Estelle Fanta Swaray (born January 18, 1980) commonly known as Estelle, and formerly as Est'elle, is a Grammy Award-winning British R&B singer-songwriter, rapper, and producer.
It makes sense that British R&B chanteuse Estelle, whose breezy anthem "American Boy" exuded funky class and timeless appeal, is fascinated by fashion's ability to make old tricks seem new, and the commonplace extraordinary. Call her urban pop's great retrofuturist, if you will. If Rihanna and Beyonce are the boldfaced cyberwarriors who've discovered Mugler and Pugh, and Janelle Monae is the space-aged gamine from a psychedelic galaxy far, far away, then Estelle is the 21st Century mod who brings ambitious style back down to earth. She's modern, she's classic and she channels Judy Jetson without looking ridiculous.
With impeccable style intuition and a fervent interest in British design, Estelle makes a fine muse and spokesmodel for British accessories designer, Jonathan Kelsey, whose anticipated new "Belvie" handbag (a collaboration with Belvedere Vodka to celebrate the launch of Belvedere Black Raspberry) debuted yesterday. But it turns out this is only the beginning of the ambitious season Estelle has planned. In the coming months, the recent Grammy winner will focus on getting the "the hip-hop crowd to rock out," championing young London design talent and perfecting her Grace Jones meets Audrey Hepburn style persona. She tells PAPERMAG she wouldn't mind designing a line herself someday, although for now she's keen to watch her friend and collaborate Kanye West rival Raf Simons and Margiela. In the meantime, she'll be taking notes. And buying shoes. Lots of shoes.
Were you a fan of Jonathan Kelsey when he asked you to become his "muse"?
Yes, I've loved his shoes for awhile! They are actually really comfortable; his footwear is workable, and that's rare. So, when he approached me to represent the Belvie bag, I was like "hell yeah!" I love his designs, so I had a bit of a girly moment. And I have to say the design of the bag was pretty dope. I think it reflects the way I like to dress.
How would you describe your personal style?
Easy, for the most part. I think of it that way, at least. I know a lot of people think: "how the hell do you wear a dress with wings?" But when I do that, it's onstage, and for like two minutes at a time, so it's not too bad. Offstage, I'm mainly about being comfortable.
So you decide to add drama to your look onstage?
All the time. Like, I have the "Judy Jetson" looks I wore to the Grammys...
And who designed those infamous Grammy outfits?
Bernard Chandran. Both the dresses I wore that night are Chandran designs. I love what he does with sequins, jewelry, embellishment -- it's so unexpected. For the Judy Jetson outfit, we took inspiration from a vintage Mugler design from the '80s.
A designer who is suddenly everywhere again!
I know! I love it.
Who are your personal style icons?
Grace Jones crossed with Audrey Hepburn and Edie Sedgwick. During the day, I like the idea of keeping it simple: throwing on a cool jacket that makes me feel good and feel fresh. But when I'm feeling directional, I find myself channeling Grace -- like my little white Kristian Aadnevick dress that I wore in the "American Boy" video, with all its slits and angles.
Do you purchase many items from those avant-garde, "directional" designers?
Yeah! I love Margiela -- he's been a favorite for like years and years. I have way too many pairs of Margiela shoes. I have the cloven-hoofed boots, which people call my "pig shoes," because I had them in pink, as well. I love his strong shouldered silhouettes. And his jewelry! It's just insane. I bought his waterfall necklace. Again, he's someone who takes the ordinary, and turns it around so that people are left scratching their heads. That feels right to me, so yeah, I like him a lot and I buy him a lot.
Do you actively follow the London fashion scene?
I do. I'm in love with of a lot of our designers.
Of all those young British designers, do you have a favorite?
My favorite right now, hands down, is Jean Pierre Braganza -- he's crazy, he's directional, and he makes me clothing that fits me like a glove. You know how [designers] measure your proportions? Well, I feel like he makes couture just for me, even though we've never met. On a shoot, I tried on his dress with this little, itty-bitty waist. And I thought, "there's no way that will fit." But it did! It fit me perfectly. And I was in ecstasy. You don't have to be a model to wear his clothes; they are body-conscious but wearable, and I appreciate that.
You live in New York now, yes? How would you compare how women dress here to in London?
Here [in NYC], I think it is more about trend. In London, we experiment. I guess it's a bit more commercial here.
Did your own sense of style change when you moved here?
Well, I think I began to wear all of my heels a bit more. At home, I only wear them onstage or when I go out to a club or something. Here, I've been wearing them all the time!
I hear you have a bit of a shoe addiction...
God, I think I have over 400 pairs...
What is your most memorable shoe purchase?
My first pair of Jimmy Choos! They're memorable because I didn't actually know how much they cost, but when I handed over my credit card I nearly cried. They were £800!
Do you at least wear them often?
No! I've had them like six or seven years now and I look at them and just want to cry. I think I wore them six months ago.
Are you a shopaholic nowadays?
I am. In New York, I do a lot of shopping in the Meatpacking District; I love Jeffrey. They just call me down when they receive stuff they know I will like! And go to Seven a lot -- they carry a lot of hard to find British designers. INA has amazing vintage. And of course, I shop at Barneys, Bergdorf, Bendel's from time to time. But I do love H&M and Uniqlo, as well.
Since you are fascinated by fashion design and are now collaborating with industry leaders, would you ever consider creating your own line?
Yes, I would love to do it some time. But I want to really study it first. I don't want to just put myself out there, only to create some generic line. I think with fashion, a well known person can't start at the bottom and rise to the top. You really need to have your game on, know your ****, and enter at the top.
Do you want to formally train at a design school?
I think I may at some point. I want to study it intensively; we'll see what develops.
What current celebrity fashion lines interest you? Is there someone you'd be eager to see create their own line?
I really like Benjamin Bixby by Andre 3000. Sean Jean has some cool things. I actually really like Willam Rast, Justin Timberlake's line, but it's really hard to find for me to find his womenswear, for some reason. Who would make a cool line? I would love to see what Roisin Murphy would come up with! I think it would be insane.
Well, I guess I have to ask you about Kanye, since he's coming out with a Raf Simons influenced line. You worked with him: what is his potential?
Well, he is a really cool, smart dresser. When I first met him, he was wearing this white blazer. It looked like a plain white suit. But it was made of perforated leather! And it was that detail that made it unique instead of mundane. And he pulled it off, which is hard. He's a smart guy who knows what he wants. I think he'll be a pretty good designer. Hopefully, he won't just stick with sportswear. I think he should go the Margiela route.
Have you ever felt pressured by a record label to convey a certain image?
No! I told my label from day one, "Look, I'm half Grace Jones and half Audrey Hepburn!" and they were like "Oh! What a great idea..." They were actually really happy, because I offered something directional and different. It's not your typical half-naked R&B hottie look. It makes for a nice change, and I think people get it.
Have you started working on new material for the next album? What direction will you take with it?
Yeah, already I've worked on three or four songs so far. I'm very excited. If you come to a show, the new direction I'm taking makes sense. It's a hybrid: it gets the hip-hop fans to rock out a little, but it's still based in reggae, soul and pop.
Has your recent American popularity surprised you?
Yeah, I love it! I've toured almost everywhere in the States the past three months, and everywhere I go, every venue has given such a great response. Whenever you're new and you have to introduce yourself to a new audience, you have to wonder if they will care. But "American Boy" became this anthem, and I just won a Grammy for it, so even when I think, "I'm tired of singing this," the reaction it gets makes me think, "You know what? This is great. Life is good."
... Indifference is scary ~ Lady Gaga
Last edited by Libra Skye18; 02-05-2009 at 12:16 AM.
At the Chloe Boutique Celebration Opening in Los Angeles (April 23rd, 2009):
At the 57th Annual Pop Awards in Beverly Hills (May 19th, 2009):
"Every night my teeth are falling out."
''Estelle is wearing a Genelle Brooks x Love Collins dress with Brian Atwood shoes, a Judith Leiber bag, Royal Asscher necklace and ring, and Stephen Webster earrings''