Out of my Closet: Charlotte Chen

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 1:57pm

Girl-about-town Charlotte Chen has a wardrobe that's always party ready, even if that means fancy dress.

"I never have to buy Halloween costumes because I can always find something in my closet that will work," says the 29-year-old.

The daughter of late fashion designer Rowena U, Chen got her a taste for high fashion early on.

"When my mum and her friends went out shopping, I often tagged along. I was exposed to beautiful things at an early age," she says.

Her closet is a mixture of high fashion labels including Galliano, Fendi and Balenciaga runway pieces and vintage finds from flea markets in Japan, New York and London. There are at least 20 qipaos, half a dozen flapper dresses and 15 vintage Chanel suits she inherited from her mother.

Chen is a daring dresser. She sported a Marie Antoinette look at this year's Tatler ball and a fur shawl paired with a wet-look spandex dress at a Louis Vuitton party last week.

Greeting us in her Stella McCartney citrus printed pants and a no-brand burned-out green shirt, Chen says she dresses daily according to her mood.

"It's like I'm all over the place. I don't really have a particular inkling about certain looks - I just follow my mood," she says. "If I plan my look in advance, it just never works. That's why I have a big problem packing for my travels. I pack way more than I need - probably triple the amount - so that I'll be able to mix and match."

After graduating from college, Chen got her first job in investment banking. Quitting her banking career was a liberating moment for her.

"I think that made me a rebel, I threw out like 1,000 pairs of black heels and pencil skirts after I quit and went crazy with prints and volumes," she says, laughing.

"I have my girlie moments when I'm dressed in pink all the time. When I feel more eccentric, I wear something more ostentatious - things that my boyfriend wouldn't approve of."

Frequenting designer studios and fashion events since her teenage years, Chen's closet is an archive of more than a decade of shopping.

"I'm quite a hoarder. I don't throw away things that have sentimental value. I just found a pair of Hysteric Glamour trousers I bought when I was 15 years old and they still fit."

Because she likes to have something for every occasion, she has things in her closet that have barely been worn.

"There are things that only work if I don't wear them out of the house," she says. "I'll still buy them because they are so pretty. I like things that are complex because I feel that the designer has made an effort to put things together that look great. I like to dress for arts' sake."

The girl-next-door look is not her style. "Easy-to-wear things don't work for me because I look really young when I wear those and I need to use colours and patterns to show my age sometimes," she says.

Her tip for an instant style boost?

"Sunglasses can change your entire outfit. Throw on some really ridiculous sunglasses and they work even if you are wearing a T-shirt and jeans," she says. "I like obnoxious sunglasses - how about that?"