What is Style?

Sahar is a Parisian-Egyptian living between Athens, Istanbul, Paris and Cairo.
She studied to become a style coach when she realised the importance of the link between body and mind. She believes true style comes from the combination of inner and outer confidence. How we feel inside when we wear our clothes is as important as the clothing itself.

Since a young age I was obsessed with clothes and fashion. I loved looking at pictures in fashion magazines. In Cairo, where I grew up. we did not have many fashion magazines at the time. Luckily we had the French music variety magazine “Salut les copains”. The magazine who gave rise to the yé-yé French music style. I would save all my pocket money to buy it. Looking at pictures of Francoise Hardy, France Gall, Michel Polnareff (with his famous white glasses), Johny Haliday, Sylvie Vartan and Claude Francois, I dreamt of living in Paris. Then of course I discovered Arabic, French & Greek singers like Oum Kalthoum, Dalida, Maria Kallas and Edith Piaf. I loved their aura and, the way they dressed fascinated me, I was really attracted to their confidence and the way they were doing what they loved to do: sing.

I think I was about twelve when I started reading Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian feminist writer. The first time I saw a picture of her, I was intrigued. I loved the way she looked.Her grey hair, honesty and courage left me speechless. I wanted to dress, be and above all speak the truth like her.

Then I left to study in Paris where I attended Esmod to study Fashion Merchandising. Every day I was living the dream, residing in a city that lives and breathes fashion and beauty. But until then I can’t say I really understood style. Watching Parisian women strolling on the streets of Paris, they weren’t slavishly followng the latest trends. Each had her own touch. Not in fashion, yet they were fashion.

I think the day I truly grasped the secret of having style is when I saw SJP at an exhibition of LV. She was strolling down the exhibition corridors with such an incredible assurance and glow. She wasn’t wearing anything I would particually want to wear, yet I couldn’t stop myself from looking at her (it is considered very rude in Paris to look at celebrities). Wherever she walked there was an aura of light surrounding her. I was struck by her warm smile. I found her stunning… not just beautiful, stunning outside and inside. She filled the entire room with her joy and warmth. I wanted to hang out with her, become her best friend, have cocktails with her while talking about all different things and for sure go shopping with her. Thinking about it later, I have realised that apart from having a great figure (she obviously works out and watches her diet), the most attractive thing about her is that she is a happy, hopeful and friendly person. Probably a person who tends to expect that good things will happen. Someone who knows her that she is unique and was not afraid to share that with the world. Someone who enjoys dressing, for herself, not for others Someone who loves herself, so she loves people in return.

SJP’s unusual beauty and mysterious allure (the power of being powerfully and mysterioiusly attractive) made me think of the question Socarte posed long time“what Is beauty?”. This question has engaged the thoughts of many philosphers, mathematicians, poets and artists in Antiquity. The quest is continually and has no easy or clear answer. When looking at the evolution of Egyptian and Greek art, we can perceive that the pursuit of beauty, even if it doesn’t end up in an absolute truth, can lead to acknowledging our inner self.

Style is the same. There is no clear- cut answer. The more we question ourselves about style, the more it will lead us to look inside. I think of what the ancient Egyptians called “KA” BA” . According to the myth, the god Atum created the world out of chaos, using his own magic. Because the earth was created with magic, Egyptians believed that the world was imbued with magic and so every living thing upon it. When human were created, that magic took the form of the soul, an eternal force which resides in and with every human being. The Ka is the vital esseance and the Ba is the personality.

But hey let’s go to my first love “fashion”. How can I ignore it! So, what fashion has to do with all this? Is it a tool to bring out this magic inside? When we go to a fashion show, we experience magic (fashion). Designers (or should we call them the gods,) bring out to us (mortals?) the inner of fashion, the magic of it. They tell us a story. A story of the woman they imagined while creating. I remember once an interview with a designer (to be honest I can’t remember which designer it was but I would like to think it is Alaia). They asked him how do you create and how do you get inspired? He replied “First I imagine the woman I am creating for: what she likes, how she leads her life, what she reads, thinks, eats, drinks, travels and then I start imagining her going out, to the opera, the theatre, to an exhibion, or where ever she likes to go and this is when the inspiration starts.

We give life to the way we dress by how we think, feel and act. Our lifestyle is a product of our individual creative power. It is not our clothes that define us. It is who we are, what we like to do, which books we like to read, which movies we like to watch, how we live, how we lead our lives and how we make others feel about themselves while wearing them does.

The great Diane Vreeland said “It is not about the dress you wear but the life we lead in that dress”.

I guess in French sums it up when they say “She is a true Parisian, she wears Chanel like Monoprix and Monoprix like Chanel”.

I would like to end with one of Givenchy’s famous quote about elegance, isn’t elegance a mix of fashion, style and beauty “The secret of elegance is just to be yourself”

Ladies, just be yourself, everyone else is taken.