Style Story / Emilie Halpern
5 years ago by
I have never met anyone who radiates more positivity than this woman. Emilie is a beam of light and her entire world reflects that. The fluidity of her clothes, the brightness of her interior, and the nature of her artistic work are all just pieces of her beautiful puzzle that can undoubtedly fill any room with a million smiles. Our time with her was amongst some of my favorite moments spent during our trip to LA. I am so thankful I got to meet her and introduce this genuine soul to all of you. Meet Emilie!
California Yoko Ono.
What’s most important when it comes to style: comfort, beauty, or innovation?
Comfort. Clothes are touching your skin all day. I want that touch to be soft and sensuous. Just like smell is a sense memory, the feel of a fabric on your skin can transport you.
Most valued thing in your closet?
A Max Mara cashmere coat in nude. After my husband’s suicide, my friend Ji Shin (co-owner of the lighting & furniture design company Atelier de Troupe) took me to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to buy a coat. I had asked her to help me find an outfit to wear to the memorial. I didn’t want to wear black. It was too much darkness. I wanted to celebrate his life not commemorate his death. So I wore white and the Max Mara coat. After that I started wearing mostly white. It’s incredible how something as simple as a color draped over your body can change the way you feel.
Do you have a fashion muse?
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emmanuelle Alt and Caroline de Maigret. French brunettes.
But my real muses are the women around me. Clothes have always made more sense to me if they were on a body in front of me. Clothing is expressive. Like art, it’s communicating something to the viewer. Who is the person wearing the clothes? That’s what matters to me most. It can’t just be an idol, a symbol, someone out of reach who I worship, I need it to be someone I know and love.
Jessica de Ruiter was one of the first stylists I ever met. She’s the wife of artist Jed Lind. I remember seeing her at art openings and she was glowing and statuesque, and it was so effortless. I learn a lot from watching others. Her style is timeless, classics that are investment pieces. Another muse is Genevieve Pepin, my former gallerist and now studio manager. She loves beautiful things. She has a great eye, which is what made her such an incredible gallerist. Her style is chic and sexy. I learned from her that you can never leave the house overdressed. She helped me throw away most of my clothes and create a capsule wardrobe. I told her, her catchphrase is “you can do better”. If you’re going to own something, let it be the best and most beautiful incarnation of that thing.
And then there’s Jessie Young; Emiliana Gonzales. Together they are the design studio Estudio Persona. They did the interior design and custom furniture for my home. I learned from them how to keep things fresh and cool. Their styles are always evolving. It’s interesting because their looks are very individual. Emiliana is more minimal but very contemporary. Jessie is edgier, she isn’t afraid to take fashion risks and incorporate vintage pieces. But they play off each other, it’s like their wardrobes are in constant dialogue. They taught me how clothing can be an expression of confidence. That coolness means not caring what others think. You just wear what you love.
Are there things you don’t wear?
Synthetics, patterns, and bright colors.
You truly radiate positivity. Warmth just flows out of you in the form of your big, dimpled smile and that translates through the fluidity of your wardrobe. Your style is feminine and fluid with a touch of masculinity. Has your style always been this way or do you feel like it has naturally developed over time? If so, were there any big life moments that affected it?
I grew up in Paris and later went to a French school in San Francisco, so my style has always been influenced by classic Parisian basics. Agnes B., Bensimmon shoes, Levi’s 501s, white Hanes t-shirts, lambswool crew neck sweaters were my wardrobe since middle school.
Last year was a big year for me. My husband died, and then a month later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer forced me to focus on my body. And what I discovered there beyond the illness, was my femininity, my sexuality. Something that I had forgotten about or maybe never completely uncovered. I lost my breasts to surgery and my hair to chemotherapy. Suddenly clothes had a value that went beyond being utilitarian. They were a weapon. Looking in the mirror, I didn’t want to see a sick person, a dying person, I wanted to see a beautiful woman, a survivor, a sex goddess, a bad ass b*tch. That’s how I fought back. I wore wigs, long flowy ethereal hair with bangs, or a darker sexy bob. I exchanged my tomboy clothes for Ulla Johnson; Doen dresses, Equipment silk shirts, camisoles, Manolo Blahnik BB black suede heels and flats, and lingerie. Oh lingerie. There’s nothing I love more than getting a little bit stoned (one of the benefits of chemo) and putting on beautiful lingerie and dancing around the house to Beyoncé, her sexy songs of course.
Fleurs du Mal, Agent Provocteur, Bordelle, La Perla and Wolford stockings.
Art is an integral part of your life. Your home is filled with work by admirable artists, many of which are your friends. Why is it important to you to fill your home with the workings of your friends and what advice can you give to people trying to translate their style into the art adorning their homes?
When it comes to choosing art, buy what you love. Artworks are not functional objects like the rest of the things you fill your home with. Their purpose isn’t to serve your body, but to serve something else. Your mind, your heart, your desire. If you’re going to bring something into your home that you can’t use, let it make you feel.
For me it’s joy. That’s what I want to feel whenever I look at the artworks in my home. Love, admiration, inspiration. The artworks that have the most meaning are by friends. Jonas Wood, Kim Fisher, Ridley Howard, Jedidiah Ceasar, Stephen Prina, Arthur Ou, and Andrew Cameron. They are artists that I admire and that I believe in, and trading with them or collecting their work is a way that I can show that.
Go to museums, go to art galleries! The first artworks I “collected” were by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. I was visiting New York for the first time and I went to the Guggenheim. It was his retrospective. He made endless copies of large prints on paper that he exhibits in stacks on the floor. Each one is free for the viewer to take. I hung one on the ceiling above my bed, a black and white image of a cloudy sky with a bird, and I would fall asleep staring at it. Art can be free, and it can change your life.
Benefit auctions; buying editions are a great way to start a collection. For auctions try paddle8.com, for editions try geminigel.com.
As a ceramicist, you most certainly get your hands dirty for work. How does your style change when you are working in your studio? Are there specific pieces you tend to gravitate to and why?
My studio uniform is Hunter wellies, Amo jeans or Mother denim shorts depending on the weather, an Everlane Linen Relaxed button-down shirt or RE/DONE 1970s Boyfriend Tee in white if I’m working with white clay and a black T- shirt if I’m working with red clay or glazing.
I love seeing other artist’s studio clothes. They’re always comfortable, broken in, with tiny traces of their artworks, like crumbs. I recently saw an old picture of David Hockney standing in front of a painting in his studio. And his black pants were splattered with flecks of pale pink and ultramarine. It was beautiful.
What a wonderful, inspiring woman! Wow! Wow, wow!
Thank you for this profile! Halpern’s enviable style and amazing spirit are an inspiration! Love her home too!!
This story is beyond anything I feel I can express with written words right now. It captures life itself in all it’s kaleidoscopic dimensions, in a form of a woman with astonishing spirit and intensity. This is something to get back to time and time again. Thank you.
I can’t say it any better than commenter Krista did. Thank you for profiling this amazing, inspiring, life-affirming woman. Many blessings to her.
What an incredible story and an incredible woman! Even through the internet she radiates love and light.
What a lovely interview. She’s so elegant!
I began following Emilie after discovering her via another article last year. Truly inspiring lady. So happy to see another beautiful feature showing her impeccable style and grace. The photos and interview are wonderful. Thank you for sharing her with us.
Hi! What a beautiful story, in every sense of the word. Thank you!
She is Breathtaking, her story, her essence, just her in her entirety. Such a wonderous interview . It is stunning how little we truly know of the people we pass on the street their triumphs and defeats entertwined into one bold spirit. What a magnificent light!
Thanks a lot for this great interview! Lot of inspiration, confidence in Life and strenght in Emilie’s words. Wonderful.
What a gorg and strong soul. Inspiring!
This is splendid ! Such great style and character
Her grace is truly inspiring! A beautiful soul, a true artist!
Inspiring! Beautiful! Much to be learned from her – in life and style :) Her freckles are amazing.
Jaw dropping interview. Incredible woman with shocking strength. Please, give us more with her! What an unbelievable fount of wisdom. Also, supes pretty.
De tous les profils que j’ai pu lire sur ce site, celui-ci est celui qui m’aura le plus marqué et ému. Je l’avais lu à l’époque et hier, je ne sais pas pourquoi, j’ai eu une envie folle de relire cette publication. J’ai donc passé un bon moment à patiemment éplucher les archives avant de la retrouver.
Quelle personnalité, quelle force et quel exemple !!! Il devrait y avoir plus de publications de ce genre sur ce site.