s t e e l e . Creatives: Lei Lei Clavey

Meet one of our favourite Melbourne #steelegirls and successful creatives, Lei Lei Clavey. Lei invited us into her beautifully styled studio to share her tips for success, her unique take on style and why she values professional education. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be either a ballerina or a fashion designer. I would pore over Vogue, Russh and Cosmo magazines back in the day. Lusting over the models and clothes, I cut up pages and created my own collages. It's no surprise I ended up in the creative field as a photographer.

You had a fashion background before becoming a wedding photographer. How do you weave your love of fashion into your work?
The way I approach shooting a wedding day is very much influenced by my background in fashion. My couples are modern, fashion-forward, cultured and stylish. Fashion and styling details are very important to their day. They appreciate those same details and they seek out my work because of this.


Lei Lei wearing the Gianna dress

Have there been any mentors or role models who have significantly influenced your creative path? How did they inspire you?
The wedding photography community is so giving, collaborative and caring. I have been lucky to have several mentors as well as peers who have helped me along my creative path. Wedding photographer turned business coach Jai Long has been integral with the growth of my business as well as Bek Smith a New Zealand based wedding photographer who threw me in the deep end and I'm forever grateful.

Now that I am three years into business I am paying it forward and mentoring others. I value education very highly. I am constantly booking mentoring sessions, buying courses, reading business books and listening to podcasts to learn and grow. You're never too experienced to seek out education.

Describe your personal style.
Elegant and chic, and now that I'm a parent, it also has to be practical and comfortable.

Do you have any daily rituals that help you stay inspired or focused?
A coffee first thing in the morning after a glass of warm water always makes me smile. Journaling has been something I have done since I was a teenager. It has always kept me centred and it's helpful to get those words and feelings out of my head and onto a page. I am also a lover of a midday nap. A short 20 minutes to rest and reset before getting back to work is all I need. It does wonders for focus.

What do you wear when you have 5 minutes to get ready?
In Winter it's an oversized chunky knit, wide-leg high-waisted jeans and sneakers. In Summer, I switch out the sweater for a white tank top, and oversized vintage Donna Karan blazer and sneakers for my Chanel ballet flats. If I'm going out, I throw on a bright knit dress to feel put together without effort.

Most treasured piece in your wardrobe?
I inherited several special pieces from both my maternal and paternal grandmothers. They had impeccable taste and loved classic quality pieces, a sentiment I also follow. Thankfully we had the same size feet and were roughly the same size in clothing too. My Chanel ballet flats are a love of mine that I wear almost daily. They belonged to my American paternal grandmother. From my Australian-Chinese grandmother (Por Por), I inherited diamond hoop earrings she wore everyday . They are now my go to as well.


Lei Lei sits at her desk in the Gianna dress

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to aspiring creative women who are just starting their journeys?
1. Write down your goals and dreams. Hang them somewhere you can see everyday and each day do something that will move you closer to your goal. Even if it's 1% it is moving the needle.
2. Get out of your comfort zone, this is where the change will happen.
3. Fake it till you make it. Confidence, consistency, determination and drive will get you there.

What’s on your s t e e l e . wish list this season?
The Gianna Dress, Emily Top, Natalia Jacket and Kinsley Jacket are all beautiful.

Which is your favourite piece of photography by a celebrated, or perhaps unknown artist?
It's too hard to pick a favourite but one of my favourite pieces is by Lillian Bassmann Margie Cato, New York, c. 1950 (number 14 in this link). I shoot on medium format and 35mm film as well so I appreciate the talent and technique it takes to capture something like this.


Lei Lei wears the Natalia jacket

Tell us about your new photography education platform.
I launched my photography education late last year, starting with mentoring. I love sharing, teaching and helping others thrive in their craft and businesses. I am running my first editorial wedding photography content workshop this month, hosting 24 photographers and curating a space for them to shoot luxury content for their portfolios. This is something that wasn't around when I started so it's exciting providing this offering for others.

Restaurant: Embla
Gallery: NGV or Heide Museum of Modern Art
Shopping: High Street, Armadale for fashion or Gertrude Street for interesting finds
Coffee: I love a coffee and a pastry at Millstone in Malvern on a sunny day but my go-to is my Breville Barista Express at home. It makes excellent coffee.
Bar: Milton Wine Bar for a local or Everleigh for a top-class cocktail
View: Marion on Gertrude Street - great people watching
Florist: My friend Nat of Wild Flos. She's a wedding florist but she also creates the most glorious at home bunches for delivery.


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