Style Profile: Style to Simplicity (Kali from The Nife en l'Air)


For the third installment of the style profile series Kali from The Nife en l'Air shares details on her own curating beginnings and, in particular, how her quest for a style that was more in tune with her personality led her on an all-encompassing journey of self-discovery. Check out her blog for more thoughts on simplicity in life and style.

Enter Kali.

The beginning

It all began in Spring 2011, when a close series of events and remarks from peers made me realize there was a huge gap between my personality and the image people had of me because of my physical looks and style. This was a tumultuous period of my life, with quite a low self-esteem, and I started to wonder if this lack of harmony between my "external self" and "internal self" was one of the causes for that.

But it was also the beginning of a self-exploration journey, through style searching and, as I would soon discover, much more.

How I got into wardrobe editing

After this first realization sank in, I decided to rethink my whole wardrobe. After all, if my external image didn't correspond to who I was, then I needed to change this image.

I first started by analyzing my current style and why I was dressing that way. I realized that I chose a lot of clothes to hide complexes rather than to express my personality. So I decided to change it completely and try to find a style I would feel comfortable in, that would match my taste and personality.

I basically had to start from zero, since I had no clue what I really liked. It is a bit as if you suddenly decided to find out all about music and listened to tons of albums to figure out which musical style was your cup of tea.

Then, it was about re-building my wardrobe from scratch. I had to decide what to keep, what to toss, what to replace. I stumbled upon the French blog Une Chic Fille, who had done a series of videos about decluttering and wardrobe building. It became the basis of a process I started to document on my blog in the summer of 2011.

The road to simplicity

There is a very systematic side in my personality, and when I decide to pursue an objective, I have to document myself on the subject first. Wardrobe editing wasn't different, and in my research I found a book called l'Art de la Simplicité (the Art of Simplicity) by Dominique Loreau. She has a motto of quality over quantity, enjoying the little pleasures of life, surrounding oneself with objects of a high utilitarian and aesthetical value, for the wardrobe, but also interior decoration, choice of hobbies, food…

Besides, her philosophy is very inspired by Japanese culture and traditions, like the tea ceremony, floral arrangement and other traditional arts. I lived in Japan for one year from 2006 to 2007, and had already been moved by their particular notions of aesthetics, enhancing beauty by stripping it to its bare essentials, subliming ordinary and fleeting things.

This book resonated with me so much, I went on a quest to simplify not only my wardrobe, but also my life in general. This approach helped me rediscover myself, because clutter is often a way to shield ourselves from many unconscious things. And that in turn, helped me find and refine my own style as I knew myself better.

My style today

I have now defined the style I feel good in, bien dans mes basket as we say in French. The basis is very simple: skinny trousers (chinos or jeans), a slightly draped top, ankle boots or flat shoes (oxfords or ballerinas), leather bag and belt.

From there, I have learnt to add some accessories and details to change the finish of my outfit and make it more personal: I wear warm colours in shades of brown, green and gray, I like "oriental" style jewelry with silver and natural stones, and I have always had a particular affinity for natural fabrics, in particular leather, soft and supple, cotton, linen and silk.

Of course, my style is rooted in various inspirations and tendencies. To name the major ones, my style basics stem a lot from gamine and androgynous styles, and French staples like Saint James marinières and Repetto Richelieu zizi oxfords. Because of my travels, I also draw a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture and art, Indian, Southeast Asian and Moroccan colours and prints, but also the natural simplicity of a more minimalist style: off-white linen shirts, simple black tees and silk scarves.

Thanks to this initial style searching process, I am now exploring a lot of musings and questions around simplicity in style and in life, happiness and contentment, collecting ideas from minimalist theories, Japanese culture and Asian philosophies and religions like Buddhism and what we call "zen" in western cultures. Back in 2011, I would never have guessed that something as frivolous as wardrobe editing would lead to such interesting and life-changing questions.