Through Eva’s Eye: A Q & A With The Observer‘s New Style Columnist

Meet Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti.

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Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti has been a luxury retailer for more than a decade. She curated a worldly accessories collection before curating was a buzzword and launched one of the first shoppable magazines, vivre.com. The philanthropist and mother of two has been one of Vogue’s 10 most stylish women in fashion—and now she’s adding Observer columnist to her résumé (which, as it happens, also includes an early stint in investment banking at Lazard Frères). 

Ms. Jeanbart-Lorenzotti’s forthcoming column, “Eva’s Eye,” will showcase her bold, global sensibility as she challenges us to expand our own ideas about style and hopefully wear more interesting shoes as well. Herewith, an introduction to our new tastemaker in residence.

What’s your philosophy on fashion, Eva?
Trends come and go, but great style is eternal. Style doesn’t come from tagging runway reports or following design bloggers—it comes from opening yourself up to the possibilities of life, taking chances and making mistakes.

What’s an example of someone who takes chances?
Tilda Swinton is someone who never follows fashion cues and doesn’t even look the part of a classic beauty, yet her risk-taking and confidence inspire on so many levels. But taking chances just to turn heads doesn’t usually pan out. The biggest style mistakes are often made when you follow fashion trends even though they don’t look good on you—when one simply tries too hard. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

If style is simply about being open to taking chances and making mistakes, what’s the relevance of Fashion Week?
For the regular woman—or man—on the street, spring 2014 trends don’t really matter. What everyone needs right now is a great everyday coat and some sexy street shoes—not a floral-print frock wearable only on the other side of the planet. That’s not to say that fashion has lost its relevance—quite the opposite, actually. The shows are a forum for designers to push the outer limits of their talent. What’s most relevant now is what excites you, what works for you, makes you feel comfortable and confident and makes a comment on what people are wearing on the street.

Are there any designers who epitomize your idea of style?
Of course! So many designers have epitomized great style through the years, I would need to write a book. From the masculine glamour of Saint Laurent’s tuxedo to Alaïa’s perfectly tailored silhouette to Coco Chanel’s iconic elegance and Alexander McQueen’s magic to the brilliant red of Valentino and the genius of Elsa Schiaparelli. The list goes on: Gaultier, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Michael Kors, Maison Martin Margiela, Rick Owens…

Can you give an example of your own philosophy in action?
Recently while visiting friends in France, we were getting dressed for a big night out with floor-length skirts,statement jewelry and lots of hair and makeup. I went with my friend into her closet to pick out a purse. She had row after row of clutches, one more gorgeous than the next. But the one she picked to go with her formal outfit was the raffia clutch I had made for a bunch of friends in the Bahamas as a fun gift, each with their initials on them. It didn’t match her look. It was the opposite of formal, but she said it was the perfect fit. And she was so right: It was summery, personalized with her name, and, like so few things left in this globalized world, no one else could have worn it. How stylish is that?

Do you have to be skinny, glamorous and gorgeous to pull that off?
God, no. Great clothing looks best on real people, and, let’s remember, we all live in the real world. What’s important is how you carry yourself and having the confidence to own it.

What won’t we ever see you in?
Ridiculous shoes that you can’t walk in, like those Alexander McQueen pumps that have no heels. There’s nothing worse than a woman who can’t walk, don’t you think?

What are you wearing these days?
I was in a gallery in L.A. and fell in love with these bright pink ceramic lips. So I got them and have been wearing them as a pendant for the past six months. There is not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about my pink lips. I wear them with real jewelry, and they are a great conversation piece, which can be helpful in an awkward moment or at a work event. I love them so much I’ve since had them made in so many colors and special metals for so many people. My magic ring is a Lucite bubble ring—it goes with everything. I could go on, I have endless stories like that, but perhaps it’s time to stop.

Who are your personal style icons?
There are so many. The Marchesa Luisa Casati for her eccentricity. María Félix for her exuberant and extravagant approach to life. Babe Paley for her simplicity, strength and elegance. I often look to the great beauties and style icons of the past generations — women had more than just nice shoes and matching handbags. They had poise, faith in what they could achieve. They were independent. They did things their own way, whether that meant jetting off to live in Morocco, as Talitha Getty did, or wear nothing but men’s suits, as Katherine Hepburn did. You can take Jackie O. and put her in a Vogue spread today, and she’d look chic and ready for fall 2013.
Or take Princess Di. She was the awkward young girl who naively married a prince, survived the cheating and media stalking and then got out. She walked away from what most of us assumed was a fairy tale. That’s when she blossomed. She had an implausible affair, against every preset in her cloistered universe. She lived her life in the open, revealing her evolving wardrobe and her imperfect personality. Ultimately, women the world over loved her equally for her panache as for her flaws. I think we can all agree that Princess Di looked better after she had been through all that hideousness with the divorce than she did at her wedding. She was not the same person she had been at age 20, and her confidence, elegance and adventurousness made her ever more stylish.

What lesson can the nonroyals among us take from Princess Di?
Let’s embrace our own individuality and adventurous spirit by trying out fashion our own way. Fashion Week is the perfect time for that.