Recently, an old banking client of mine (Hi Polly!) introduced me to Annie from the styling team Red Leopard. Polly thought we’d get along and gosh was she ever right. We all met for lunch and Annie and I squawked like parrots non-stop about colour and style. A couple of weeks later, Annie invited me to meet with her and her colleague Manina for a Red Leopard colour and style consultation. Now, I’ve never really bought into the whole ‘having your colours done’ thing, mainly because most people doing it have absolutely no idea about colour and even less about style (Meow! Can someone get me a saucer of milk, please?). I could see that Annie had buckets of style though, so I figured I’d be in safe hands.  Still… I’m a very difficult customer; I’ve been opinionated about style since I was old enough to talk. I warned Annie and Manina before our meeting that I would not wear florals, ruffles, boho, lace, or anything too girly… so not to even try with me! And quite honestly, I thought, what could anyone teach me, Miss Walking Rainbow, about colour?

Well, quite a lot actually. Annie and Manina are not just stylists or colour experts. I don’t even know what to call them. ‘Alchemists of colour and style’ is about as close as I can get! I learned more in my two hours with them than I thought was possible; my head was spinning for days afterwards.  I felt like a veil was lifted from my eyes and I was suddenly noticing every colour (people’s clothes on the street, billboards, my garden) and all of its nuances.  There are people who are good at what they do, and then there are the people who are so good that they don’t have any competition whatsoever. I’d put Red Leopard in that category. They are SO good, in fact, that Hollywood A listers (and their entire teams) fly to London to use their services.  I’m not at all surprised.

Annie on the left and Manina on the right, with their clients draped in colour

Red Leopard relies heavily on the colour theory of Johannes Itten, one of the Bauhaus masters. Itten believed that all colours either have a blue undertone or a yellow undertone (so either cool or warm) and that all colours are either bright or soft (saturation). At Red Leopard, you aren’t simply assessed to be in the spring, summer, winter, or autumn category, but within that range, there are colours that make your face come alive. How to find them? By draping a big scarf of each colour next to your face whilst sitting in natural light and seeing the effect of each colour on your skin.

Despite a night of terrible sleep and with unwashed hair, my skin still looks good next to the right colours

As I went through the extensive collection of coloured scarves, I saw some colours made me look exhausted, accentuated the lines on my face, drew attention to the shadows around my nose, and made the area under my eyes go grey. Other colours (a few I’ve NEVER worn and haven’t ever considered wearing, like the tangerine and the cinnamon in the photo above) made my skin look fresh and blew away all the lines and shadows.  I literally couldn’t believe my eyes.  How could two different colours of blue or two different colours of red each make my face look completely different? Sorcery! Look how different the surrounding colours make the red squares look on the left half or the blue squares look on the right half in the photo below. Now imagine that blue square is your face.  The blue is the same in every photo, but it looks vibrant or dull depending on which colour is surrounding it.  In the same way, your face looks vibrant or dull depending on how complementary a colour is with your skin tone.Johannes-itten-colour-fashion-styleColourwise, I am a spring, and a warm spring at that, so the more yellow undertones in a colour, the better for my face. For example, I light up in a bright grassy yellow green and I age about 20 years in a cold blue-based teal green.  That is why the green coat from last week’s post (in the background below) worked so well on me; it is a warm green somewhere between leaf and kerry green in this swatch.


After my Red Leopardification, I won’t just buy colours that I happen to like and hope they look good when I get home. Instead, now that I understand the ‘colour code’ I’ll seek out colours that flatter me. I won’t buy blue just because I love it (which I’ve always done); I’ll look for warmer blues with a pinch of green in them. To make this easier, Red Leopard gave me a small wallet of paper card swatches (in the photo above) of the ideal colours in my range, with a sticker next to the ones that work particularly well on me. I’m not meant to only buy colours that are an exact match to the swatches, but to use them as a reference for finding similar shades, as in the photo above.

Coral-faux-fur-turquoiseAqua blue sweater and coral collar, two of my best skin-brightening shades, worn together

We focused almost exclusively on colour in my consultation, but Annie and Manina also draw on Carl Jungian psychology in assessing and teaching style to clients. In Jung’s archetypes, I am very much a ‘jester’ which explains the bright glittery statement style that I am drawn to, as a way of connecting with people. Also, I learned about how our clothes and accessories subconsciously signal power and authority to other people. For instance, Manina showed how something as simple as covering your throat (a vulnerable part of the human anatomy) with a scarf, a brooch, a bold necklace, a collared shirt, or a tie (for men) immediately commands authority in an almost military-like way. In my current life this isn’t so necessary, but back when I was a banker, I intentionally and unintentionally used a lot of these subtle cues to ensure I looked authoritative yet stylish without an ounce of frivolity.

Stylewise, one thing that Manina and Annie pulled off was to get me to open my mind about scarves.  I usually feel restless and fussy in them, like I’m wearing a soft plastic bag around my neck. I don’t mind them functionally for winter, but decoratively, I’ve never been a scarf wearer. As I stated in a previous blog post, I can look quite Buffy von AirlineHostess in one. My husband loves scarves, and is forever trying to convince me to try beautiful Hermes silk ones. When I put one on though, I instantly look “Madame,” as the French describe it, like the client on the cover of a Swiss private banking brochure. What changed my stony mindset about scarves was trying one on that blasted flattering light onto my face; it was this one in pale aqua blue with bright green branches. However, I couldn’t get past my allergic reaction to the pink floral motif. It is beautiful, just not my style. Instead I got this one (below) but in a warm red and turquoise (my wedding colours) combination.  The motif of leopards, stars, and jewellery was much more my style than flowers, and the colours are immediately illuminating on my warm-spring-self. Red Leopard works with scarf designer Ivana Nohel to design their scarves in VERY precise colour palettes to suit their clients.  It is a level of attention to detail that fills my inner control freak with glee.


If you are all at sea about your style or your colours, or even if you are confident about them and do it for a job (raises hand), having a second opinion from women as uber-stylish and knowledgeable as Annie, Manina or their colleague Rachel, is a game-changer. It is life-enhancing… at least if you’re as zealous about colour and style as I am. Yes, it will add another layer to your decision making when you shop, but it also will cut down on wasteful spending. It ensures that what is in your closet will make you look and feel great. I see this Red Leopard colour assessment as an investment in myself and in my future wardrobe.

If you are in London, the exquisite Red Leopard offices are in Battersea; go see them and let them work their magic on you. If you’re visiting London, make an appointment to see these ladies; I couldn’t possibly recommend them higher. While they work with Hollywood A-listers and corporate clients, they mostly work with regular people like us, both men and women. They are so warm and knowledgable that I would have followed anything they told me (I mean, they got ME wearing SCARVES for heaven’s sake!). Annie said something in our meeting that has really stuck with me– She said when you are a child in the UK, you have a school uniform, which is either warm or cool in colour, and makes half of students look great and the other half look tired. Then, you go to university, where you dress in whatever is clean and affordable. Then, you start a job and probably wear black and dull corporate colours for years. Basically, many people (me included) don’t have that much choice with their clothes until they reach midlife. By then, your skin tone has changed and you’ve only worn the colours you like rather than what actually suits you.  Luckily we’re naturally drawn to the colours that work well on us, but this is more about fine-tuning and precision. That’s my situation anyway, and why my Red Leopard Scarf Moment was such a revelation. I’m a colour lover, but now I’m a swatch-card-carrying educated colour lover, and I look at everything differently.


Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored, despite the evangelical tone 🙂

Linking to: stylesplash, notdressedaslambnotdeadyetstyle

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  • Reply
    Vanity And Me Style
    March 17, 2019 at 1:33 PM

    Very interesting. As you know I’m the opposite queen of cream! But I would love to have a go at this to see what colours actually make me look better than those I already know. xx

    • Reply
      March 17, 2019 at 3:33 PM

      It is mind blowing, Laurie! Honestly, all sorts of warm peach and brown and cinnamon and copper colours work on me, which I don’t like at all, but if it makes my skin look better, hey, I’m in! I learned a lot. xx

  • Reply
    March 17, 2019 at 4:15 PM

    Oh I did that years ago, but I like 20, and could do with a update! It’s really surprising to see what color can do in your face right

    • Reply
      March 17, 2019 at 8:58 PM

      It is so worth doing again! Especially for makeup purposes; I used to wear so much pink and rose in lip and cheek colours… now they go dead on me. All the colours that used to look bright and orangey on my face now work. Crazy! xx

  • Reply
    March 17, 2019 at 7:43 PM

    This is SO interesting! I didn’t know such a thing existed. And yeah- I never listened to anyone who would “do” my colours. But this is would be incredibly eye opening I’m sure!
    ~Melissa xx

    • Reply
      March 17, 2019 at 9:01 PM

      I’ve never met a colour expert worth listening to… until now! It really has changed how I look at colour and explains why so much of my wardrobe works on me and why some of it definitely doesn’t. xx

  • Reply
    March 17, 2019 at 8:46 PM

    As an ordinary Joe, that’s really fascinating. I’ve had ‘colours’ done in the past by people who weren’t talented and had very different opinions. I’m possibly a spring or autumn but I don’t know which and I’ve never worked it out.

    • Reply
      March 17, 2019 at 9:06 PM

      Yes, I had the same experience as you, Ann. I had a pretty closed mind about the colour topic (and have said so on the blog and in videos before). I liked what I liked and that was that. Now that I’ve been taught by these ladies (who I’m certain are the BEST at it), I understand why some of my clothes really work colourwise and why some, a burgundy jumper for example, probably my worst colour ever, just DON’T! Go see them if you’re in London. It is such an experience. xx

  • Reply
    Susan B
    March 17, 2019 at 10:57 PM

    Funny, I’ve had my colors done three times and come out with a completely different assessment each time. And I’ve never completely liked the any of the color palettes suggested for me. But I think what they suggested for you is spot on! I’m curious to hear what they told you about wearing black… 😉 (says the fellow black addict…)

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 9:58 AM

      See, this is exactly why I think most colour experts are rubbish. They simply don’t know what they’re doing, despite their best intentions. They have a vague idea, but they aren’t PRECISE in their analysis.

      For me black is a no-no, but I have LOTS of it, just like you. I will still wear what I have, but I will try to wear it with another colour to brighten it up OR I will make sure that my makeup compensates as much as possible. And I will really think twice and try to avoid any future black purchases, given how much I have already. xx

  • Reply
    passion fruit, paws and peonies
    March 18, 2019 at 7:54 AM

    Like Nancy I did this gosh 25 years ago I think! I was ‘soft summer’. I’m actually veering away from colour at the moment towards more neutrals – this post is a timely reminder that our complexions need some consideration. I can see your colours are perfect on you! xx Maria

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 9:52 AM

      I love the IDEA of neutrals (I rarely meet a grey jumper I don’t like) but they honestly do not look great on me. I think the old school colour consultants muddied the waters by focusing on hair and eyes and other things as well, but these ladies really focus mostly on skin tone, which as we age is much more important than anything. You are so beautiful in colour, Maria. xx

  • Reply
    Tracy Patil
    March 18, 2019 at 10:34 AM

    Great post. That scarf is beautiful. Looks like we are both a warm spring. I do try to wear my good colours and like you adjust my makeup if I wear one that isn’t so good on me. I rarely wear all black, it depresses me!!

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 10:42 AM

      Thank you, Tracy! You’re way ahead of me in colour knowledge, it sounds like. Isn’t the scarf amazing? Ivana makes amazing ones, and in such delicious colours (for us warm springs, as well as everyone else!). Well done for not wearing black, it really is my security blanket colour and I need to give it up. xx

  • Reply
    Michelle Tyler
    March 18, 2019 at 12:05 PM

    This is very interesting to me Lisa, I love the subtleties of colour and how they connect to each other. Geez I wish I could visit these fascinating Women to see what they’d say about my perfect colours!
    I love scarves, for my neck, my hair, my bag and my wrist. Red Leopard scarves are stunning. The prints and colours so unique, I may be tempted to buy one. Do they post to the U.S?

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 12:52 PM

      You’d love Red Leopard, Michelle! They’re as outspoken as we are, and really know their shizzle. Yes, you do REALLY well in scarves, don’t you? I love how you wear them; I usually look silly in them. I’ve decided to make more of an effort to work them into my outfits when I see how well the colours lift everything. I’ll ask if they post to the US; I imagine they do. xx

  • Reply
    March 18, 2019 at 2:26 PM

    Interesting read, I love the colours you chose – so really pretty and make your pretty blue eyes pop out even more.

    xx Yvonne

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 8:48 PM

      Thank you so much, Yvonne. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! xx

  • Reply
    March 18, 2019 at 4:37 PM

    This was a FUN READ!
    I too NEVER BELIEVED in those color charts as I use to work for NORDSTROMS in the PERSONNEL SHOPPER department and you wouldNOT believe how many women came in with those books!They wouldn’t even budge on trying a different color!Plus NO STYLE TO BOOT.IT drove me CRAZY!IT was NOT the PLACE for me!
    I had gravitated to the colors you mentioned before I read them!!!Love having that swatch thrown around your NECK!YOU’re in CHARGE of my visit there next time I SCOOT OVER THE ATLANTIC!!!!

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 8:47 PM

      I would love to be in charge of your next visit here. IN FACT! I am working on a post– The Sequinist’s Guide to London at the moment. It will take a while to assemble because it is exhaustive, but very very curated to my opinions and tastes.

      You are inspiring my travels because I have a banker friend (and also a keen gardener) who is leaving her job this summer. We are going to road trip to several of the gardens that you visited on YOUR trip here, after I forwarded her your posts.

      Yes, probably some orange boxes for sure… I’ll have to have final say on the colours of the contents though 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb
    March 18, 2019 at 7:15 PM

    Having met Annie myself IRL I can say that based on the colours she was wearing, she REALLY knows her stuff… she’s stunning!! As you know I too am a dubious of the whole “your colours” thing, but I do know that there are certain colours that definitely don’t look good on me (anything cold in other words) and certain ones that just work. The tangerine really does look stunning next to your face so I’d be intrigued to see you in that colour!

    I’m amazed I hadn’t noticed before, but the photo of you in the fur scarf (one of my fave photos OF ALL TIME of you) has you in a blue sweater (matching your eyes) and a red scarf (matching your lipstick). Utter perfection…!!

    Catherine x

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 8:43 PM

      Taking one look at how beautifully put together Annie is lets you know you’re in good hands, right?! I’ve always been verrrrry dubious about the colours thing too, but I love how they focus on pretty much skin only, rather than muddying the waters with hair colour and eye colour. I feel like my rainbow just expanded to all sorts of new colours (like the tangerine and the cinnamon). I’d NEVER have believed it if Annie and Manina didn’t hold up a cinnamon coloured shirt to my face the other day, and lo and behold, it was amazing. The style was too boho but he colour was incredible.

      Thank you, gorgeous Catherine. xx

    • Reply
      annie castano
      March 20, 2019 at 5:27 PM

      Dear Catherine, the photo of Lisa in the fur scarf was THE ONE that leapt out at me when I first saw her photos! Thank you for your lovely note xxx Annie

  • Reply
    Mary Katherine
    March 18, 2019 at 8:18 PM

    OK, now eaten up with jealousy that they’re Across the Pond. I would LOVE to have this done!

    • Reply
      March 18, 2019 at 8:35 PM

      It was totally eye-opening for me, Mary Katherine. If they come to the US at some point (I think they do, will check) I’ll let you know. Otherwise, get yourself to London for a visit or a long layover! xx

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 10:57 AM

    This is something I have been thinking of having done. Now I shall take a closer look. – Regards – Jill stylishatsixty x

    • Reply
      March 19, 2019 at 4:21 PM

      It is SO worth doing, but only if the person really knows their stuff. There are so many amateurs out there, in my experience. xx

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 1:05 PM

    That’s such an informative post, Lisa! I’ve learned so much about colour etc. I wonder what these Ladies would say about my neutral-beige-cream comfort attire? Wait, I actually don’t wanna know 😉 I’m sure they would say I’m wearing my safety blanket, which sort of is true. Thank you for a great post! xx Abby

    • Reply
      March 19, 2019 at 4:18 PM

      So glad you like Abby! Well, you’re pretty glorious in cream, I have to be honest! xx

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 9:45 PM

    I’ve finally stopped being so stubborn and started sticking to my colors too Lisa. I always tried to rationalize that I could just add a better color scarf and such to the colors that weren’t great looking on me. But that’s just plain silly. I’ve gotten rid of most of the black in my wardrobe, and I don’t buy new “bad” colors.
    I’m pretty much the same as you…a spring with warm undertones.

    • Reply
      March 20, 2019 at 9:22 AM

      It is such an education, isn’t it Jodie? Psychologically, I adore black, but it really doesn’t do me any favours. xx

  • Reply
    annie castano
    March 20, 2019 at 5:23 PM

    Oh these wonderful comments are so appreciated and very welcome, thank you all. Thank you Lisa for such a stunning article and for letting us show you what we do. Lisa DID look spectacular when she visited us but she was open to new and exciting colours! A million thanks xx Annie and Manina

    • Reply
      March 20, 2019 at 8:36 PM

      Thank you both for teaching me so much; I truly look at the world differently now! xxx

  • Reply
    March 20, 2019 at 7:35 PM

    The aqua sweater and coral scarf looks amazing on you! It’s interesting that covering the throat commands authority…maybe that explains Theresa May’s love of big necklaces? Well you can’t blame her for trying!

    Emma xxx

    • Reply
      March 20, 2019 at 8:33 PM

      Thank you Emma 🙂 Yes, almost all politicians, male and female, have neckwear on at all times! Even the Iron Lady with her bow blouses and Theresa May’s huge plastic beads. xx

  • Reply
    March 20, 2019 at 10:46 PM

    You are pretty as a picture in that coral collar and blue sweater! Had to laugh at your reference to soft plastic bags around our throats. Scarves are not my scene either but I sure love them on a wall — which makes me wonder about applying all of these lessons to paint in a room. Off to look up Johannes Itten right now. Such a relevant post, Lisa, and darn funny too, which is no surprise really but always a bonus!

    • Reply
      March 21, 2019 at 5:06 PM

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Mithra! I do love that colour combination.

      Funny you mention that about interiors.. I wanted to come home and add splashes of colour to our very winter palette house. I think it is that palette because my husband wears those cooler colours (burgundy, charcoal grey, deep navy, etc) and he’s less flexible than I am in decor!

      You’ll love reading about Johannes Itten. I can recommend the book Itten, the elements of color. I bought it directly after meeting with Annie and Manina! xx

  • Reply
    March 21, 2019 at 4:26 PM

    The color experts I’ve met obviously aren’t in the same league with these ladies. I love Mithra’s comment about liking scarves on the wall. When I lived in the Spy House on the hill I framed one for an upstairs bathroom. It looked much better than wearing it around my neck. Perhaps I’ll book an appointment with them when I’m in London in September. Thanks for this great blog post.

    • Reply
      March 21, 2019 at 5:10 PM

      Yeah, that’s been exactly my experience, Brenda. I also like the idea of framed scarves, especially ones as beautiful as the ones Ivana does. I love them so much I may start selling them on here when her new collection rolls out. So pleased you enjoyed the post. You’d love meeting both Annie and Manina. They are such kind and knowledgable firecrackers! AND! FURTHERMORE! You and I must definitely meet up when you’re here. xx

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 11:24 AM

    Wow what amazing, talented women they must be to make my gorgeous, strong friend do such a volte face!!!! Joking apart, you always look spectacular but I can really see ho w the correct colours lift and flatter. Fabulous! xxx

  • Reply
    Jan Sugar
    March 23, 2019 at 10:40 AM

    Well done, Lisa. I’m delirious at this post as I learned in the early 80s from a friend about what was then called Color Me Beatiful, the system that had you truly knowing your colors. I was converted; we were devotees.

    There was always chatter around us about eyes and hair color and how they drove your palette, but with rolled eyes, we understood that really knowing your palette had to do with skin tone. I never even had my colors done because I was such a straightforward winter and finally understood why I looked like a corpse in a camel hair coat — it was science!

    Knowing my colors has never failed me, though I’d love to dive more deeply with Red Leopard and know what kind of winter I am, not to mention get styled by them. Thanks for posting this delicious romp into color.

  • Reply
    Little Red
    March 24, 2019 at 1:06 AM

    Wow! I always seem to be classified as a Deep Winter due to my coloring but I’m suspicious since us non-white women get lumped in one category. I looked at their prices and they are quite reasonable given the caliber of their services. If I ever make it back to London, I’ll be sure to try them out.

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