My Favorite...Chanel Belt

Stylist Sophia Banks-Coloma introduces us to her fantastic '80s Chanel chain belt––and to the memories and meaning tied to this timeless accessory, which, as a teenager, she forced her mom to buy.

Source: Sophia Banks-Coloma; Art by Tanya Leigh Washington

In this inaugural installment of "My Favorite____" we connected with stylist extraordinaire Sophia Banks-Coloma, who shared the story behind her favorite belt.

So, tell us about this marvelous belt. "It's amazing, it's just one of those pieces that you have forever. It's like a piece of jewelry. It's so '80s, it's vintage Chanel, it's a gold chain belt, it has three chains that hang down at the front."

How did this belt first come into your life? "I was, no joke, 13 years old, and my mom and I were in Paris and I was way more into fashion than my mom, and I was like, 'You don't own anything Chanel?' And we lived in Australia, it's not like people who went to Beverly Hills High, you know what I mean? But I loved fashion. I used to read Vogue when I was six or seven. So we went into Chanel in Paris, and I made my mom buy this Chanel belt, and this was forever ago. I had no intention of wearing it at that time, I was just like, 'My mom needs to own something Chanel, right?' I was so excited. Later on that trip, we went to the South of France, and I made my parents let me go into Chanel and try on a suit. I was quite tall, at 5'9", so I could fit in the smallest size."

How did the belt make its way back to you? "Years passed where I was 18 or 19, and I was like, 'Who would ever wear that belt,' because it was so '80s. And this was in the '90s when it was minimal Calvin Klein, right? Then, recently, about three or four years ago, I was like, 'I need that belt.' And she was like, 'You can totally have the belt.'"

My Favorite...Chanel Belt

Ha! So the belt came full circle back to your closet. "I got the belt back and I started to wear it over black dresses. I've used it in several photo shoots, I actually was a guest on E! during the Oscars on a panel with Kelly Osbourne, and I wore a black Alexander McQueen jumpsuit and that belt––it's traveled everywhere with me! I wore it to a black tie event over a black jumpsuit, I wore it over a long black Versace dress..."

Sounds like it represents that you've loved fashion forever, and also, your relationship with your mom! What else do you love about it? "I love gold. So, I love that it's gold, and it's a statement: gold chains. It looks like a necklace for your waist. And I've always loved Chanel. I love Coco Chanel, my daughter is called Coco, I've always been a big fan. I'm a fan of what she stood for––her principles, she didn't follow like a sheep, she did what she thought was important. She marched to the beat of her own drum, she did her thing. And she was quite a rebel, and I feel like a rebel sometimes too, so I like that about her."

How cool that your daughter is named Coco. Maybe she'll wear this chain belt, too, someday. "Definitely. I will definitely keep it for her. I have a white Chanel bag, too, that I used at my wedding that I'm keeping for her too––a while plastic clutch."

So when you wear the belt, do you tend to build outfits around it, or throw it on as an afterthought? "Well, it is a statement, where everything else you're wearing has to be subtle, but I just love it, so I'm like, 'good.' It's like a piece. Which is what fashion really should be: pieces that you have forever that make a statement. It's like a piece of art."

My Favorite...Chanel Belt

What's the craziest thing that ever happened to you while you were wearing it? "The most memorable one was when I was a guest on the E! panel, and Ryan Seacrest came over and talked—and I really admire Ryan Seacrest, because I think he has such an incredible work ethic, I'm a big fan—so I was excited that he came over and was on the panel, because he wasn't supposed to be there. That was a really cool moment."

If anyone reading this says, 'Wow I would love a look like this,' can you suggest some ways they could pull off their own version? You mentioned earlier that with such a strong statement piece, everything else has to be really simple. "I wear it over black or navy. The silhouettes have no zippers, no buttons, no details. It's just a black jumpsuit, it doesn't have gold detailing or anything like that. I think it looks cool with just that one thing. Or it's a plain black dress. You can probably find the Chanel stuff on Shopbop, they have vintage Chanel, and there's definitely similar chain belts online, and you can find copies at Zara and places like that. So I would suggest a very simple silhouette, it could be a black top and jeans, it could be a jumpsuit, it could be a long black evening dress, but it can't have a lot of detailing."

When you see that belt hanging in your closet, what thought or feeling pops up? "It makes me smile! Bold is the word I think of. It's definitely a luxury. It's gold, it's bold. And I like to be a little bold with fashion, I don't think you can be shy. And I like being bold."