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Interviewing Myself

by habituallychic

06 . 07 . 23

I love the magazine How to Spend It, although, they just had an unfortunate rebrand to just HTSI. I’m sure this acronym means nothing people who are not familiar with the magazine included in the weekend edition of the Financial Times. They have a regular interview feature that was also called How to Spend It but it too has had a rebrand to The Aesthete. Since I don’t think I’ll ever be chosen to be interviewed, I decided to use their questions to interview myself to give you a little more insight into who I am.

But first, let me address the question of why I don’t post pics of myself. When I started Habitually Chic in 2007, I modeled it after magazines. The editor in chief wasn’t seen on every page of the magazine and I have always posted about other subjects besides fashion. I did post photos of myself early on until I was also harassed and bullied by some older women and decided to pull back. People on Instagram rip apart celebrities with professional hair and makeup and stylists. Why would I want to subject myself to that nonsense? And even though I have written a blog for 16 years and I am considered an influencer, I am also extremely private. I think it’s better to maintain some mystery than post every single thing online. 

That said, here’s a little more about me. I have a degree in art history and almost had enough credits for a minor in English. I worked in commercial real estate for years which is why I always try to include advice on what to wear to an office. When I couldn’t stand the male dominated industry any longer, I took a pay cut to move into interior design. I worked for two high end interior designers and it was at one firm in 2007 when I started reading blogs. Two outside of NYC were talking about things in my backyard and it was my “ah-ha” moment that maybe I should write about what was in my backyard. I went out on my own in 2008 but decided to stop taking on clients in 2012 when my book Creativity at Work was published. I have been a full-time blogger and influencer ever since and have been my own boss for the last fourteen and a half years.

My personal style signifiers are pearl drop earrings, grey cashmere sweaters, and grey flannel trousers in the winter, then midi dresses with sandals in the summer. I actually once had someone recognize me by my perfume, Le Labo Santal 33, on Park Avenue. It unfortunately no longer smells the same as it did when it was released so I layer it over Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 now.

I was doing “quiet luxury” before it became marketed as a new fashion trend. I prefer solid colored clothing in neutral tones for the city. I will add in color for the summer and trips out east or resort destinations but not as much for NYC beyond a pale blue dress. I will buy Celine bags and Chanel slingbacks but in general I try to avoid large logos or anything trendy, although I do keep on top of what’s in style. I think it’s nice to get to a place where you know what styles and silhouettes work best for you and don’t buy or wear something just because it’s the hot new thing. As soon as I see everyone posting something on Instagram, I definitely don’t want it. But I do vindicated when something I’ve always worn or done becomes popular. Lol.

The last thing I bought and loved was a 17th-century celadon colored lidded porcelain box from the Marché Paul Bert Serpette that was found in the Binh Thuan shipwreck.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a vintage black Hermes Kelly box bag.

Since I started writing this post, I did end up buying a black Hermes Kelly 32 box bag. (That’s it on the right but I think it looks better in person than in this photo.) It was a belated birthday present to myself and now I get to live out my Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder fashion dreams. I’m going to write a post about how to buy a vintage Hermes bag but I chose Vestiaire because they are based in France which has very strict counterfeit laws. They also authenticate items before they ship them out so I felt confident buying online from them. I also own a vintage Hermès Kelly box bag 28 in oxblood from 1970 so I knew what to look for to make sure I was getting a real bag. Not sponsored, just a PSA.

I was on the fence for a while about whether I should buy a black box Kelly since I see them a lot on Instagram but I don’t see them that often in real life in New York or Paris. I was thinking back to parties where there was maybe one woman was carrying a black Kelly bag and they can be seen in varying sizes and aged patinas so they don’t always look the same. You’re be more likely to see one of the new candy colored Kelly bags as opposed to a vintage one in New York.

I chose one from the year 2000 because I knew wanted one with a shoulder strap. I don’t use my oxblood Kelly that much because it doesn’t have a shoulder strap. The handle and sides are coming apart on that one so I’m going to take it to Hermès soon so they can send it back to Paris for repair. It will probably take at least six months but it will be nice to be able to use it in the winter.

So the next thing that I’m eyeing is a Droplet ring by Dilhan Hanif. There were two women sitting next to us at LouLou restaurant in Paris in April 2022 and I was admiring their rings. At the end of lunch, I finally decided to ask them about them and it turns out that it was Dilhan Hanif wearing a ring of her own design with a black stone and her mother, Dilek Hanif, wearing the same ring with an aquamarine stone. They are Turkish and Dilek Hanif is a very well known fashion designer in Turkey.

My style icons are Catherine Deneuve, Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder, Renee Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair, Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show, Sienna Miller in Anatomy of a Scandal, Faye Dunaway in Network, and Parisian women, especially the ones who tuck their hair into their coats.

An unforgettable place I have travelled to in the past was Morocco. I was lucky to be invited on a week-long press trip in 2011 that began in Casablanca. We then drove down the scenic route along the coast making stops along the way. I loved Essaouira which is a lovely port town on the Atlantic coast with any easy to shop souk. We then drove an eco-resort in the low Atlas mountains. We arrived in the dark and when I woke up in the morning and opened the window, it was beautiful sunny day that reminded me of Tuscany. We took a cooking class and sat in the sun by the pool playing with the kittens of the hotel cat. We ended in Marrakech where everyone came down with a stomach bug and tried to avoid the guys with the monkeys and snakes who would shake you down for money if you even glanced their way. I probably wouldn’t gone to so many out of the way places if I had planned my own trip.

The carry-on essentials I’m never without include By Terry Baume de Rose Flaconnette Liquid Lip Balm, hand cream, saline spray for a dry nose, a silk eye mask, hair brush, a long charging cord, and cashmere scarf. I tuck it all into a pouch. I also include little perfume samples to mask any offensive odors on the plane.

The place that means a lot to me is Paris. It sometimes feels cliché to say you love Paris but I feel even more at home there than I do in New York where I have lived for over 20 years. I especially love that the minute you think you’ve seen the most beautiful thing in Paris, you will turn a corner and see something even more beautiful. I’m currently looking for a rental apartment so I can go back and forth and spend longer stretches in Paris before I buy a place and possibly move there full time.

If I didn’t live in New York, the places I would live in Paris bien sûr. Don’t forget that you can buy my extensive Paris Guide here.

The best souvenirs I’ve brought home are paintings. I have one from the Milan flea market, a little painting on wood on an easel from an old antique store in Venice that was closing, another small one from little flea market in Florence, and many, many more from the Brocante de la rue de Bretagne and Marché aux Puces de Vanves in Paris.

My favourite place in my house is the gallery wall of paintings above my marble topped commode in my living room. I get to admire them while I watch tv and movies.

In my fridge you will always find is champagne, water, diet coke, and arugula.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Joan Mitchell. But it would be impossible to choose just one so I’d also collect Pierre Bonnard, Camille Pissarro, Elizabeth Peyton, and Cy Twombly.

A recent “find” is the lovely new Provence filled store Le Château de ma Mère in the 7th in Paris that just opened up before my November 2022 trip. Every time I visit, I want to buy everything. It will definitely be the place I go to buy a quilt when I have an apartment in Paris.

The last items of clothing I added to my wardrobe were a pair of Manolo Blahnik blue leather sandals with black and navy suede straps and a mint colored leather Loewe bracelet. I’m trying to get my wardrobe in order for my summer trips so I’ve also been buying inexpensive cotton midi dresses.

An object I would never part with is my vintage Breitling Chronograph watch that I’m “borrowing” from my father.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, it would be the the 7th arrondissement in Paris. I used to live next to Le Bon Marché on rue Babylone and love that this neighborhood. It is filled with luxury brands and lots of new and up and coming designers and small shops. The Hermès store on rue de Sevres is a must visit since it has the petit h collection, as are Celine and Ines de la Fressange on rue de Grenelle. And don’t forget City Pharma for discount pharmacie favorites.

The people I rely on for personal grooming and wellbeing include…Marie Robinson used to do my hair but she started to be away more so now Cherise Wilson does my highlights. We live very close to each other on the UES so we discuss the neighborhood while she does my hair. Simon Suh has cut my hair for about 18 years and since the pandemic has been cutting it at my apartment. I’ve been going to Mario Badescu Salon for facials since I moved to NYC but I’ve been seeing Leah there for 18 years as well. I go to Oni Skincare for more advanced facials with infrared lasers. I see Dr. Virginia Wade for Clear and Brilliant laser treatments, filler, and a little Botox. I also go to a random places in my neighborhood for manicures and pedicures, and lash tints.

The beauty staples I’m never without are Augustinus Bader Rich Cream and hair oil, Dyson hair dryer, Oribe Imperméable Anti-Humidity Hair Spray, Westman Atelier makeup, Hermès Rose Coquille Nail Polish, and every skincare device ever made. You can see all my skincare favorites in my last post, Summer Skincare for Face and Body.

The best gift I’ve received recently was a custom gold signet ring from Revere. They contacted me in 2020 to see if I would like to design one. I took some time to think of what design I wanted but since it was the 400-year anniversary of the Mayflower landing in Plymouth, I decided on the family crest of my ancestor who not only survived the crossing but winter in New England. I figured if he could survive 1620 and I could survive 2020, anything is possible and it’s a great reminder!

An indulgence I would never forgo are fresh flowers and upgraded travel.

The last music I downloaded is Classical Bangers on Spotify. You can also find my own Playlists on Spotify.

My favourite apps are the Weather app so I know how to dress and Xe app so I know the current exchange rate between the Euro and Dollar.

The podcast I’m listening to is Smartless.I listen to it every week when I touch up my own roots at home. Jason Bateman and Will Arnette are so funny but I’m still mad at Sean Hayes for ruining a poignant and moving moment during the Bradley Cooper interview. There is a documentary series Smartless: On the Road that I still need to watch on Max.

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Deeda Blair: Food, Flowers, & Fantasy. As our world becomes ever increasingly rude and self-centered, I find myself gravitating toward elegant people, places, and things and there is no one more elegant around today than Deeda Blair. I thought the fantasy menus inspired by gorgeous locations was the most original features I’ve ever seen in a coffee table book.  

In another life, I would have been an 18th-century antiques dealer or auction specialist. I always say if you want to train your eye, you should visit antique stores and auction previews. It always comes in handy when visiting flea markets because then you know which pieces are made well and have correct proportions.

The best bits of advice I ever received is always wear something to amuse the eye.  

I can’t figure out where I heard this or who said it but it’s something I think about when getting dressed. If I’m wearing something neutral or simple like a white linen dress, I’ll add my watch with a blue leather strap or maybe a pair of yellow sandals. If I’m wearing all grey in the winter, I’ll add my checked Max Mara coat or an Hermès scarf tucked into the sweater for a little pop of color.

I think this is what takes an outfit to the next level. I see some influencers online who are wearing nice things but I don’t feel compelled to buy any of it while someone else might be wearing the same things in a different way that makes you want to buy everything immediately.

The best advice that I can give when it comes to fashion is find a good tailor. It’s very rare when you find something that fits perfectly off the rack. I take a lot of clothes to my tailor to have things hemmed to the right length. I even get my Zara pieces fitted which makes them look more expensive. I especially dislike it when people wear jacket sleeves too long. I always think it looks like you’re borrowing clothes from someone taller or you don’t know how clothes should fit. It’s easy for a tailor to shorten them and if you don’t have time, at least push them up so the look is more interesting and they aren’t covering your hands. 

Cat at Versailles photo taken by me in 2009.

The best bit of life advice I can give is to always be curious. It’s a guiding principle of my life. If I’m watching a film and find an actor/actress compelling, I will immediately Google them to see what else they’ve done that I can watch next. As you know from my many blog posts, I love a treasure hunt to find out where something was filmed so I can see more and learn more. I’m always researching something which inevitably leads to my learning something new and usually finding a topic for the blog. This is what makes life interesting and drives content for Habitually Chic.

Research also supports that increased curiosity in old age is beneficial – older adults who were more curious had better memory and improved well-being on average. One study even suggested that low curiosity is associated with increased mortality.” Curiosity may have killed the cat but it could help you live longer.

After 16 years of blogging, I’m trying to come up with as many new post ideas as possible which was the impetus for this post. If there is anything you want to see or any fashion conundrums you need solved this summer, please let me know!