Sibylle’s Style Diary: Nicole Hanley on Inspiration and Travelling to Create Style

June 2, 2016 Updated: June 29, 2016

This week’s style diary guest is the beautiful and vibrant Nicole Hanley. The creative director of HANLEY, who created her lifestyle and sportswear brand in 2014, features designs that are sophisticated yet versatile and practical. The New Yorker finds her inspiration in travels and chooses a city for each of her collections. As she explained in an interview for The New York Times last September, “We go to the place and then come back with our own experience. That’s the ethos of the brand. It’s a lifestyle brand and life precedes style, so you’ve got to be out there living it in order to create the style.” She is sharing with us her perspective on style in this week’s new style diary. 

Sibylle Eschapasse: Describe your style?

Nicole Hanley: My personal style? Practical, balanced, and nuanced.

Dress for the life you are living—know who you are.
— Nicole Hanley


Ms. Eschapasse: If a close friend were to describe your personality in three words, what would they be?

Ms. Hanley: I asked one close friend and she said, “unexpected, sophisticated, and global.”Thank you @StyleHaulSteph—am complimented!

Ms. Eschapasse: How did your style evolve since you were a teenager?

Ms. Hanley: My style hasn’t changed much over the years—I still mix it all up and tend toward a particular balance of color, texture, and proportion. I have always had clear ideas about what I like and don’t like and even as a child would choose fabrics to have my own dresses made. As I get older, the differentiation between what works and what doesn’t work changes.

(Courtesy of Nicole Hanley)
(Courtesy of Nicole Hanley)

Ms. Eschapasse: What is the wildest thing you ever wore?

Ms. Hanley: Hahaha. I am not very wild when it comes to dressing—I prefer to be understated than overstated and always comfortable enough to actually enjoy the occasion.

Ms. Eschapasse: How do you dress on workdays versus weekends?

Ms. Hanley: Each day requires a different rhythm and how I dress depends on what is before me for that particular day. I always like to feel pulled together even in sweats—or I feel off balance.

Ms. Eschapasse: What are three accessories you can’t live without, and what’s one item that makes you instantly more confident?

Ms. Hanley: I think the Cartier Love bracelet is perfection—simple and elegant. But honestly, my favorite accessories are generally the ones given to me by someone special …

(Courtesy of Nicole Hanley)
(Courtesy of Nicole Hanley)

Ms. Eschapasse: Who have been your greatest fashion influences? 

Ms. Hanley: My grandmother and mother—my grandmother had an impeccable and refined taste, and my mother never plays a false note. I notice as I get older that my particular sense of balance in proportion, texture, and color matches hers exactly—though we don’t necessarily share a similar palette.

Ms. Eschapasse: Who is your style icon?

Ms. Hanley: Style always follows life—so I tend to admire the style of those individuals who are living their life fully and happen as well to look great doing it!

Ms. Eschapasse: What does having style mean to you? In other words, please define style.

Ms. Hanley: Style is a manner in which things are put together, mindful of purpose, place, and occasion—as such, it is always personal and subtle.

Ms. Eschapasse: 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. Hanley: I don’t discriminate old/new, expensive/inexpensive, but am incredibly particular about my choices and as such don’t shop for the sake of shopping. Some of my favorite pieces I bought off the street or at markets, other favorite pieces are inherited or handed down—my sister and I give each other first choice during closet clean outs as “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!” Honestly though, at this point and as I become more confident with and connected to each collection I design, I am seriously designing the pieces I most want to add to my wardrobe.

Ms. Eschapasse: When you go on the red carpet, how do you want your outfit to make you feel? Which designers can achieve that?

Ms. Hanley: Appropriate and sophisticated—and comfortable—I usually mix and match items from my own closet, though I do own a few unique dresses such as a Giambattista Valli dress that I style with sandals or heels depending on the occasion.

Ms. Eschapasse: What do you think of how others dress and what’s your advice to people who would like to develop their personal style?

Ms. Hanley: Dress for the life you are living—know who you are. Understanding that what works for someone else most likely won’t work for you in the same way (often unfortunately so) is a great key to cultivating your taste and, in turn, your style. One can admire and acquire beautiful things (taste), but that doesn’t mean they can put it together (style). My sister and I are both drawn to beautiful things, but make the same thing look very different—it is actually fascinating and wonderful.

(Courtesy of Nicole Hanley)
(Courtesy of Nicole Hanley)

Nicole’s Favorites

Favorite color: HANLEY “GOLDEN MEAN”
Favorite perfume: CHANEL No.5
Favorite restaurant in NY: Perrine at The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, New York has a perfect and simple menu.
Favorite drink: Warm lemon water first thing, latte shortly thereafter, water all day long, green juice in the afternoon, red wine with dinner!
Favorite movie: “Before Sunset” and “The Fountainhead”
Favorite book: “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Three Philosophies of Life”
Favorite quote: I find quotes and phrases to be powerful and often try to harness that kind of simplifying power for my children, that is, “I want doesn’t get.”  I have an entire Pinterest board of my favorite quotes,, but the one I refer to often is from Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

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 [email protected]