Darling of DIY designs
Many of the clothes in Geneva Vanderzeil's colourful closet appear to have come straight from the runways. There are striking statement pieces that seem bang on trend and expensive. But look more closely and you'll realise that most of her clothes are not designer frocks but inexpensive versions of the items you see in the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.
Vanderzeil's closet is filled with mostly vintage finds that she has reworked, and do-it-yourself pieces inspired by the trends du jour. To illustrate, she fishes out a short black and white dress with gold embroidery. In its previous life, the frock was a floor-length dress with a mock turtleneck. With a sewing machine and a pair of scissors, she has turned a matronly outfit into a contemporary sheath. 'I've always bought vintage clothing, which I like to update,' she says.
There is a pair of gold glitter-covered booties that could be mistaken for Miu Mius. These in fact were a plain pair of shoes until Vanderzeil dusted them with gold powder. 'It got a little messy because the glitter kept sticking on every surface and on my face and hair,' she says. There are also skirts, tops and tube dresses she made from rugs bought at dollar stores, which could pass for something from a label such as 3.1 Phillip Lim or Sass & Bide.
Vanderzeil's knack for recreating runway looks and her ability to jazz up nondescript clothing into something fabulous are documented in detail in her widely read blog A Pair And A Spare and via a weekly column on the website of Harper's Bazaar Australia.
Her interest in DIY projects was piqued at an early age, since her mother taught her the basics of sewing when she was 10. The 25-year-old hasn't stopped since, embellishing a generic bra with sequins here, spray-painting boring black necklaces in day-glo colours there. She's also made playful hats and fascinators. She's turned her hobby into a successful side venture that she hopes one day might grow into something full time.
Born and educated in Brisbane, Australia, Vanderzeil is a town planner. She moved to Hong Kong a year ago after a stint in London working with the Olympic planning committee. She had to dispose of a lot of clothes and accessories for this most recent move. 'I don't have a lot of clothes now because I knew Hong Kong spaces were small. It's a capsule closet, and I hope to build from here.'
Vanderzeil subscribes to the classic style of dressing. Her day-to-day look is a Breton shirt - a nautical stripe top - worn with jeans and flats in the manner of Audrey Hepburn and Ines de la Fressange. She likes to wear short dresses, too. 'When I leave the house, I'm decked out in one - if not more - DIY projects; accessories, dresses or shoes. I guess you could describe my style as fashion forward DIY.'