This week’s style diary guest is our own Sibylle Eschapasse. Sibylle started this series of style interviews last summer, and we thought it would be lovely to hear what she has to say about style.
Originally from Paris, she has made New York her home. She arrived in the city in 2002, after a 12-day journey by freighter across the Atlantic, as she wanted to feel what immigrants may have felt decades ago.
Most recently, Sibylle has been working for the United Nations, which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. She has a passion for philanthropy and writing, and is very involved in the French and Francophone communities of New York. She is the author of a children’s book, “Argy Boy!: A New York Dog Tale.”
Epoch Times: Describe your style?
Sibylle Eschapasse: I would describe my style as being Parisian, influenced with the flair of New York. Paris and New York are very much part of who I am and I try to take the best of these two cities and carry it within me. I am very natural, wear minimal make up, and many times, none whatsoever. But I do take care of my skin and myself extensively, from head to toe. As for my clothing, I like it to make me feel beautiful, feminine, modern, and classic at the same time.
Epoch Times: If a close friend were to describe your personality in three words, what would they be?
Ms. Eschapasse: Adventurous, happy, and kind. And a fourth word for fun: romantic. I love feeling romantic. For us French people, it runs in our blood and DNA.
Epoch Times: How did your style evolve since you were a teenager?
Ms. Eschapasse: I was fortunate to grow up in a family that enjoyed traveling, which gave me a great appreciation for style in general and culture. Specifically, I lived in Casablanca, Morocco, for three of my teenage years from 15 to 18 years old, and from that experience, I was influenced by the local customs and was very much respectful of the cultural clothing code over there.
When I returned to Paris to study at Sorbonne University, I picked up on the Parisian style again, and dressed as a young Parisian student wearing mostly jeans and casual wear. For my Master’s degree and first year as a Ph.D. student in geography, I moved to the islands of the South Pacific—in Wallis and Futuna and Tahiti, and over there, I totally embraced the Polynesian style of wearing flowery and colorful fabrics and flower pieces in my hair. It was fun and I really enjoyed that lifestyle.
But my greatest fashion influence was when I arrived in New York. This is where I developed my style toward a more sophisticated, cosmopolitan, a more adult look and yet youthful at the same time. This is where I became the woman I am today.
Epoch Times: What is the wildest thing you ever wore?
Ms. Eschapasse: Hmmm. I don’t know if it’s really that wild and it may sound boring to some people, but the wildest thing I ever wore was a very revealing red French burlesque outfit for a birthday party I attended on a burlesque theme, years ago. I had very little to wear. It was sparkling and made me feel like I was part of a cabaret show. It was fun!
I also once wore a very cute regional costume from Provence on the stage of the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations as I was representing France for its parade of the Nations. This outfit was not the wildest in itself, but wearing it in that context—each person representing each country was called on the stage, one after the other, in front of a full General Assembly Hall—certainly was.
But I like the thought that the wildest things that I may wear are ahead of me and not in the past.
Epoch Times: How do you dress on workdays versus weekends?
Ms. Eschapasse: I don’t really dress differently. On weekends, I may be slightly more casual. I also love yoga. As a matter of fact, I passed my yoga teacher training two years ago. I did it not to teach, but for my own knowledge. And, obviously, if I practice yoga or exercise—which I do mostly on weekends—I am wearing yoga pants and fitness outfits.
Epoch Times: What are three accessories you can’t live without and what’s one item that makes you instantly more confident?
Ms. Eschapasse: My sunglasses as I love wearing sunglasses; my iPhone to FaceTime my loved ones back home in Paris, and my contact lenses as I am blind as a bat. In French, we say “myope comme une taupe”; a “taupe,” which is a mole in English, does sound slightly cuter than a bat.
And one item that makes me feel instantly more confident: Heels! I don’t like to wear flats.
Epoch Times: Who have been your greatest fashion influences?
Ms. Eschapasse: My dad and one of my brothers, Thomas, who both enjoy clothing. My dad for teaching me to focus on what is beautiful in this world, and to try to avoid what is ugly or vulgar to the eyes without ever being judgmental or snobbish vis-à-vis others, and the importance to stay humble, as we are always vulgar ourselves to somebody else we don’t know. I thank him for having given me a certain sense of aesthetic in architecture, in design, even appreciation for vintage cars (after all, I am the only girl raised with three brothers).
My mother for her sobriety and teaching me that simplicity is indeed the ultimate sophistication and that less is more. My mother always dressed us very nicely as children, with great harmony of colors.
I would also mention my grandmother I sadly lost recently for always looking nice and elegant, and my aunt on my father’s side for her eccentricity and natural beauty, and also a former colleague of mine who influenced me, as she had a very busy life and nevertheless dressed everyday very nicely and elegantly. I learned a lot from her.
Epoch Times: Who is your style icon?
Ms. Eschapasse: As for my style icons, I love Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jackie Onassis. But there are so many other people we can look up to today.
A lot of first ladies and personalities have tremendous styles because they have access to so many designers and have limitless budgets. Personalities like Queen Rania of Jordan, Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama, etcetera. They all look impeccable and somehow look the same, so I am not sure they really have style of their own but they surely look their best and are beautiful.
But what I admire most are everyday women who have full time jobs, not necessarily the easiest lives, with juggling family and other responsibilities, and yet find it important and a prerogative to always look nice, making efforts to look polished by respect of themselves and others.
Epoch Times: What does having style mean to you? In other words, please define style.
Ms. Eschapasse: The same way people say that art is in the eye of the beholder, style is in the mind of the individual. Whatever you perceive in your own mind for yourself or for others determines what style means to you. It is up to each of us to decide how we want to look, to present ourselves as we believe we are, the way we see ourselves, and the way we want others to see us. Style comes from the inside out, it comes from within your soul and your outside appearance just follows.
Style is so much more than wearing certain clothes. It is influenced by your origins whatever they are, where you come from, how you think, how you speak, the way you eat, your posture, how you take care of yourself, and how you live your life as a whole.
It comes from your understanding of the world and openness to styles other than your own. It comes from your personality but most importantly, style has to be natural.
You cannot fake a style that is not yours. In French we say, “Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop.” You have to be yourself and feel at comfort in your own skin and in the clothes you are wearing.
You cannot buy style; that would be too simple. Many times, people think they can buy style or buy class by wearing certain accessories that are part of a certain code, but the truth is that if you are not elegant in your own mind, you will not achieve it on the outside. I always consider that real style shows when you are naked. Real stylish people will always look good wearing nothing on themselves and are truly who they are when nobody watches them while they’re home.
Epoch Times: What is one purchase you’re most proud of? What would you pay a lot of money for, and what would you never pay much money for?
Ms. Eschapasse: I’m not particularly proud of anything that I purchased. Why should I be? I’m not materialist that way and I’m very detached to material things. It may sound like a cliché but I don’t like to accumulate things other than great moments and memories. I could never count money for things that would make my family and loved ones happy.
I would pay a lot of money for unforgettable traveling, for instance. I love to travel and I love especially beautiful travels. I dream about places like the Galapagos Islands, going back to Tanzania and climbing the Kilimanjaro, visiting the Jane Goodall chimpanzee sanctuary, going on a worldwide three-month cruise on a Cunard ship, going to Antarctica and flying to the South Pole (yes, there is a small flight that goes there!), a drive on Route 66, a cruise on the Amazon, seeing orangutans in their natural habitat in Borneo, going on a trip on the Panamerican from Anchorage to Ushuaia—and the list goes on and on and on.
There are so many beautiful places on this Earth! As per the saying, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” and there is so much truth in that because you learn so much from other people and from other cultures. It enriches you immensely!
Philanthropy is also important to me. It makes sense to me because it benefits others and is much bigger than all of us. I admire people who truly are genuine in their philanthropic activities and do it for the right reasons and not to try to place themselves socially.
I would also pay a lot of money to buy time. Time and health are the two most valuable things we can have.
And at a contrary, I would not spend money on an expensive wedding. I don’t judge people who spend a fortune on a wedding, but for me, it is just something I wouldn’t do because I simply do not dream of a big wedding. For me, the whole thing looks more scary than enjoyable. In French, we say, “Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés.” Society is different there, you can have a lot of money but you don’t necessarily expose it. I dream of an intimate wedding but with the most beautiful honeymoon afterward.
Epoch Times: When you go on the red carpet, how do you want your outfit to make you feel? Which designers can achieve that?
Ms. Eschapasse: I love outfits that make me feel beautiful and gracious. When you feel this way, it relaxes you; you are glowing and radiant. Style, like beauty, comes first and foremost from within. Audrey Hepburn was right saying that happy girls are the prettiest! As for the designers, there are so many, it is difficult to mention one or two. But I will mention the beautiful gowns of Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg for short dresses as I am a DVF girl, especially for her amazingly flattering wrap dresses. If I could, I would have them all.
Epoch Times: What do you think of how others dress and what’s your advice to people who would like to develop their personal style?
Ms. Eschapasse: I don’t judge how people dress. Everybody has their own stories, sometimes their struggles and different priorities in life than their appearances, and we all come from different backgrounds so we have a different sense of style, which contributes in making this world so interesting and vibrant.
I would simply encourage people to create for themselves a sense of style that is their own and will become their signature style. It will make them feel better and contribute to enhancing their lives as a whole. And also to have the desire and the discipline to try to be the best version of themselves.
Favorite color: My favorite color is red but I also love yellow, especially in spring and summertime.
Favorite perfume: I have many and I like to change perfumes. I love variety and enjoy discovering new fragrances and new scents. Right now, I am wearing Acqua di Parma Gelsomino Nobile by Acqua di Parma, Eau d’Orange Verte by Hermès and La Vie Est Belle by Lancôme.
Favorite restaurant in NY: Daniel for the assurance to have an exquisite and memorable dinner, and the many Maison Kayser bakeries all around the city for the best bread you can find in New York. This is my hangout and I like to go there a lot for lunch.
Favorite drink: Kombucha Cosmic Cranberry is my absolute favorite drink, as well as fresh coconut water. And for alcohol, I enjoy a nice glass of wine or Champagne.
Favorite movie: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
Favorite book: “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Favorite quotes: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”—Mae West
And it’s not a quote but I also love “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” French for “Liberty, equality, fraternity,” which is the national motto of France. I think it sums up how we should all, in theory—individuals and societies—live up to.
Sibylle’s “Style Diary” is a column that explores style from the perspective of choices, and what that means for different people, with personal advice from some of the most stylish people in New York.
Sibylle Eschapasse is from Paris and now lives in Manhattan. She is a journalist and a contributing writer to various publications. Sibylle is also the author of a children’s book, “Argy Boy!: A New York Dog Tale.” She may be reached at Sibylle.Eschapasse@gmail.com