Estelle Pigault Chemouny is unequivocally cool. The complete embodiment of “laissez-faire,” she glides into every space with an ease and optimism that’s remarkably un-Parisian, her often vibrant outfits drawing stares from more monochromatic onlookers. Her effortless way of combining contrasting prints, colors and textures to create uplifting outfits has established her as one of our fashion heroines in a city known for its “noir” palette. Today, as we meet over Zoom, her tousled “slept-in” locks are bundled into a perfectly imperfect top knot with a bright blue scrunchie, which bounces as she hops up mid-chat to grab the tagliatelle she just ordered. Connecting with women actively tapping into their consciousness is one of our greatest joys, so as we babble over the power of color and our shared passion for Puglia, she elaborates on her spiritual journey of late, sharing her favorite places in Paris that provide that same “piano, piano” energy of her beloved Italy.
LA DOUBLEJ: You’re known as a bit of a fashion chameleon, but you also have a strong spiritual practice. Has spirituality and wellness always been part of your life, or is it something more recent?
ESTELLE PIGAULT CHEMOUNY: I think I have always been unknowingly spiritual. I’m very chill, I rarely get upset, and am able to see the positive in everything. Even when I got divorced, my friends would say “You never get upset” and I’m just like, “It’s life!” My mum was this way too.
I knew I always wanted to go to India. For years it was in the back of my mind, but I was so scared because I had never taken a trip like that, solo. I had never been single in my life, had never really traveled alone, so it was really a big, kind of scary adventure for me. Then one night in the middle of Paris Fashion Week last fall I just thought “Ok, I’m done with this, I’m fed up, I need to get away. I’m going.” And I just booked a ticket and spent a month there. I went to the Himalayan mountains in the North of India for a completely silent 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat. It was the most insane experience and it really changed my life.
LDJ: What are your favorite wellness spots/ sources around Paris?
EPC: Paris still isn’t quite as spiritual as some other cities yet. To be honest when I need a break I take my phone, the best music and I walk. I just walk, walk, walk. I could walk for three hours. Because I live near the Grand Palais, when it’s sunny I just sit on the quai looking at the water and we have all of these beautiful bridges here and those are the moments when I’m like, “Ok, I kind of like Paris.” I didn’t grow up here, so it’s still like I’m kind of a tourist.
LDJ: How do you unwind in a city like Paris that is so go go go?
EPC: I lived in London for nine years, first in Camden, then in Chelsea, and finally a year in Notting Hill. To be honest, I really hated Paris for a while and only moved back there because I fell in love with a Parisian guy and got married. But it really took a really long time for me to enjoy Paris. I think it’s because I’m from the South of France and people are a bit more chill there.
Something I’ve learned about myself is that, while I’m not lonely, I really like to be alone. I think I’ve always been like this. I have a core group of friends but I’m not the most social person. Sometimes I like to just disappear for two or three days. Tonight, for example – I’ve recently been super busy, traveling a lot, so I have a shaman coming to my place to do a practice, because I need it. For me it’s my luxury – I just disconnect, I switch off my phone, I read. I dunno, that’s what I need.
I realized after doing those ten days in India with no phone, no speaking, not really looking people in the eyes, like the proper Vispassana, that I really didn’t want that kind of digital connection. I didn’t miss it. When I got lost with out a phone I would ask for directions and I could actually meet people, make new friends, join them wherever they were going. But the phone is how so many people meet one another these days. Maybe I’ll be single forever because I don’t use Tinder, who knows!
LDJ: You opened Paradise Garage Store several years ago to highlight undiscovered creative talents. Are there any up-and-coming artists and designers that really inspire you?
EPC: Kenneth Ize. For me, he’s one of the best designers I’ve ever met. He’s from Nigeria, and this guy is just a genius. All of his pieces are handmade in Africa in these beautiful silks and materials.
LDJ: Clearly, you’re someone who isn’t afraid of print and color when it comes to your style. Are your travels what inspire your love of color or have you always been drawn to its energetic properties?
EPC: I’m almost always in color. (I mean, today I am in black because it is disgusting here and I couldn’t think.) But ever since I was little I refused to wear black. Now, from time to time I may wear all black but they have to be super beautiful, interesting pieces, super strong, with super beautiful materials. Like, if I wear black, it’s probably all leather. But when it comes to color, I don’t know. For me, it’s like I have a rainbow in my head, and I want to translate that in my style.
LDJ: You’re like the queen of the mix-and-match closet. You once said people either love your style or they hate it.
EPC: I think a lot of people actually hate it, especially in Paris, they just don’t understand. So often here, if you wear color, it’s a bag or a pair of shoes and that’s it. [the colors] are definitely something that attracted me to La DoubleJ and also that the silhouettes reminded me of pieces that my mum used to wear. She was also really into color and in the South they were really loud with their style which, for me is something that seems to have disappeared in fashion. All the big designers seem to just be selling basic stuff. That’s what I love about La DoubleJ, that you’re doing something different.
I also love the store in Milan. I visited recently and thought, “Oh, my God, I could live in here.” No, really it’s like the most beautiful store I’ve ever seen. It’s so good!
LDJ: That means so much to hear because a lot of love (and color!) went into the creation of the store. Your apartment, too, is this panoply of color and pattern and joy. When designing your home, is it like an ever evolving process or do you like to commit to pieces and then go from there?
EPC: No I definitely like change. There are a few key pieces in my home that I really love, like my crazy leopard chair. It was made for a photo shoot in the seventies, so it’s a unique, one of a kind piece. When I sit in it I feel like a queen. But, I always end up changing my spaces. I make some of my furniture, too. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and be like “I’m going to make a table!” And I change the colors.
LDJ: Wait, you make your own furniture?
EPC: Yes! I’m doing these woodworking courses. Over the past few years I’ve been making mirrors, or I’ll take pieces from around my house that I no longer use and re-purpose them. But, moving forward I’d really like to build and design furniture.
LDJ: That’s amazing!
EPC: Yeah, I spend more money on furniture than on clothes these days!
LDJ: Furniture (particularly here in Milan) can get so expensive.
EC: Oh, so expensive! That’s actually why I started making my mirrors because each time each time I found something I liked online it was like €5000 and I was like, I’m sorry I’m either going to break this or get bored of it. So, I started making my own.
LDJ: Travel is also a big passion for you, and we’ve noticed (spying on Instagram) that you particularly love Puglia. What about Puglia do you love so much?
EPC: I divorced in July and one of my friends from Puglia was just like “book a ticket and come to visit me”. I landed there, went straight to the place we rented near Ostuni, and after two hours I told her “I’m going to live here.” She was like “Really?” And I said “I’m sure of it. I will end up here.” For the first time in my life I felt instantly at home, it was weird. There is a good energy there.
LDJ: Are there spots around Paris that carry that same laid-back, Pugliese “piano, piano” energy?
EPC: For me, Paris is best from April to October when I can simply hang out in the streets or on some random terrace. I don’t go out a lot, but when I do out I go to this place which is quite famous here in Le Marais called Le Saint-Gervais. They have this terrace that has good wine and…not such great food, but there is something about it. I could stay there for like four or five hours.
I find most of the design stores in Paris a bit too classic but I do get inspired by the fashion here. I spend most of my mornings at a vintage store that I’m completely obsessed with called Pretty Box.
It’s really cheesy but I always go to Palais Royale. I take my coffee there and I’m just like “Wow, this is insane.” You feel like you’re in the movies there. I just love it. I love all of the historic monuments here. I’m constantly amazed.
Moulin de la Vierge is another place I love. It’s in front of a little church, it’s really cute. You feel like you’re in a little village.
LDJ: What’s next for you?
EPC: I have a lot of ideas. In November I told myself I would take a three or four-month break, still working but not taking on any new projects. But now I’m working on a retreat with a friend of mine outside of Paris.
When I got divorced I was really low for about three weeks but I was scared to talk about it. My friends could see I was struggling but I was like “I’m ok, I’m ok.” My mother always said, “Never complain.” So I’m used to just going, going, going. At one point I was just like “No, I’m not ok.” And to say it out loud, to share it online, and have such a powerful reaction from women – some that I knew, some that I didn’t – was insane. It was much less about “Oh, poor Estelle” and more like “You helped me.” It was really powerful. I felt useful. So creating this retreat to give other women the confidence to speak their truth is something really good that I’m excited to do. It’ll be really good vibes. There will of course be yoga (if you host a retreat without at least a little bit of yoga, people will be upset) along with some shamanic practices that I’m really passionate about.
LDJ: Finally, when are you heading back to Puglia, and where are you going?!
EC: Each time I go there I end up somewhere new but I’m actually planning to buy a house in Ostuni at some point. I went with my friend Chiara and got a tattoo of the house I’m getting (so I’m committed!) I just feel so good there. I grew up in nature so it’s about going back to my roots and enjoying what I loved when I was little.
Estelle, merci beaucoup for sharing your style, your spirit, and your sparkling Southern soul with us. Ti voglio bene, bella! Fabulous photography courtesy of Iulia Matei