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The fashion capital of Idaho

By Danielle Paquette, Special to CNN
  • Photographer Thomas Lea scours Boise streets for style
  • He showcases fashion on his blog,
  • Style in Idaho's capital is largely influenced by outdoor activity

There is fabulous fashion beyond New York, Milan and Paris. In this new series, CNN showcases trends in threads around the globe. This week, photographer Thomas Lea shares the Boise, Idaho, style scoop. Check out his blog here.

(CNN) -- In a city known more for hiking trails than fashion runways, photographer Thomas Lea scours the streets for style.

"It's a fairly remote place, way out in the west," he said. "But people in Boise have great taste."

Lea, 65, relocated to Idaho's capital from San Francisco in 2005.

Love for a Boise woman -- which eventually turned to marriage -- lured him from the city he admired for diversity and energy.

He'd spend days roaming bustling neighborhoods, snapping photos of San Franciscans in goggles, drag attire and lion headpieces.

Now, he lingers around the Capital City Public Market in downtown Boise, aiming his Canon digital SLR camera at pedestrians turned models.

"Boise is slower-paced, more homogenous and less densely populated than San Francisco, and this makes the fashion crowd stand out much more," Lea said. "The fashionistas are fewer in number, but they are as creative and fashion savvy as anywhere in the world."

Thus, Boise Style -- Lea's fashion blog influenced by The Sartorialist and editorial spreads in magazines -- was born.

"Fashion here is fun, above all else," he said. "It's not serious or earth-shaking. It's a way to get your mind off the world's problems and focus on something beautiful."

Below, Lea explains Boise style.

CNN: What influences style in your city?

Lea: Nestled against the Boise Foothills and along the Boise River is one of the West's great outdoor playgrounds. Opportunities for skiing, camping, hunting, bicycling and river rafting are all close by and very popular. This outdoor culture heavily influences clothing style, and the norm is very casual, even in downtown Boise.

CNN: Describe a popular style.

Lea: Comfortable and casual. Outdoorsy.

CNN: What different fashion statements do you see?

Lea: I see creative mixes of color, texture and pattern. Unique accessories (often vintage or thrift store finds) are popular. Eye-catching personal styles look better to me than the fashion magazine trends or the latest from our mainstream department stores. Shopping here is pretty much limited to Macy's, Target, Ann Taylor and other chains. Creative fashionistas go to the thrifts and consignment shops.

CNN: What do Boise fashionistas do with thrift store goods?

Lea: I see people get creative. They wake up in the morning and put together something fun. It's more about self-expression than following any trend.

CNN: What makes you stop to take someone's photo?

Lea: I look for something creative in the outfit or combination of items more than just the latest from off-the-rack style. It's about personality, feeling good, self-expression.

CNN: Do you have any favorite looks?

Lea: I like the mix of tailored with casual -- the latest Ralph Lauren sport coat over worn Levi's. I really enjoy the resurgence of Americana: Woolrich, Pendleton, vintage work boots from Red Wing. And I like shoes, real shoes: brogues, wingtips and saddle shoes, not running shoes or flip-flops.

CNN: One of your collections, "Market People," showcases street style in Boise. What can outsiders gather from the photos?

Lea: "Market People" is a microcosm, slice of life, view of Boise. It is, at least in part, a view of how we look. I intend for my art to be shrewd, revealing, perceptive observations of the everyday.

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