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Before Hannah Simone arrived in Hollywood and landed the role of Cece Parekh, best friend of Zooey Deschanel‘s Jessica Day on New Girl, the London-born actress lived around the world with her parents (her father is Indian and her mother is half Greek, half German-Italian), having called London, Cyprus, New Delhi and Vancouver home.
Her globe-trotting experiences have undoubtedly given her an open mind, if not a sense of responsibility to dispense her worldly wisdom on Twitter with free — and equally witty — tips (Her most recent advice? “Free tip: if you are going to compliment a woman don’t start with how great her calves look”). If there’s another lesson traveling has taught her, it’s certainly to have fun with fashion. “I don’t have one particular style,” notes Simone, who instead dresses according to her mood on any given day — wisdom passed down from her mom, a fashion designer who always allowed the actress to embrace her own ensembles.
Whether it’s attending the Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice or sitting front row at New York Fashion Week, Simone pulls off a refined, off-duty-model look with ease, not unlike her New Girl character (who, coincidentally, is a working model). With the Fox series now back for season four, we met up with the 34-year-old star to chat about how she scores her fashion finds, what she thought of her first-ever Fashion Week experience and what she’s enjoying most about New Girl‘s latest season (Cece and Schimdt are hanging out again!) so far.
We saw that you attended your first Fashion Week — tell us about that.
It was incredible. It’s always so great when you get to experience something new for the first time. I went to the Monique Lhuillier show and that was such a beautiful show. It was such an experience, and then I went to a dinner she held afterward. The designer [Lhuillier] was just so lovely and genuinely interested in our feedback and what we liked. It was just such an honest and organic experience.
What are some other designers you love?
Peter Pilotto — I wore a great outfit they designed; I was a huge fan. I’m wearing a Ted Baker dress today for an event, and I love how fresh and feminine their clothes are and the way they fit so beautifully.
How would you describe your everyday style?
I don’t have one particular style — I grew up all over the world and so I was always like, “Oh I like this piece of jewelry I found in a market in Saudi or I like this scarf I found in India.” And I went to Camden Market when I was in London, so when I look through my closet, it kind of reflects all the experiences I’ve had in my life. I kind of did that with my rings today.
Tell us about your rings.
This is a ring [points to knotted ring] a very dear friend gave to me so we’re always tied together — I thought of them today. This ring [points to dainty gold ring], Zooey [Deschanel] gave to me at the end of season three. And these two rings, I found at the Hoof and the Horn, which is this tiny little great store in Yucca [Valley] and I really liked them and thought they were sweet. I remember I was with a friend when I went and bought these and I was thinking about them today. It’s funny how I put them on and they always tell a bit of a story. It’s like when I look down, it’s about friends. I rarely wear something that I don’t have some sort of connection to [them].
How was your transition in L.A. and how did that translate with your style?
When I first moved here, I had a job for about eight weeks, which was great. It was for a wonderful company and I met a lot of lovely people, but then I didn’t really work for about a year so I became really familiar with all the markets in town, so I spent a lot of time at the Melrose Trading Post on Fairfax, searching for finds. My mom is a designer, so she’d always take me to all these markets when I was young and I realized, you can find great stuff that’s unique and you can bargain and get a great deal, so I know how to do that too, which was kind of nice that I didn’t have to compromise on fashion because I had this unique skill set that my mom taught me.
Do you still apply those skills?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I have a pretty good eye of knowing what something is actually worth. My mom used to sell her clothes in a market too. I’ve been in the stalls selling things before. My house is like that too. If you look at all my furniture — a lot of my art is found in markets.
Would you say your mom influenced the way you dress? Describe her style.
Absolutely. My mom, well, she’s half Greek, half German-Italian; born in England. She’s just a nomad. She loves Middle Eastern style, Indian style, so much so that she ended up having Indian babies. (Laughs.) She was kind of great that way. She’d be like, “If you felt like wearing a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a ball cap, and the next day you want to wear a beautiful Indian vintage Rajasthani dress with a tank top, that’s fine.” You don’t have to be one thing and that applied to my profession. If you look at the jobs that I’ve had, the way that I dress, the way that I’ve moved around — you wake up and you see what you feel. It’s funny because I have people ask me that: “What’s your style?” I don’t know how I’m going to feel on that day.
Tell us about today’s outfit.
I feel like this outfit is pretty good for day-to-night. If you wore this with flats without the sweater, you could run around town in it. The skirt is from Topshop, the top is from American Apparel, the shoes are Ted Baker and this [points to sweater] is a find from Espionage — one of my favorite stores on Beverly [Boulevard] — it’s vintage Alexander McQueen. I call it the perfect flying sweater, like if you wear it on a plane, you don’t look like a total slob.
So earlier this year, we chatted with Zooey and she told us that she named a dress after you.
She did! I wore it to the launch. I feel like she told me well in advance and it didn’t seem real. It already seems crazy that your friend is launching a fashion collection and that they’re going to name a dress after you. The whole thing seemed surreal.… That was actually really cool to wear the Hannah dress to the party. It was perfect for me. The style was perfect for my body. It’s a great “Hannah” dress.
Would you consider launching your own line or doing a collab?
I think so. My whole background has been with my mom and fashion.
Does your mom have her own label?
She had her own set of stores called Indian Treasure in Cyprus for about 20 years, but she had her own clothes and designed them all, had them made in India. Again, she was very open — she had a really unique demographic of people that was shopping in Cyprus. Fusion fashion — that’s what I’m inspired by, taking all these different cultures and then trying to put it together that a girl here would love to wear.
Of all the places you’ve lived, which city’s fashion are you particularly drawn to?
I love when I go back to London. I love how the girls dress there. I feel, also, because of the climate and the fact that everyone uses transportation underground — it gets hot when you go inside, cold when you go outside, so people have really great layers, which is really nice. Also, I grew up with that so I have an affinity toward it.
Do you have any particular fashion heroes?
You know, I’m just a really big fan of street style. When I went to New York for Fashion Week, it was great to watch everyone on the runway and see all the beautiful clothes and to get ideas, but again, I think it’s just about being open and looking around. There were so many great outfits that people had just put together and that’s where I get a lot of my ideas from and how I want to dress.
Would you say you’ve got similar taste to Cece?
I feel like Cece has some got some pretty good style. I don’t think they’d be able to get me into something that I didn’t think looked good. I guess, in a way, we have that connection. They try to keep things pretty simple and chic, which I really like. I really wanted Cece to have that model-off-duty look.
What can we expect from Cece this season?
We’re on episode eight right now. I love the fact that’s there’s no weird tension or drama. It’s just about the friends coming together, figuring their lives out, helping each other out and being put in really bizarre situations that are really funny, like being stoned at a barbecue. So that’s great, we get to play with the comedy of it and figure ourselves out. And I’m getting to do a lot with Max Greenfield, which is really nice because last season they kept us apart. It’s nice to see Cece and Schmidt doing things together again.
1. American Apparel top
2. Topshop skirt
3. Various rings
3. Ted Baker shoes
Hannah Simone was photographed by Amy Dickerson at The Little Door in Los Angeles.
to suit a lot of different women,” said Deschanel.”]
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Tracee Ellis Ross