Photographs by Scott Bakken (@scottcbakken); styling by Leo Boutique (@leoboutique)
Paul Eli is proof of the continued shift in fashion influence away from runways, magazines, and even blogs to social media influencers. Over the past few years, Instagram has provided stylish folks with the perfect platform for engagement with fans and brands, offering fashion editorial-quality shots in bite-sized form. It’s the platform by which Eli, a model/menswear ambassador/menswear boutique co-manager from Calgary, Alberta, has made a name for himself internationally. His over 40K followers are treated to his carefully curated fashion and lifestyle picks as well as behind-the-scenes action and voyeuristic snaps of his native Canada.
We found Eli via his striking Instagram feed and had to learn more about his background. Recently, we caught up with Eli to talk about street style in Calgary, the people who inspire and influence him, and the meaningful reason he started growing his beard.
1. Where are you currently located?
Right now I'm in Calgary, AB, Canada.
2. What is your occupation?
I work in menswear - I help manage Leo, a contemporary fashion boutique in downtown Calgary. We are curators of style who work with a blend of European and North American progressive fashion lines. I've also recently become an official ambassador for the Swedish denim line Nudie Jeans.
3. What led you into the world of modeling?
That's a bit of a tough question - I'm still a little unsure myself. I'd have to say it was largely inspired by close friends of mine who worked within the photography industry.
During my degree, a large focus of my studies was marketing, specifically in the field of social media. I used knowledge obtained through my studies to work more closely with brands to relay crucial information to my following in form of photos and promotional work.
I signed with Sophia Models International in Calgary earlier this year. I've really enjoyed it. I've had the opportunity to produce content and work for some really great brands and magazines while walking in fashion shows and working events. I'm happy to say I've met some of my closest friends through the industry.
4. You're from Calgary; did that make it hard for you to break into the modeling world?
Funnily enough, I'm from a small town an hour away from Calgary. I've only recently moved to Calgary. Regardless, I would say no - with the power of social media to essentially provide a mobile location, it wasn't all that hard to break into the modeling world. With that being said, I've done an ample amount of traveling in the past few years to work with individuals who I feel have made me a much better model. With that being said - I would struggle to do what I do without the power of social networking and new forms of media.
5. What's the state of the menswear scene - and street style - in Calgary?
Compared to other larger metropolitan cities in the US and Canada, it is fair to say Calgary is still developing. With the help of some amazing fashion bloggers, fashion boutiques, and events, Calgary has been making some noise in the Canadian fashion scene.
There are quite a few individuals/collectives in Calgary who I admire for the work they do to highlight fashion in our city.
6. You travel a lot! Where do you like to travel?
I love traveling to California. I've developed some amazing friendships with individuals within the industry which I value tremendously. Any time I have an opportunity to travel to California, it is an easy decision. It's starting to feel like a second home. It's bound to start getting pretty cold in Calgary so I'll likely get on a plane and visit some friends in California and escape the snow.
7. As a social media influencer, you get to connect with other models and bloggers. Who are some you'd recommend Zeus readers to check out?
As far as models, one of my favorite models to follow and keep up to date with is Joel Alexander (@hahajoel on Instagram). I met Joel last year in Los Angeles after connecting with him on social media a few years back. Not only is he a terrific model but his photography is also very inspiring. It doesn't hurt that he's one of the most humble and positive people I've been blessed to have crossed paths with.
A lot of the local work I do involves Lauren Larsen of Ensemble Style. As a personal stylist, she plays a large part in the shoots and fashion shows I work on in Calgary. Lauren (@ensemblestyle on Instagram) specializes in menswear, so if you're looking for inspiration and style advice, check her out on Instagram.
Another photographer/friend I urge you to check out is Gilbert Pereda (@gilsphotography on Instagram). Not only does he shoot models for some amazing brands, but his landscape film photography is quite visually pleasing. Great guy, great work - show him some love!
If you're looking to check out some menswear, the shop I work at in Calgary stocks and ships brands from all over the world (@leoboutique on Instagram)
8. What is one interesting thing about yourself?
This one comes as a shock to most people who didn't grow up with me, but I was a pretty big jock growing up. I played hockey competitively for nine years, participated in senior varsity basketball in high school, and I've golfed both competitively and recreationally for the last 15 years. I'm really hoping to join a beer league softball team this spring! All in all, I love sports of all kinds. This past season was huge for the Blue Jays (MLB), so there were countless memories with friends watching them through the post season.
9. Who/What influenced you to grow your beard? How long have you had a beard?
I started growing my beard in late 2010. It all started with a Movember campaign for men's health. At the time, I was struggling with depression and an anxiety disorder and was rather unhappy with myself - so I made the decision to cover my face with a beard, in a way hiding myself. Funnily enough, 5 years later I still have the beard but it is for completely different reasons. In a sense, it's become a part of me and who I am.
10. Do you have any tips for beard growers?
Absolutely! First off, be patient - it doesn't happen overnight. Secondly, take good care of your skin by moisturizing it to alleviate any dryness and/or itchiness. Also look into investing in quality beard grooming products. Lastly, don't be scared of the occasional trim/tidy up, which will keep your facial hair healthy. This will also keep you from looking unkempt.
11. Where do you see yourself in the next year?
Ideally, I will be continuing to work my way up in the men's fashion industry. I never imagined myself doing this as a career but I've been loving it. I've met and worked with some amazing people this past year and I'm quite pleased with my progress.
Right now, I'm obsessed with: the history/culture of raw denim.
I'd love to visit: New York or Sweden.
Rule I live by: Be the person you want to be. You're the only person you see every day.
Follow Paul Eli on Instagram @hipstagramlul. Shop Leo Boutique at leoboutique.com.