“I was sure at the age of 16 that I wanted to be in fashion. My grandmother and my mother both made beautiful dresses as a hobby, and my father was an artist. I can confidently say, ‘I was born that way’,” smiles Deborah Sawaf. The 52-year-old is the founder and creative director of Thalé Blanc, a luxury lifestyle brand which focuses on beautifully crafted bags.
Mumbai-born, Deborah lived in Dubai for several years before meeting her husband, Bashar, and moving to LA. It was here that she pursued her design career, studying at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and at the Gemological Institute of America, before turning her eye for embellishments and semi-precious stone adornments into the signature traits of her now lauded accessories line.
From her immaculate hair, to her manicure and everything chic and elegant in between, that same eye for detail is transferred to her impeccable style, and she cites Audrey Hepburn as her definitive style icon. “Her style always complimented her sweet delicate features, at every age,” she says, adding that Thalé Blanc’s Audrey and Audreyette bags are part of the brand’s core collection.
In her wardrobe the luxury add-ons continue to shine in the form of a vintage Chanel jacket adorned with pearls. “I have a weakness for pearls, and Karl Lagerfeld does it best,” she says. Other highlights include “a John Galliano coat from 2001 that makes me feel like a rock star; a Zuhair Murad gold sequinned gown that fits like a glove – his clothing shapes the body better than any other designer I have worn; and a red gown by Nedrat, a Turkish designer whose signature is a delicate mix of tulle and lace.” She also credits the detailed work of Indian designer Sabyasachi as being remarkable, and owns a few exclusive pieces. “To me he is the Karl Lagerfeld of India. His embroidery is exquisite, and he has a unique, priceless talent of mixing colour and texture.”
With such a flawless appearance, it’s surprising to find out that Deborah’s “favourite easy-to-wear style” is in fact very pared-back. “A pair of ripped jeans by True Religion, a large baggy sweater by Zara, Chanel boots, a Gucci or Janavi scarf and a Thalé Blanc handbag,” is what she is most comfortable in. And of course, her Ballon Bleu watch by Cartier.
As a mother of three children, Deborah is equally passionate about philanthropy and instilling such values in her sons, Nicholas, 17, and Omar, 11, and her daughter Talia, 16, who helped Deborah create a product for Thalé Blanc called Flutter of Hope, for which they donated a percentage of proceeds to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. “My business has given me a platform and a voice to make a difference in the areas of children’s philanthropy, and more recently the empowerment of women,” she says, proving Deborah’s winning formula of both style and substance.
Deborah Sawaf wears Sabyasachi dress, Saint Laurent shoes and jewellery, her own.
Photography: Ryan West. Styling: Taryn Brooks. Words: Elaine Lloyd-Jones. Hair And Make-Up: Brendan Robertson @ Stateartistsmgmt Using Hourlass and Kevin Murphy.