How I Shop: Sabrina Elba

Sabrina Elba during <em>Paris Fashion Week</em> Fall 2024.<p>Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images</p>
Sabrina Elba during Paris Fashion Week Fall 2024.

Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

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We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

Sabrina Elba was already an advocate, ambassador and red-carpet force before she expanded her reach even further in 2022, by founding S'able Labs, a genderless skin-care brand she developed with her husband, Idris Elba.

"I created a brand that's specifically catered to me. That's kind of the benefit of starting your own brand: It's exactly what you need and want," she tells Fashionista. She admits that she developed S'able Labs similarly to how she has developed her personal style: "I tend to be super consistent. I don't veer from S'able Labs unless I have an extra need for a product, kind of like an accessory. I think that speaks to my personal style because I need it to be efficient. One of the reasons I love streetwear is because it's quick and easy — you don't need help with a zipper or anything."

<p>Photo: Courtesy of S'able Labs</p>

Photo: Courtesy of S'able Labs

Given her lifestyle, it makes sense that when she's off the clock, she leans into comfort. (Even high fashion-loving, red carpet aficionados need a breather from it all sometimes.) "I'm definitely a glam-on, glam-off type of person," Elba laughs. "I'll be super glam on a carpet one day, but you should see me right now — I'm 100% in sweatpants and wellies."

Below, the 34 year-old discusses her VIP Net-a-Porter status, the pieces she's putting aside for her future daughter, how her Somali heritage influences her style and much more.

"I think I was a late bloomer in finding my fashion identity, partly because I was quite shy growing up. It took me a while to figure out what I liked, as opposed to what my older sister or my friends at school liked. My unique sense of taste didn't come until a little bit later.

"I was very easily influenced by the people around me, so I would pick up styles based on what my girlfriends liked or what was trending. In the interview for my first retail job at Aritizia, I was asked what my personal style is and how I define it — I was like, 'I don't know,' and they told me I needed to figure that out. So I started shopping and loving it.

"When I was 21, I started learning about different designers and really had my first fashion awakening. A French designer named Roland Mouret asked me to model for him, and I was like 'Oh my god, what? I don't know how to do that.' But I had such a great time. One thing led to another, and it was a cover, then a shoot, then a brand campaign. I didn't wake up one day and go, 'Oh, I'm going to be a model.' It was more like, 'I love fashion. How can I be more involved?' It was an accidental career.

Sabrina Elba attends the Schiaparelli Haute Couture Spring 2024 show in Paris.<p>Photo: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images</p>
Sabrina Elba attends the Schiaparelli Haute Couture Spring 2024 show in Paris.

Photo: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

"One of my favorite pieces I've ever worn was what I wore to the most recent Schiaparelli show. It's this gorgeous two-piece linen set. It was kind of crinkled and looked a bit like gauze. It has leather trimming and gold details — I felt like my mom when I was wearing it, which sounds like that wouldn't be good, but it's because she holds herself so gracefully and confidently. I felt quite elegant in a way that I don't very often.

"My mom has always been very sure of herself. She walks into a room and everyone knows she's there. If she wears something, she wears it with full confidence. I think that outlook has absolutely shaped how I see a piece. If I'm going to buy it, it has to make me feel confident. I put that before trend or giving into a fleeting style. If I feel beautiful in something, I'm more inclined to wear it and purchase it. Clothing definitely has to resonate with me emotionally.

"One of my favorite red-carpet looks was the 2019 Met Gala, when the theme was 'Camp: Notes on Fashion.' Donatella [Versace] helped me design this pink sequin number that had the best corset ever in it. We matched the hair to the dress, too. It's funny because I think I loved the process of designing it more than I did wearing it. I definitely have things that make me feel prettier in them, but that dress was such a creative expression.

Idris and Sabrina Elba at the 2019 Met Gala.<p>Photo: Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic</p>
Idris and Sabrina Elba at the 2019 Met Gala.

Photo: Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic

"I don't really have a go-to bag. I switch them up so often. I do love traveling bags for carrying my things at the moment. I've got a small Rimowa that I love to check in — it's really quite cute. For everyday wear, I've been using a giant Gucci Jackie bag in black with silver hardware, which is funny, because I used to be a small handbag girl, but now, I have too much to carry.

"When I'm not on a red carpet, I love playing with men's clothing. I mostly enjoy comfy, baggy clothes. I really like street style and athleisure for my every day. I love not wearing makeup and keeping my hair simple. I tend to be a much more minimal person on the daily.

"My Somalian heritage definitely inspires my style. It's all about color. Bright, bright color. When I dress in brighter colors I remind myself of my culture. If you go to a Somali wedding, people are wearing purples and golds and greens — it's like a rainbow exploded. If you look at my Instagram, I probably wear mostly black outfits, so I'm not typically a huge color person. But when I do, I tend to reach for those shades that remind me of back home.

<p>Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage</p>

Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage

<p>Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage</p>

Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage

"Nowadays when I'm shopping, I buy to archive. If I see a piece in a collection that I find astonishing, I'll think, 'Oh, I can archive this and one day pass it down to my daughter, if I have a daughter.' I do love the idea of fashion as art, so I'm very considered.

"This past season, I really loved that Saint Laurent sheer collection. I just don't know how I would wear it. I think Idris would be pretty pissed off if I was constantly in sheer clothes, but I love it. I want to be that girl. I don't know who that girl is or where she's going, but I do love it.

"I have a pair of vintage Levi's jeans that I love and wear all the time and a pair of Tibi jeans that are super baggy. I also have this Bottega Intrecciato shirt — it's a green leather button-up that's done in the same style as their woven handbags. I'm just obsessed with it. I love my Martine Rose sweatpants, too.

"When I'm doing my skin-care routine in the morning, I love a good robe. I tend to steal hotel robes, but I don't think it's stealing. I'm pretty sure they charge you for it — I hope they do. I took one recently from a stay in Dubai that I've been wearing all around the house. I also have a Skims classic lounge pajama set.

Sabrina and Idris Elba attend the Gucci Fall 2024 menswear show in Milan.<p>Photo: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci</p>
Sabrina and Idris Elba attend the Gucci Fall 2024 menswear show in Milan.

Photo: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Gucci

"I tend to shop in bunches. I shop accessories a lot more. I use the Net-a-Porter app a lot. I'm a VIP on there. I find it very convenient, plus they have great buyers. MyTheresa also has a great selection. If I'm honest, I don't love shopping in-store. I feel a bit flustered.

"I recently bought a new pair of Louboutins, and the heel is so interesting. I saw them on the Ludovic de Saint Sernin runway in New York and was like, 'I need that Loub.' I also have my eyes on a Loewe silk maxi gown in chocolate brown — it's in the VIP section on the Net-a-Porter app.

"The first nice thing I remember buying was a Saint Laurent bag. I don't remember the name of it, but it was shaped kind of like a Birkin. They don't make it anymore. I actually gave it to my sister because she loved it so much, but she's destroyed it. I'm very good at keeping things looking new, and she's not. I never wanted to let her borrow things growing up."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. In no way does this affect our editorial decision-making.

Homepage photo: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images

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