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The Inside & Out Definition of Style

The beginners guide to figuring out your style

Sahar Kadri is an Egyptian-Parisian-style coach who lives between two very inspiring cities: Athens and Cairo. Born and raised in Cairo, Kadri moved to Paris in her twenties to study fashion merchandising at Esmod and photography at Parsons. Her career in the fashion world has spanned over 25 years; as a model, buyer, and consultant for luxury brands such as Dior, Christian Lacroix, Chantal Thomas, Jean Louis Scherrer, and Zadig & Voltaire to name but a few. 11 years ago she decided to study style coaching when she realized the strong connection between the body and the mind and a strong belief that true style stems from the combination of inner and outer confidence. 

Salut Les Copains music magazine (France)(Johnny Halliday and Sylvie Vartan), February 1973

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 devoured fashion magazines, yet they were difficult to come by in Cairo. Luckily we had the French music variety magazine Salut les Copains, the magazine that 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, made me dream of living in Paris. Then, of course, I discovered Arabic, French & Greek singers like Umm Kalthoum, Dalida, Maria Kallas, and Edith Piaf. I loved their aura and the way they dressed fascinated me. I was drawn 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 by 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.

When I moved to Paris to pursue my studies I was finally 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 down the streets of Paris I realized they weren’t slavishly following the latest trends. Each had her own touch. Not in fashion, yet they were fashion.


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A post shared by SJP (@sarahjessicaparker)

I believe the day I truly grasped the secret of having style was when I saw Sarah Jessica Parket at a Louis Vuitton exhibition. She was walking down the exhibition corridors with such incredible confidence and glow. She wasn’t wearing anything I would particularly 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 realized 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 that she is unique and is not afraid to share that with the world. Someone who enjoys dressing, for herself, not for others, someone who loves herself and loves people. SJP’s unusual beauty and mysterious allure (the power of being powerfully and mysteriously attractive) made me think of the question Socrates asked a very long time ago, “What is beauty?”

This question has engaged the thoughts of many philosophers, mathematicians, poets, and artists in Antiquity. The quest is continual 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 humans were created, that magic took the form of the soul, an eternal force that resides in and with every human being. The Ka is the vital essence, and the Ba is the personality.

But let’s go back to my first love “fashion.” How can I ignore it! So, what does fashion have to do with all this? Is it a tool to bring out this magic stuck 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 was 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 exhibition, or wherever 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.

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

I guess the French pretty much sum 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 Hubert de Givenchy’s famous quotes on elegance, most commonly defined as a mix of fashion, style, and beauty: “The secret of elegance is just to be yourself”

Ladies, just be yourself, everyone else is taken.

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