Style Counsel: Cole Imperi’s Spirited, Intentional Style Has a Color, and It’s Lilac

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Occupation: Thanatologist; public health educator; and podcast host
Style: Spirited with intention

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

You have a strong personal aesthetic. What informs it?
My work in thanatology—the study of death and dying—has actually taught me a lot about style, surprisingly. My view is that fashion is a body thing, and style is a soul thing. Style is what the soul likes to wear. We shouldn’t waste any of our time fighting against that. Because essentially that is pushing back against your own soul, against yourself. It really is an act of self-love and self-acceptance to embrace what it is that you like.

There’s this idea that end-of-life stuff would be dour. But you and your style embody so much spirit and life.
In the United States, we are death-avoidant. We have this really weird relationship to it, and that’s represented in media typecasts. But endings are actually beginnings. And beginnings are fresh. On New Year’s Eve, a lot of people like to wear sequins and things that reflect light and are sparkly. It’s the end of the year, but really we’re focusing on the beginning of a new one. And we need to apply that to all types of death.

If you had to choose one color palette for the rest of your life?
The color lilac is really important to me. It’s representational of my work. After Victorian women were in full mourning and had to wear black every day for a whole year, the first color that was acceptable to wear to say, Hey, I’m not in the deepest darkest days, but I’m also not back to normal, was lilac or mauve. That is my primary color. And white, because of the new-beginning emphasis. Then a few other colors that I pair with that, which are chartreuse, a bright burnt fiery orange, and navy blue.

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