Photographer: PAYAM
Hair and Makeup: Brandie Hopstein with Opus Beauty using MAC Cosmetics (for Deborah Rappoport )
Lighting Tech | First Assistant: Krystallynne Gonzalez
Second Assistant: Calvin Hu
Third Assistant: Ousman Dial
DIT + Video Capture: Billy Jim
Retouching: Riga Elina 

Special thanks to Milk Studios NYC

(Interview follows photo series)


2016 has been the year of bloggers. The internet has given lovers a fashion a way of expressing themselves so that the entire world can see them. Style is such a personal thing, and to our next subjects, it is their art. We at Imagista teamed up with Jean and Valerie, Dayle, Carol Markel, and Debra Rapoport to learn more about their unique visions and how they make them come to life everyday.

Imagista: Do you feel like there is a difference between “style” and “fashion”, if so what is it to you?

Valerie: There’s definitely a difference between fashion and style. For the most part, I ignore fashion because it’s aimed almost exclusively at the youth market, and often it does not suit my body type nor my personal tastes. In general, fashions of the moment are much too understated for me. The colors are muted and limited, and the designs focus on economy rather than ingenuity. As a woman on a budget, I understand economy all too well, but I don’t think one has to be sacrificed for the other. Unless, of course, all of the profits are being plowed into the top execs’ pockets.

Style is the ability to dress yourself in such a way that everyone compliments you on your flaws, thinking they’re your assets. Style doesn’t come from an unlimited budget or from a stylist. It comes from the wearer’s ability to understand how to synthesize disparate pieces that harmonize or contrast in such a way as to create something completely new. The expression “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is the essence of the stylish dresser. If you take all the pieces apart, and give each piece to a different person, no one piece will make any of those people stylish. In fact, it’s entirely possible that each of those pieces, separated from their owner, will look completely undistinguished.

Jean: “Style” and “fashion” are definitely different, not synonymous. Style comes from the inside and fashion comes from the outside. Some people not wearing fashionable clothes may be innately stylish. At the same time, other people wearing the latest fashions may totally lack a sense of style. In my experience, stylish people are comfortable in their own skin, know exactly what they want to look like, and present that personae, regardless of the opinion of the world at large.

Carole: Style is what you have. Fashion is what others make. I have a personal style. I follow fashion because it’s fun.

Dayle: For me, “fashion” brings up images of designers and current trends, whereas style is more about personal expression. Style comes from within and has more to do with identity. With fashion, the focus is on the clothing. What is considered fashionable is constantly changing. Style is about how an individual expresses herself or himself through the clothing choices she or he makes.

Debra: Style is such a personal statement and expression. We are all individuals and we’re able to express ourselves daily through the textiles, garments, layering, color and texture we apply to our bodies. I love to reinvent myself with all the clothing and embellishment elements I have in my closet; many have been with me for 30-40 years. To me “Style is Healing” because we are in relationship with ourselves when we tap into how we want to express daily. Fashion to me is more about trends and what the industry dictates. It is also about consumption as well as dysfunction, spending money and needing to be trendy for acceptance. So many people feel this need, then over spend and some can’t stop. I have a friend who has a thriving therapy practice for people who are shopaholics!

Imagista: How would you describe your personal style or fashion sense?

Valerie: My style is a bit hard for me to classify. Words like sexy, glamorous, androgynous, boyish, etc., all miss the mark. Maybe ‘challenging’ comes closest, but it’s not descriptive. My favorite clothes are the ones that make me do a double-take, the ones that make me ask myself ‘what was the designer thinking when he or she made this? How did they envision it looking on the wearer?’ Anytime I don’t understand the weave or the construction, or anytime a material is used unconventionally, anything that arouses my curiosity or sense of wonder, that’s what I want to wear. So I have clothes made of Tyvek, elevator padding, paper, and aluminum, among other things, because they force me to rethink everything I take for granted. We have a traditional way of defining what a body should look like in clothes, and whenever a designer challenges that, I am, as Marvin Gaye sang “the hunter who gets captured by the game.” For that reason, I love Chromat, or old Issey Miyake, because they ignore rules and conventions and have me asking myself “what the…???”. As a result, some people always like what I wear; some people never like what I wear, and there are other people who, like me, start out just doing a double take. For them, as for me, figuring out the puzzle is part of the enjoyment of looking. The closest I’ve ever come to describing my style in one sentence is: It’s architectural, textural and graphic.

Jean: Only half-jokingly, I describe my personal style as “Goth meets Sunset Boulevard”. While I prefer black clothing, hats and accessories, I have made a conscious effort to try to incorporate more color into my wardrobe because some people find all black to be intimidating. My current look combines a lot of black and white — with lots of stripes and polka dots. My signature look includes black sunglasses, lots of vintage rings and bakelite jewelry (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pins). I combine these with minimalist fashion collected at vintage shows and sample sales from a wide mix of designers — Israeli (Kedem Sasson, Alembika and Ronan Chen), Scandinavian (Ivan Grundahl, Gudrun Sjoden ), Japanese (Matsuda, Miyake, Yamamoto), French (Gaultier) and British (McQueen). And a wide variety of hats by style (turbans, bowlers, top hats), fabric (felt, silk, straw, and age (new and vintage).

Carol: Central to my personal style is a love of bold color and pattern. I love the eccentric and quirky, yet I do not limit myself to anything. If I see something beautiful and classic, it could be for me. My style is putting together disparate elements to create a striking, dramatic effect. Dressing is a creative act and I am an out-of-the-closet drama queen.

Dayle: I would say that my style is artistic and dramatic. I like asymmetrical lines and the use of multiple fabrics in a single garment. I am drawn to the shape of clothing and like pieces that have unusual silhouettes. Accessories are the key to my look. Often, I will build an outfit around a scarf or a piece of jewelry. I have never wanted to look like everyone else. Although I am a New Yorker and have a lot of the requisite black in my closet, I love bold colors.

Debra: When I get dressed in the morning it is my meditation time. I am with myself. I create the statement in order to express how I feel. It is about color, texture and layering. I call it my A/B/Cs…Assembling Building and Constructing on the armature that is my body! I only shop in thrift shops because the excitement of not knowing what I will find, I love how unpredictable it is. To me, it is a win/win as you are also donating to a charity. Believe it or not, I never spend more that $5 because there is really nothing I need. My philosophy is “frame the face”, for me that means a hat. I encourage playing with “Bibs, Boas and Breastplates” to set off the face as well. I create my own hats from non-traditional materials as well as other embellishments from recycled and re-purposed materials. I teach this to encourage people to see things in their environment that ordinarily gets discarded. Let these materials speak to you and tell you how they want to be used, play is all part of it!

Imagista: Why is fashion so important to you?

Valerie: Fashion per se is not important to me at all, and never has been. What is important to me are textiles. Reframing my body, seeing it through different prisms and playing with it as a painter might play with a canvas, this is important to me. Style is a importance in my life, but not in a conscious way, everything I wear is something I personally like. My clothes are not popular or fashionable or endorsed by a magazine or celebrity. Georgia O’Keeffe had an unmistakable personal style even into her 90s. Her clothes reflected her personality, not what everyone was wearing. I will never be fashionable, I don’t have the budget for it, but I will likely always be stylish in the Georgia O’Keeffe sense of the word. My clothes have never been in style, so I don’t have to worry that they will go out of style, however, I do have to worry whether they will continue to fit me.

Jean: I have been conscious of fashion all my life. My mother was a “clothes horse” who dressed for every occasion, whether she was a hostess or a guest. Clothes help me to achieve my style or my “look”, to present myself to the world.

Carol: Fashion is important to me because it feeds my creative soul. I also love art, design, architecture, photography, literature and my coterie of creative, liked-minded fashionista friends who are passionate about the way they dress.

Dayle: My style is really my art. Although I have dabbled in the visual arts and have a good sense of color, my real art is putting myself together in a unique way. Fashion is an outlet for creativity and is a way to express oneself as an individual.

Debra: It is personal style that is important to me. We all have to wear clothes so dressing might as well be a very joyful and individual process. Creativity, however it manifests, is one of the most important human attributes. Touch is important and the sensation of the cloth, textiles and textures is valuable to the human experience, touch is essential for me. Limit your time with technology and get back into the sand box, finger painting and baking cookies.

Imagista: Who in your opinion is the most stylish and/or fashionable person is history and what makes them that to you?

Valerie: In history? Oh, no, no, no, no, no! That question is impossible to answer. Cleopatra and Nefertiti must have been stylish and fashionable, but how would we know? The daughters of the seafaring merchants of Venice, in their exotic turbans and jewels and sumptuous velvets must have been amazing, but most of their portraits and possessions are lost to history. Queen Elizabeth I was very stylish, in fact, she probably was a primary influencer, but think how much money she must have spent on it as a head of state representing a nation bent on global domination. From what we know of Millicent Rogers, she was wonderfully stylish, but she was a private citizen, so comparatively few people ever got to see what she wore. Grace Jones has remained a style icon with me for years. Her style was way beyond contrary to the conventional fashions of the day, her color combinations were marvelous. The fact is, everything she wore or wears challenges convention, this will never be me, but this style resonates with me at the core level.

Jean: Nancy Cunard was one of the most stylish women, effortlessly wearing gowns, casual clothing and menswear with aplomb, she was so much more than a clothes hanger. She was a writer, heiress and political activist who influenced and was influenced by many of the most inspiring artists, poets and writers of the 20th century such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Constantin Brancusi, James Joyce, William Carlos Williams. Her signature looks involved wearing armloads of bracelets, which I love.

Carol: Although you set an impossible task, I will pick two people as the most stylish in history. Coco Chanel for her innovation and chic style and Elsa Schiaparelli for her creative genius and love of the “shock” value.

Dayle: I have to say that Iris Apfel is at the top of my list. I love that she continues to be a style icon at her age. What appeals to me about Iris, besides her impeccable taste and her extraordinary way of putting things together is her individuality. She has a signature style, she is the antithesis of the “take one piece of jewelry off before you leave the house” philosophy. Iris combines high fashion and extraordinary personal style, which is exactly why I am inspired by her style.

Debra: The only contemporary person is Tilda Swinton, she is really her own person; stunning, unique and fabulous. Historically, I would choose Queen Elizabeth I, I just love the extreme look, white skin, red hair, the drama.