Known for her iconic taste and work as a Stylist, Sissy Sainte-Marie exudes an effortless air of sophistication and nostalgia. We sat down with her at her home in Los Angeles where she shared what its like to work with less rules, her choice to avoid status symbols and how she’s stayed inspired through quarantine.
Where are you from?
I am originally from a small town in Central California, Porterville. I moved here around 20 years ago, maybe 23 now. Transitioning from a small to big city was great. I loved it. It took some getting used to but I met some really nice people right away.
What made you start styling?
I started styling around 8 years ago. I was a school teacher and my husband Eddie and I dabbled in music. We moved to Berlin for a year in 2010. When we moved back, I didn’t have my teaching job anymore and didn’t know what to do. I started selling vintage clothing online and then at fairs. People asked to borrow my vintage pieces for their shoots and Eddie transitioned from music to photography. I would style with him and my career evolved from there.
Have the two of you always collaborated creatively?
Absolutely. He encouraged me to pursue my creative side and give up teaching which wasn’t really my calling. It (working together) can be hard, but we really wouldn’t have it any other way. We make it work.
Where does your creative process begin?
I think about the essence of whatever I’m working with, whether it's a model or piece of clothing and how to bring that essence out. I think about it a lot, and then I get to work.
Are there any places specifically that you pull inspiration from or that you continue to go back to?
I’m always bookmarking things that resonate with me that I can go back to. If I can look at it ten years later and still like it, it passes the test. I love color, texture or shape, soft curves and cream…things that give a sense of balance, calm and serenity.
Do you feel like your taste extends through every aspect of your life?
It does. With my taste or the things that I have a preference for, it comes out in my space, my wardrobe, in jewelry or the questions I have in life. Everything kind of comes back to having a sense of balance and calmness. I’m kind of a high strung person, I like so many things and want to act on every idea, so I am always looking for something to ground me. My taste is defined by that search for balance and calmness.
What “failures” do you cherish?
I cherish all of the failures where I tried and things didn’t work out, or they weren’t a good fit or doors were slammed in my face. Now, I don’t have to live with the regret of never trying and I can learn from my mistakes. I’ll give something a try, but I also listen to the universe and when something isn’t meant for me, I can let it go.
What do you get most excited about creatively in this time. Quarantine has been a huge transition, but what excites you?
It’s been an interesting, isolating year, but what’s excited me the most is using my skill set to be helpful to smaller brands. In the first few months of quarantine I created content for some stores and designers here; I wrote a bit and did DIY photoshoots with Eddie. It’s been exciting to have certain constraints and work within a box in some ways, but also less restrictions and less rules in others. It feels good to be creative and helpful.
What is your relationship with jewelry?
I’m pretty minimal with jewelry. I love the look of stacked bracelets and huge necklaces on other people like Catherine Baba and Diane Vreeland, but when I’ve tried to recreate it on myself I find it a lot to keep up with. I like pieces that make a statement, but aren’t overpowering. I like hoops because they create that sense of balance I’m so drawn to. I’m not so into status jewelry where it’s the thing to have. I don’t know anything about watches or Cartier or Rodeo Drive. I’m not an initiate into that world at all. I just like things that feel very me. I like it to be personal and come from me, not from what is judged as acceptable.
What do you like to do outside of work?
At the moment, I listen to listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts.
The usual suspects like The Daily, Fresh Air, Stuff You Should Know, 99% Invisible, Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – it’s this funny take on subjects that sound like conspiracy theories, but that actually happened throughout history. I love to hear other peoples stories: biographies, autobiographies. I like to learn how other people approach life and see life – maybe learn how to navigate my own life. There’s a Ram Dass podcast. I think it is hosted by one of his students. It will be recorded lectures that he gave throughout the years. I’ll throw that one on when I don’t know what else to listen to.
Have your priorities shifted this year?
I love being able to slow down and reuse and reduce. I was so busy with work and was using plastic out of convenience. Now I have more time. I can slow down, wash and cut my own vegetables. I don’t need to buy them prepackaged. I’m shopping on Amazon less. I want to give local businesses my money. Otherwise, I think my priorities have stayed the same. I’ve just had more time to focus on them; practice them. Early on in quarantine I felt like I was having epiphanies and realizations.
What are you curious about?
How to feel, how to forgive, how to move forward, how to find truth, how to stay true to who we are, whether there's any hope for humanity and what happens when we die.
Where do you find meaning?
I find meaning in doing things with joy, especially things I hate – cleaning my house, doing the dishes. I love cooking. I find meaning in discomfort that leads to positive transformation.
Photography by Jaclyn Campanaro
From top of the article down, Sissy wears: The Gold Bar and Carre Diamond Staircase Drop Earrings, the Compass Signet Ring, the Tigers Eye and Gold Bar Necklace, the Large Pave Diamond Hoops, the Modern Byzantine Black Spinel Necklace, the Large Carre Diamond Bracelet, the Pave and Baguette Diamond Band