Originally published in L’Officiel Malaysia April 2016.
With equal parts style and excitement, the beauty of the inimitable Mae Lapres goes beyond the runway and the spreads of a glossy, and into her everyday personal style. And really, only she can pull off a mushroom hat (and yes, that did happen.) Now approaching her 24th year, the French Canadian-Chinese model talks about her personal style, from childhood quick-changes to her love for vintage clothes, as well as her thoughts on French style.
How would you describe your personal style?
Well, I wouldn’t describe my style as Paris inspired because it can really change from one hour to another. And not because I’m on set wearing someone else’s clothes, but because I just have a very big wardrobe. When I was younger, I used to change two to three times a day. My mom would call me for lunchtime, and I’d be like, “Hey, do you need bread? I could go out and get bread.” And then I would put on a new outfit. And then she would ask me to take out the trash, and I’d say, “Yes, I can.” And then it was time for a new outfit again. But really, I would say to anyone who has watched “Gossip Girl,” that the best way to describe where my style came from is sort of like the character Jenny.
I can see it. Do you ever find yourself upcycling vintage clothes too?
Yeah, well I used to do that around the end of high school. And it is really nice because that’s a way to not give up your clothes. Something you really liked and you don’t want to throw it away, but at the same time it’s home. And you’re not wearing it, but then you give it a second life. I’ve had a jacket like this that I’ve really liked, and I sewed on two big Converse shoes as shoulder pads. And the laces from the shoes are on now on the back, laced up like a corset. But it’s open and loose.
You were wearing shoes as shoulder pads?
Yeah, I’m sure you can find pictures of it on the Internet. Like, I was wearing it at Fashion Week and stuff, you know? Oh, and that’s a game I do during Fashion Week: I always try to find something very eccentric to wear that’s very bad taste. So, for example, I had a lot of fun two seasons ago when it was -20 degrees in New York City. I had a big hat, and it was a mushroom – like a real mushroom, like Toad in the Super Mario Bros. game. I found it in a costume shop around Christmas one year. It was a big, red mushroom with white dots on it.
Wow, shopping at costume shops. That’s new!
Yeah, why not? I’m sure you can find very cool glasses there.
And where do you like to do most of your shopping in Paris?
Oh, that’s very hard, but I would probably say the best shopping is done at the garage sales. When you buy from people, rather than in shops. They pop up on the streets on Sundays, and you have the big ones around the town halls. You can find anything, from €3 to maybe €20. You can get anything, really.
I can imagine! So tell me about the type of style you’re attracted to most.
There’s actually a documentary that came out about older ladies in Manhattan, “Advanced Style.” That’s amazing! These are the people I look at when I’m in Manhattan.
And Iris Apfel?
Oh, of course! But she’s not just a normal person anymore. She’s the top. Oh, and I love her glasses!
Would you say she’s an icon of yours?
Oh, totally! Of course. Well, Iris, and I really love Peggy Moffitt. She’s definitely one of my style icons. I discovered her when I was looking into bobs (because I had a bob cut for seven or eight years). And I was looking for it and other ways you had the bob, and then I discovered Peggy Moffitt. But I was in high school, you know? I didn’t know who “Peggy Moffitt” was, and when I saw her I thought, “Wow, I need to keep this haircut. I need to stick to it.” So that’s what I did until everyone started cutting it, and then I just decided to let it grow, which is a bit sad. But everyone has to grow up at some point. [Laughs.] But Peggy didn’t!
Iris didn’t either, and that’s how we get “advanced style.” Well, how would you describe the style in Paris?
[Pause.] I would say it’s boring. But it has its identity and a story as well. You have your icons that describe the French – and especially the Parisian – style: Jane Birkin, Catherine Deneuve and all of these people Nicolas Ghesquière from Louis Vuitton looks at. To me, they are French style. It’s not just about a way to express yourself anymore, it’s also an attitude; French style is a way of living. It’s a total package: “You are Parisian. You are wearing that striped T-shirt, that skinny, high-waist jean and you have these low boots and that little whatever bag. Then you go café and you have your coffee at 10:00 a.m., your wine at 5:00 p.m. You have your croissant, your cigarette, your whatever.” It’s a lifestyle. So it is boring, but it’s also many levels at the same time.