How to ride the Paris retro

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:15pm


When Tse Yuen-man quit her job as an architect, the next thing she did was throw out everything in her wardrobe - except her vintage collection.

'When I first started working in the corporate environment, I found it hard to blend in. Also, I had just come back to Hong Kong,' says Tse, of Chinese descent but born in Paris.

Back then her wardrobe was that of a typical office worker, she says. But when she launched her fashion brand, Magnan & Tse, two years ago, she finally embraced her own style - and her real self. Her designs project a sensual and mysterious muse. Clothes are plumped with digital prints of flowers and hand-stitched embellishments made out of metal chain. She has just launched a line of luxury basics this season, including the red-and-black tank top she's wearing on the day of the interview.

'I design for independent, urban women,' she says. 'My style is pretty casual, and I'm really focused on function when I invest in clothes. Because I'm making things all the time, I have to be in comfortable clothes.'

Flawless porcelain dolls are not to her liking; rather, she admires the imperfection of French style icons such as Jane Birkin and her model daughter, Lou Doillon, with their bed-tousled hair.

'My style is pretty casual - boyish but not tomboy,' she says. 'I adore that sense of effortlessness and leaving a little room for flaws. The high-maintenance, pin-up look is definitely not me.'

Tse's typical outfit is an oversized men's shirt, paired with leggings or sometimes straight leg boyfriend cut jeans. In cooler weather, she loves to be wrapped in a cosy sweater or a well-worn tweed jacket that from behind might cause her to be mistaken for a teenage boy who has just raided dad's closet.

To avoid looking too androgynous, she'll throw in a few feminine elements to balance out the look. New favourites are her pointy toe Celine leather wedges cuffed at the ankle.

She has a lot of dresses and skirts, and wears nothing cut above the knee.

'I don't like to show too much skin; it's not so flattering for me because I'm so bony,' she says.

A reluctant shopper, Tse says she sometimes has to force herself to shop just to feel more like a girl.

'I rarely shop in Hong Kong, but in Paris I shop for a lot of vintage pieces,' she says. 'I go through heaps of clothes to find a good piece.'

She buys them as if they were precious collectibles, and has almost a dozen '70s day dresses featuring Peter Pan collars and colourful retro prints.

'I found these in Chinatown in Paris. Some of these prints I don't think you can find any more.'

She pulls out two handbags.

'I found these two vintage Chloe and Celine bags, both in mint condition, in my mother's closet, which is amazing. She got them as gifts but never used them.'

Other treasures include a double-breasted military jacket from Burberry, a brandless chunky knit sweater and a gold-foil printed jacket she had altered to a cropped version to better suit her figure.

As she's allergic to metal, Tse doesn't bother with much jewellery. She has kept a bracelet she made for her mother when she was six years old, but other than that accessorises mostly with colourful scarves. She's got a few by Hermes - also from her mother - and buys from flea markets.

Her vintage finds inspire her own designs and, when she founded her own label, she made her own scarves with her dreamy digital prints on silk.