Meet our Columbus fashion guest blogger Connie Leal Ballenger, owner of Upper Arlington boutique Leal

Meet our Columbus fashion guest blogger Connie Leal Ballenger, owner of Upper Arlington boutique Leal

I opened Leal in 1993 after spending nearly 10 years working for a big accounting/consulting firm. I had had enough of the corporate thing and was ready to explore something more creative and entrepreneurial.

At 30, it did not seem like a big risk to open Leal, but when I look back, I realize it really was. I loved clothes and fashion from the time I was a little girl playing dress up. And while I had a good business background for managing a small business, I knew virtually nothing about the fashion world… or no more than most of us learn from flipping through Vogue and doing our own shopping.

But I had a PASSION. I really felt there was a void in boutique shopping in Columbus, and trust me, if you were not around in 1993, there really was. So I struck out and learned by doing. I found some great mentors in New York with years of experience in the industry, and I trusted my gut. Leal started small and we grew simply by word of mouth. Nearly 20 years later, we still rely on word of mouth.

My overriding goal at Leal has been to help each individual client find her own personal style. We try to help a woman curate a wardrobe and add layers with each season. Obviously, this approach is very individual and very relationship centered. To me, this is the rewarding side of the boutique experience. We take you in and form a friendship so we can provide a service that is customized to you. That does not mean expensive or exclusive. Coming to Leal should feel like visiting a friend.

From the merchandise side, I try hard to find new and emerging designers. Very frequently, Leal introduces designers to the region and we might be the only boutique in Ohio to carry certain lines. I keep our mix very diverse, from casual to very dressy, but it is my vision. It reflects my personal style by offering classic and timeless styles that always hit on trends. I hope that when you purchase something at Leal you will still be excited to wear that piece five and even 10 years later.

All About Me Connie Leal Ballenger

Age: 50

Gig: Owner of Leal

Personal Style: Classically trendy with a personal twist

Style Icon: Jacqueline Kennedy. I know it is a bit cliché, but she just represents glamour, style, appropriateness and defines an era!

Favorite designers: Dennis Merotto, ALC, Malene Birger

Favorite three pieces in my closet: Navy blue blazer by ALC, cashmere and leather riding jacket by Les Copains, oversized cream cashmere sweater by Allude

Go-to outfit: Two-piece burnout wool shirt and tuxedo pant in black and brown from Dennis Merotto

All-time favorite fashion splurge: Camel leather Ferragamo tote bag

All-time favorite fashion bargain: Pink suede ballet flats that I bought on the street in Florence, Italy when I was in college

True style is… defining your personal style and staying true to what fits that style and what looks good on you. True style is dressing in a way that when you are seen, people see you the person and not you the outfit.