Fabulous Inside and Out
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen Photography by Christian Lee
When I caught up with Sandra Subaciene at Starbucks inside of Kroger on Hilton Head Island, she had walked over from her job behind the Chanel counter at Belk Department Store. Just back from Milan, Italy, where she met her daughter Justina, age 27, who is a fashion advisor in Dubai, for some time together, Sandra started telling me stories of her adventure in the fashion capital of the world during fashion week. “There were celebrities everywhere. Stores would close to allow a star to come shop in private for a few hours. We weren’t there for fashion week, but it was just everywhere,” she said.
Nonetheless, Sandra, whose birth name is Visanda, would fit in at any glamorous event because that’s just how she rolls. I have known Sandra for years, as have many women who have purchased Chanel Cosmetics and received makeup advice from her at Belk. Sandra is tall, blonde, fit and gorgeous. She is from Lithuania, which gives her a fabulous accent. Her makeup is perfect, and she is always well tailored in classic black. In essence, she is the total package on the outside. But guess what? She’s even more fabulous on the inside.
When I asked who she thought was glamorous, she immediately said her friend Marguerite. Then I asked what makes her glamorous? Her answer: “She is outgoing. She is very easy to be friends with. She is a good listener, good advisor and very positive— beautiful inside and outside. In other words, glamour starts from within.
Sandra began her passion for the beauty and fashion industry as a child. “My mother and father had gone out and bought my mother a beautiful dress to wear to a special event. When she pulled her dress out, there was a big hole cut out of the front. I had done that to get fabric to make a dress for my doll. I was only 6-years-old and she was really mad. “However, Sandra's passion for clothes stayed with her all the way to design school, where she learned to make anything and everything and became a master seamstress. After serving as an apprentice for three years in her hometown, she opened a bridal shop, where she made custom, handmade bridal gowns. “I enjoy having creative solutions for the wardrobe, alterations and fashion.” She still does alterations outside her job at Belk and her work is meticulous.
She also has a passion for special occasion makeup and sees beauty in all women. “Each person has a personal beauty. Developing and enjoying your own style, paired with intelligence, passion and a generous spirit makes anyone a beautiful person,” she said. Sandra knows that approaching the Chanel counter can be intimidating but encourages women to not let it. “I want to make every woman happy about herself. It’s really easy. It just takes little things,” Sandra said.
I had to ask if working for Chanel, the most prestigious beauty brand in the world, is as glamorous as it would seem. Sandra’s short answer: Yes! She is privy to Chanel training and seminars and all things Coco. “The beauty and fashion industry is open for everyone. Never be afraid to branch out, try new things, or ask for help. The luxury experience is for anyone who desires it,” Sandra said. And, as Coco Chanel herself once said, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it’s not luxury.”
About a month ago, I stopped to visit Sandra while walking through Belk. I had not put on much makeup that day and was running late to meet friends for dinner. She said, “Sit in my chair. I’ll make you beautiful.” As she made me up, she melted my heart. It was obvious she cared about me, saw beauty in me and wanted me to see the same. I did and my friends noticed, too. They all asked if I had gotten a haircut, or what I had done different, commenting that I looked great. It made me more confident, and according to Sandra, “Confidence is the best accessory a woman can carry.”
“You have to be confident in yourself first. Every woman has good and bad days but you have to pull yourself together and say ‘I can do it.’” If I am having a bad day I put on red lipstick and I go. It makes me feel good,” Sandra said.
What is your favorite color of red? “Passion by Chanel.” Enough said.
Sewing interest inspired by: Her father. He did alterations as a hobby/sidejob.
Favorite fragrance: The new Chanel Gabrielle. “Gabrielle was Coco’s first name.”
Guilty pleasure: I love ice cream. I have a sweet tooth. I’d rather eat dessert than anything.
Hobbies: Snow skiing, working out, traveling, walking on the beach.
Favorite quote by Coco Chanel: “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
Ultimate compliment: When people ask specifically for her at the Chanel counter.