Leo Chan is the Founder and Creative Director of Levitate Style, a NYC-based men’s style and travel blog on the forefront of modern men’s fashion. Leo used to work full time in corporate banking and often jet sets around the world with his lady Alicia, who is in charge of the blog’s photography and web design. Over the last two years, they’ve collaborated with GQ, Clarks, Bar III, Timberland, HTC, and Movado.
When I found Leo’s blog I was immediately impressed by the strong visuals and the consistency and variety in the travel section. A lot of style bloggers start a travel category as a catchall category for miscellaneous posts, but Levitate Style features a full-pledged travel section the way it should be done.
Today I spoke with Leo about the history of the blog, advice on brand collaborations and ways to divide a blog’s work between a team.
When and why did you start your blog?
We started Levitate Style about a year and a half ago back in October 2014. Everything we are doing with Levitate Style now was already something we were doing as a hobby – taking photos of my favorite styles, capturing our favorite moments on our travels, and sharing it with friends and family. I’ve also had experience with photography and modeling so we decided to combine all the interests together to make Levitate Style. It was also a way for me to break off stereotypes and represent the minority of Asian males in the fashion industry.
How did you come up with the name? Is it a better strategy for you to have the brand “Levitate Style” versus using your own name?
When we were brainstorming the blog name, we were inspired by one of my favorite photos – me “levitating” in central park. Levitate Style is unique and short to the point. It also gives me a signature pose/shot I can use often for consistency. Levitate Style means to rise above in effortless style.
I think at the beginning stage, it is important to have a brand name. It would be easier for new followers to remember you by the brand name than your full name. With the brand name, people know what you are about. As time has gone on, people have recognized me more by my name.
How did you divide your time between your blogging and day job?
Time. Oh, if only we can all have more time! The NYC Hustle really inspired me to make it happen. On a normal day, I was working 9-6 hours at the bank corporate office. After hours I would make a quick minor change to my outfit depending on the occasion (could be switching to sneakers, or swapping suit jacket to leather jacket) to attend various fashion events and network with fellow menswear bloggers and brand reps. Finally, we would go home to catch up on Levitate Style emails and work on the blog. We usually had to push shooting content on the weekends.
How do you divide the work between you and Alicia? What is the one thing you couldn’t do without her help?
It is very important to play to our own strengths and constantly keep good communications about what is working. Alicia is very smart and technical – she much prefers working on the backend of the blog managing SEO, analytics, web design and such. It’s obviously amazing to have her as my photographer at all times of the day! haha. But really, she is my companion through this crazy journey of life and sharing all the experiences together first hand.
What was the biggest mistake you made in your early days of blogging?
Blogging consistently and organizing all the things related to the blog.
Do you ever feel blogging burn out and what keeps you motivated?
Definitely! I don’t think most people outside of the blogger circle realize how many hours it could take for one blog feature. I keep motivated by looking back at how many amazing opportunities I’ve had and looking forward at my potential.
Which social media platform drives the most traffic back to your blog?
Instagram and Facebook are the main drivers.
Is your blog still your #1 effort, or is a social media channel becoming more important nowadays? I noticed you’ve really adopted Snapchat as a new medium. How important is it to bloggers?
The blog and social channels have recently become more 50/50. Instagram had really become a portfolio for bloggers to share their best work consistently. As a guy loves menswear, lifestyle and travel – I share a variety of posts for a well-curated feed.
Snapchat is a fun app for me to share my personality and more behind the scenes stuff like a photoshoot or a trip. It’s more in the moment and sharing the fun imperfect things in my life. I think it’s important for bloggers to find ways to connect with our fans closer.
How is travel blogging different from fashion blogging? Do you find one is more popular with your readers?
Travel blogging covers a lot more things – attractions, food, vibes, and more. To capture all these things that make that city, that country, special and share with my readers is so much fun. I love being able to share what I saw through the lens in that specific moment.
Fashion blogging is still more popular simply because that’s what I started with. The travel content has been great to add a variety and place myself right in the action to inspire others to travel more as well.
You have an impressive portfolio of collaborations! What is one tip you have for approaching brands and leaving a good impression?
Thanks! Show the brand some love especially if you already wear their stuff.
If you could describe the look and feel of your blog in one word, what would it be?
Modern. The modern man’s journey around the world and what I would wear.
What unique challenges do you face as a male blogger?
The fashion blog market is saturated with female bloggers so there might be less opportunities. As an Asian male, finding brands that are open to more diverse representation can be challenging.
How did you develop your blogging niche? Did it happen organically or did you have to actively set topics and themes?
It’s really a reflection of my style over time in NYC. Starting my career in finance and banking, I’ve always dressed sharp in suits for that first impression in interviews, big meetings, and networking events. Then I mix and match with street style pieces like sneakers and leather jackets for a more modern look. Later with all the travels, I like to show how to look great and be comfortable for long days of exploring on our trips.
What male and female bloggers inspire you? Who would you like to have a drink with?
Sabir Peele of Men’s Style Pro is definitely one of my favorite bloggers. I call him a grandpa in the menswear blogging world because he’s been around for so long. I was learning styling tips from his blog back when I first graduated from college. It’s amazing to say I’ve met him when I first started blogging and we have developed a great relationship (so drinks on him!)
Dan Trepanier of Articles of Style is someone I have been really inspired by through his amazing work of showing the versatility of sharp tailored suits. The team has gone from blogging to developing their own custom Made in USA tailor shop.
Jessica Stein of Tuula Vintage has a really an amazing feed and mix of fashion, lifestyle, and travel.