November 16, 2017

Debra Rapoport is a New York City-based Instagram style star, hat maker, and artist. Although she's been building on her textured, layered style since the 1960s, she only recently started sharing her looks on social media, after her photographer friend Denton Taylor encouraged her to sign up for an Instagram account. She creates the magic, while he takes most of the photos. 

Did you know that Debra is a SUMARIS ambassador? We were thrilled to have the chance to interview Debra about her style.

How and when did you first become interested in fashion? 

I remember dressing and doing what I love since I was three years old. I was encouraged by my mother and grandmother to express myself! It was never considered frivolous!

If you could give fashion advice to yourself at a younger age, what would it be? 

I just keep doing what I have always done. Nothing much has changed over the decades except getting freer from self judgement with each decade.

At what point in your life did you develop your signature style? 

I was always into color, texture, and layering. As a young woman, I didn't love my body, so layering was a natural way to hide and alter the shape and keep it interesting. Since the 1970s I was calling it my A/B/C: Assembling, Building, and Constructing on this form called my body.

In a sentence, how would you describe your style? 

Eclectic, creative, and sculptural.

Tell us about your hat making. 

I've been making things for the body since the 1960s, always using non-traditional and discarded materials. I've always thought hats were important because they "frame the face". That is true of neck pieces, boas, bibs and epaulets.Now I've been making hats for the past four years from Viva Paper towels. They're very cloth-like, so they can be easily manipulated. And they take paint beautifully.

Editor’s note: you can purchase one of Debra’s hats by messaging her on Instagram, where she posts many photos of herself wearing her hats, or email her at waitandsee2 [at] gmail [dot] com.

What are some qualities and characteristics of an ideal accessory? 

Boldness, so it makes a statement on the body. The scale has to work with the size of your shoulders, chest. face, height, etc. A little trinket, to me, is not fun! The elements and materials from which the accessory was created should be unique and eye catching. Color is another important element in an accessory. 

When and why did you first launch your Instagram account?

It was launched June 2016. My photographer friend Denton Taylor encouraged (insisted) and assisted me in getting it going. He now photographs me regularly, so I can post! It is a wonderful collaboration. I love sharing because it is a creative way to express what I am doing each day.

What do you like most about sharing your photos on Instagram?

I love that others are encouraged to step out and step up to their creative selves. Why not make getting dressed a creative and vital act at any age? It keeps our spirit alive to feel good by OUR OWN STANDARDS, not by the media or the fashion industry’s standards.

Do you have any fashion pet peeves?

I don't like t-shirts and jeans.

They say nothing. Jeans are stiff and cold in winter and hot in summer. Why would I pay $500 for someone to make holes or slits in something when I could do a more authentic job? Why not dress the way YOU feel best and for your body, not in what the industry tells you is TRENDY? That's all about conspicuous consumption!

What are some of your favorite brands? 

Very few because I don't shop or read fashion magazines. Commes des Garcons, Issey Miyake, and Rick Owens.

Who are your fashion icons? 

Tilda Swinton. She is her own person. She’s always stunning and never looks "Hollywood"! 

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