I must have gotten here at exactly the right time, because the light in Nicole’s Hollywood apartment is wrenchingly beautiful. You don’t get light like this in New York. Somehow it’s softer here, and in a relentless state of out-of-focus sheerness. And though Nicole’s perfect look elicits nothing but tenacious femininity she too, is like a feather. She greets me barefoot and walks soundlessly on the wooden floor, dressed in a plush moss green mohair sweater and high wasted plaid pants, her nails painted a deep, seductive red, and asks me elated but reserved, in her sweet, honeydew voice, if I enjoyed the Rosebowl flea market. I did, I answer. But it’s easy to forget the hapless heaps of vintage-by-the-pound when there’s a nearby wardrobe brimming with color, pattern and prim.
Nicole Simone just finished shooting the video for her first release since the hiatus. “I haven’t performed in over a year,” she says, clearly nervous. “I took last year off from playing shows to hone in on a new direction for my music. I scrapped a lot of songs I recorded and spent the year mostly writing.” Her early music was “smokey and bluesy with a strong New Orleans influence, but in the past few years I’ve been inspired by something different, a little more exotic.” She gets most her musical inspiration from old films – “I’ve loved them since I was a child. I wanted to be an actress.”
Nicole is pretty much the package deal. Because her sense of style embodies the very essence of her sound, albeit an exaggerated version of the day-to-day woman she plays. “The French and Italian sex kittens and bombshells from the 50s and 60s like Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Monica Vitti always made the biggest impression on me and I think they have the most alluring look. I love a cat eye, a cinched waist and a full skirt. It is the most flattering on my figure as I’m petite but very curvy. Also the music I’m influenced by was made mostly in the 5os and 60s and when I’m in a phase, I’m deep in it.” Fashion and vintage are therefor in her veins. “I pretty much always wear vintage for performances. It tends to be the most dramatic and distinct. I tailor a lot of my clothes to fit how I like, I love a high-waisted skirt with a sliver of exposed midriff. And I love bold earrings. I like the juxtaposition: I sing softly and quite intimately, but my clothes are much louder than my voice.”
As the afternoon goes on, and the sun has casts her spell more vigorously, I find out that there is also a Mister Simone. But he doesn’t live here. He’s in Alabama. And though one would hardly call that a long distance relationship, I wonder if and how it works. “We are both very dedicated to our dreams,” she smiles, “so our time apart allows us to focus on our work. And I love being able to spend time in the South. The pace, the humidity, the charm of it all, I cherish it. My mom is from Alabama as well so the essence of The South resides somewhere deep in my soul.” Nicole’s boyfriend is a preppy Southern gentleman, to the core – he wears striped button-downs and navy blazers, “classic and timeless, just like vintage is!” – but despite his conservative affections he’s the biggest fan of her otherworldly, 50s creations. “I love how feminine he makes me feel, like such a lady. I find myself dressing like a real Southern Belle around him.”
It doesn’t take me long to realize that Nicole’s style decisions are inspired by a strong sense of nostalgic transportation, both in time and space. She blames her love for Dolce & Gabbana for instance on her Sicilian heritage: “The imagination! The whimsy! The inherent Italian-ness of it all! I’m half Sicilian so it’s in my blood to worship Dolce with all my heart. They are true visionaries. Their clothes make me feel like an Italian screen siren!” And look at the way she decorated her apartment. It was the first place she moved into since she left the parental home. And she’s still there. The decor has something to do with her living in France for a while: “I am a Francophile through and through and wanted this place to look like a French girl’s Hollywood apartment in the 1960’s who weekends in Palm Springs. As I said, I love whimsicality, in decor as well as fashion, and the French are the masters of that. I also have an affinity for mid century California design. I love going to all the furniture stores in Palm Springs and finding those pieces that feel like they came straight out of Frank Sinatra’s old living room.” She also lists her own mother as a style icon: “My mother is the chicest woman I know and gave me a true appreciation for it from a very early age. She always looks beautifully put together and has true, innate style.” Or in Tales of Endearment essence: “I love women with confidence and a strong sense of themselves that defies trend…”