Out of My Closet: Nicole Schoeni

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 11:21am

After a quick scan of Nicole Schoeni's colourful walk-in wardrobe, it is hard to believe that she was a tomboy growing up. "I've obviously made up for it," she says.

Neither of the schools Schoeni attended - one in Hong Kong and another in Britain - had uniforms. "From a young age I was conscious about what I wore every day to school," she says. "But fashion was not, and is not, 'my life' - art is."

Schoeni is solely responsible for the Schoeni Gallery and its team, but the occasional smile gives away her cheekier, more playful side.

With the gallery's 20th anniversary coming up at the end of this month, Schoeni has had time to reflect on her career as director and owner. She took up the role when she was just 23.

Since then, her relationship with fashion has changed. "Expressing myself through fashion centres around work and the social aspects of what I do. When I was 23, I needed to look mature, so that people took me seriously. Back then, wearing dresses all the time just wasn't me."

Now, with age and experience, the 31-year-old feels more comfortable dressing up. "I am often quite enthusiastic about selecting my outfit for work, but it's always comfort over style."

The biggest challenge is when she has to host an exhibition opening. "I am careful not to clash with the artworks - I try to compliment them or find inspiration from them," she says.

Other inspirations change over time. "It depends on my mood. I'm eclectic and go through phases. At the moment I am addicted to colours and prints, especially animal and feather prints."

One feather print inspired piece that stands out is by Alexander McQueen. "I love McQueen because, like my taste in art, there is a dark twist to the style."

She is a fan of Rebecca Taylor, when seeking a more feminine look.

Generally, though, brand names aren't important to her. "I pick an item for what it is, not the name associated with it," she says, adding that in Hong Kong she likes to shop at Lane Crawford or around Gough Street.

But when she travels it's a different story. "No matter where I am or why I'm there, I shop," she laughs. "My fiancée's family live behind Harrods in London - it's dangerous. And I love shopping around the King's Road and Fulham Road [Chelsea] area."

Something the teenage tomboy Schoeni never expected was her current obsession with shoes. "They have to be comfortable, so I prefer wedges to heels if possible. I have a lot of black shoes, so finding new colours is fun. I might wear more casual shoes to work but I always keep spare shoes under my desk."

Schoeni usually picks out her daily outfit according to her schedule - whether it's arty and funky, or more formal and business orientated if she has a meeting.

"I have to dress the part for work, so that's a lot of it when it comes to my fashion choices. But I do think fashion is a creative avenue to express yourself, like art," she says.

"Just look at the recent Louis Vuitton collaboration with the eerie-looking Yayoi Kosama. I saw the London window displays with wax figurines of the artist. In itself, that was like a work of art."