August 22 2014

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DJ Chelsea Leyland Spins For Fashion, But It’s The Artists Who Really Dance


“I don’t really feel like I am a nightlife person, actually,” Chelsea Leyland says. Could’ve fooled us—the English transplant is one of the most-requested DJs on the fashion scene, spinning at everything from Valentino’s Fashion Night Out Charity Poker Tournament to Paper magazine’s annual Beautiful People bash in March. “I had hardly been deejaying for very long and then all of a sudden I was opening for Duran Duran,” she says of the Paper party. “Yeah, that was pretty cool.” Not bad for a girl who counts last year’s FNO as her DJ debut.

It can feel like Leyland is everywhere at the moment, and the DJ herself has a pretty good idea why. “Everyone loves girl DJs right now,” she says. (She’s candid enough to acknowledge that spinning skills alone aren’t enough. “With Valentino, they are hiring me not just to be the DJ but wear the clothes and be a face,” she says. “In fashion, they want to see someone looking the part.”)

You can expect to see even more of Leyland soon; she revealed to that she’s in the midst of filming a documentary with MTV, out this fall, about the lives and careers of three girl DJs. Here, Leyland tells more about the project, why she’s not in the Gaga fan camp, and the fashion endeavors she has yet to live out.

So, you’re about to be an MTV star?
They were making a documentary and they wanted to do it on three female DJs, each representing something different. The other two are DJ Diamond Kuts, who is a really cute DJ from Philly who is very technically skilled, and DJ Jessica Who?—she does these big clubs in Miami, and I am the fashion DJ. We are all so totally different.

How do you feel about being branded the “fashion” DJ?
Well, I don’t like the whole club scene, it’s not my thing…Musically, with fashion, you can be a little more adventurous. They always want to be educated and they want to hear obscure things, like old English things that are wacky. I don’t like Top 40, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj things. There is something civilized about fashion and art. I actually prefer art events. They are so kooky and really know how to have fun. Everyone is less concerned with what they are wearing and they will let loose. Artists aren’t too cool to dance.

People have been saying recently that a certain fun factor is missing from the New York party scene—even The New York Times recently piled on. Do you agree?
Yes, I feel like New York is lacking a certain coolness in nightlife. Everyone is so worried about being cool that it has lost its authentic coolness—it’s not organic anymore. It’s not about the place, it’s got to be about the vibe. I would have loved to be here back in the day—the Andy Warhol times. I think I’m in the wrong generation. London nightlife is so cool and refreshing because it’s based around music. You go out with friends to see a singer, or a band, and it’s a very cool scene.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
I love Alexander Wang, he’s just the coolest guy. My best friend was his muse, before he got big. He hasn’t changed at all. He’s like a little boy—he dances at parties. That’s why he always throws the best parties during fashion week. Katie Gallagher, she’s a friend of mine, I love her clothes. When I first discovered her clothes, it was like someone created my dream clothes. Charlotte Olympia shoes. Dominic Jones jewelry, in England, he’s really big. Pamela Love. Chanel, everyone loves Chanel. A lot of vintage.

What about your musical style?
I have a really eclectic taste, not a lot of people know this—I like heavy metal and punk. But I also love fifties, nineties hip-hop, heavy rock, reggae…I guess the majority of what I play. You always have to keep the balance, keep to your own style, and play music you actually listen to at home.

You’re keeping pretty busy with multiple DJ gigs (sometimes in the same day), the MTV doc, and so on—but even so, are there any other projects you’d like to delve into?
I really want to start my own lingerie line; it’s still something I would love to do. I have always been obsessed with it [lingerie]. From when I was younger, I always spent my money on lingerie. Obviously, you have this whole mystery to it and now, more than ever, there’s so many great lingerie designers. There should be lingerie for every type of thing, though. I feel like there is gap for a little bit cheaper version of Kiki de Montparnasse. For now though, I am going to be in the Lake and Stars campaign this upcoming season. It’s going to be me and a few other friends in Montauk at the shoot, which should be fun.

Photo: Neil Rasmus /



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