Elisa Sednaoui: Style and sensibility

Portrait of model Elisa Sednaoui

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Photos: Courtesy of Yoox

Elisa Sednaoui for Yoox

Would you like to tell us about your collaboration with Yoox? What is the concept behind the capsule collection you did?

It's a collection of easy-to-wear, summery items designed for mothers and their children. The idea is for little girls to be able to dress like their moms — there is also a version for boys in the same fabric. The main inspiration for the patterns and embroidery came from the Egyptian Bedouin tradition. As for the designs, I went with the ones that to me have the classic indispensable summer shapes: the long dress, the long-sleeved tunic, and the striped light dress that you wear at the beach. Finally, 100 percent of the proceeds after the manufacturing costs will go the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation I established last year.

It's the first time that you tried your hard at designing. How did it feel like? What were the challenges?

It was definitely fun, especially trying to think of shapes that could work with different body types and how to mix functionality and design. The challenge was to successfully translate the image I had in mind through fabrics.

How has motherhood changed your life as well as you perception about fashion and work?

Your time is radically reduced. When you take up a new project, you have to make sure you'll have the time and energy to dedicate to it. As a mother now, I definitely try to make better use of my time; for example, I work harder but in shorter amounts of time. Pregnancy has been a very creative period for me, as this is when I decided to embark on the Foundation adventure. I was also shooting part of a documentary until I was six months pregnant and I really couldn't hide it anymore. I now say that my son is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. As far as how I dress now, I would say it's the same as before. Actually, I do enjoy wearing heels more, because I want to enhance my femininity! Also, when I am at a photo shoot or going to see a fashion show, I have even more fun, as it is a sort of "holiday" for me now!

Little a Like by Elisa Sednaoui for yoox

What's the concept behind the charity foundation you established?

I'd rather not think of it as “charity”, but more as a "cultural initiative". The idea is to create a model of after-school programs using the arts, and then have it replicated anywhere in the world. I am starting it in Egypt and Italy because these are the territories I have spent most of my time in. However, I think that for different historic and cultural reasons today's children in both so-called "developed" and "developing" countries should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and to freely express their feelings, thoughts, and experiences in open and creative ways. Our goal is to support projects that promote the personal and educational development of young people through creative programs that embrace innovation, while celebrating cultural exchange and their country's rich traditions. The Foundation’s first workshop took place this April in the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt, and brought together teachers from ‘MIMA Music’ and the ‘Egyptian Centre for Culture and Arts’. It was such a magical moment for me: over 150 children participated in this workshop from the surrounding community! They learned traditional Egyptian melodies and harmonica riffs, while collaborating together to create an original song. In addition, over ten young adults were trained in the MIMA Method to continue these types of workshops for children in the future. It was wonderful and very inspiring to witness how much work can be done in just a few days.

When did you break into modelling?

I started taking the first pictures in Paris when I was fifteen, but it was important for me to at least finish high school, so I really started working full time when I was 18. That's when I also shot my first film as an actress.

Little a Like by Elisa Sednaoui for yoox.com

You were an ambassador for Chanel. What is it like working with Karl Lagerfeld?

I’m honoured to be working with such an immensely talented person and to have had the chance to observe him as he creates. Karl is a fascinating person, with such talent, vision, humour and culture. Whenever he enters a room, he is able to comment on the surroundings, telling you for example who made a specific painting, when and why...by the way, I still work with them!

Throughout these years, you wore a lot of hats: actress, director, musical collaborator, documentarian. What draws you into new projects? And do you have any preferences in what you like doing the most?

This is who I am, I need to explore different fields. I can't do just one thing. And I find a sort of harmonic connection between all the different projects. What draws me in them is simply curiosity.

What's the biggest misconception people have about the life of a model?

That it is all easy and glamorous. Life can be very lonely and also very tough because you are being judged for something that is completely intangible — beauty. You need to learn how to protect yourself.

How do you keep up with fashion? Are you an early adopter?

I don't really keep up with trends...I like timeless pieces. I also mix classic items with funkier ones, depending on my mood and if I want to be more eccentric or more discreet. Also, I play around with femininity and masculinity.

How has your personal style evolved over the years?

The thing with me is that if I like something I tend to wear it all the time (I even recently started buying two of each thing I like), so I reach a point where I just can't look at these items anymore. I then put them away so that I can rediscover and enjoy them again later. It's the same thing with music.

What's the one item that always manages to save your outfits?

A loose silk blouse from Haider Ackermann. I have it in three different colours.

How do you see yourself in the future? Do you want to be more involved with fashion or work behind the cameras?

I want to continue to discover more things. Hopefully I'll direct a feature film and act in it as well! Let's see...

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