Fashion Designer, Teacher, Mentor, New York City.
When I think of classic New York City, women like Mrs. Caroline Simonelli are always part of that vision. She is a legend in the only city that can support that sort of creativity. She does not hold back with questions, opinions and advice because she has seen it all. Her abridged WOW Woman interview cuts to the chase because Caroline explained herself to too many people and does not mince words, or beat around the bush. I believe Mrs. Simonelli when she says that life begins after 50, that she has no regrets and is inspired by talent. She is a woman of action who helped one of her more promising students (Sarah Hermez, also a WOW Woman) start a free fashion school in Beirut, she is a mentor and muse to many of her students at Parsons School of Design and to countless other friends around the globe.
When I did my research on Caroline, I found this in the NY Times archives from April 22, 1994:
“Caroline Simonelli and her husband and business partner, Don Simonelli, had planned to show their fall women's fashion collection on Wednesday, but Mr. Simonelli died two weeks ago of complications resulting from asthma.
The arrangements had been made, the invitations sent out. "I decided there was no choice but to go ahead," Mrs. Simonelli said. "We had a dream and it was beginning to come true. He would have wanted me to carry on. "Planning this got me through the last two weeks, and I know Don would have approved," she continued. "I felt he was here beside me all along."
To me the inspiration, forward looking mentality, strength and resilience are all spelled out in that example. I’m pleased to highlight this fierce (and sassy) 81-year-old.
2. Where is your hometown?
New York City
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
Fashion designer and a teacher/mentor.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?
Living and trying to find the path to right action. I am proud of starting a free school for deserving students in Beirut along with Sara Hermez.
5. What did you study in school?
Parsons School of Design.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
I was widowed at 55; I am now 81.
7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?
I was widowed at 55 I am now 81. I kept on going.
8. Advice for other women?
Life starts again at about 50, so keep on going. Also, say “anything is possible” and it will be!
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values”?
I believe the ability to reach your goal is positive thinking—positive action -not to be negative- and treat your brother or sister like yourself because they are yourself.
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest”
(i.e. where is your happy place)?
I like to sleep when I’m tired.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
I have developed new interest in cooking and awareness of the present moment.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
I am grown up. I plan to continue to spend my time for free education.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
I want to live in the moment and not let fear or anger get in my way.
14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?
15. What inspires you?
16. What are you hopeful about?
The growth of the school THE CREATIVE SPACE BEIRUT.
17. What makes you smile?
My children, my grandchild (Memphis), flowers, chocolate.
18. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Just love. That’s all there is.
19. What is a quality you most love about yourself and why?
I really can’t answer that because I don’t really know. I am not interested in what people do and I don’t have judgement. I am interested in WHY they do what they do.
20. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
Same as I did then: anything is possible.
21. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
Energy and health books now.
22. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description? What would you tell them if you had an opportunity, of why you admire them?
Caggie Bradford, Vice President of Design at Anne Klein. I admire her strength, her courage, her talent, her great heart of love. I admire Maggie Simonelli and her talent. Sara Hermez, for the same reason!
23. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?
Google is good and the '“Creative Space Beirut” also.