Out of my closet: Charlotte Hwang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 9:02am

Charlotte Hwang, the co-founder of online jewellery boutique the9thMuse.com and its bricks-and-mortar version in Central, stands out from her socialite contemporaries. In fact, she's sometimes goaded by her sisters for not having enough "girlie" clothes.

In her spacious apartment in Hong Kong Parkview, Hwang has two closets for her clothes, and one for her shoes.

Her collection is a mix of quality basics, jewellery, totes and bags, all which nestle in designated drawers. There are fancy dresses that she rarely touches, trainers for the gym, tennis and dodgeball, and a few pieces borrowed from her boyfriend.

"I seldom wear pieces from my dress closet, but they are there when I need them," says Hwang. "When I was at boarding school in the US, my uniform was a polo shirt matched with a pleated wool skirt. Many of us wore boxers underneath, so we practically lived in our pyjamas all day."

Now she has her own jewellery boutique, Hwang has grown out of her adolescent tomboy years. But her taste for casual chic and laid-back styles has lingered on.

"I'm a true Cali gal," comments the down-to-earth socialite and fashion entrepreneur.

Alexander Wang, New York's golden boy of sports chic, is Hwang's favourite designer. She likes his extra-large leather hobo bag and his sweatshirt with front bib details.

Hwang also stocks up on good quality basics such as T-shirts, jumpers, denim shorts and leather jackets from hip and cool brands such as Zadig & Voltaire, Vince, Haute Hippie and HANii Y.

She prefers to browse at online fashion retailer sites Shopbop and Etsy, rather than at the fashion chain stores in town.

"I don't really shop by designer because it's the product that attracts me, not the brand. I always look at new arrivals for inspiration. I prefer to shop online, or get new things when I travel," she explains.

Hwang often frequents the men's department to buy clothes and accessories, and she borrows items from her boyfriend's closet, including a slouchy Diesel leather jacket that she has claimed.

"My boyfriend gets annoyed, but I do look better in some of his things than he does," she says, laughing.

Hwang has slowly but surely added ladylike pieces to her look.

"I've been trying to dress, not to impress, but to look better than I used to. I do get more attention when I dress up. But the bottom line is, I only wear things that I'm comfortable in, otherwise I get really agitated, or even get rashes."

She probably doesn't need more than her feminine features to balance her boyish looks. But Hwang loves to jazz things up with the help of accessories.

While her clothes are mostly in neutral tones, she likes her jewellery in sharp colours and her bags with ethnic patterns.

She stacks strings of bracelets that could go with almost every outfit she wears.

Since it opened in February this year, Hwang's boutique has become a go-to destination for delicate and fun friendship bracelets.

"I guess it started when I went to all those summer camps growing up," she says. "And I have been used to stacking bracelets together since back then. I'm always wearing them, because my friends gave them to me. It's also a cool alternative when people don't want to wear fancy watches all the time."

Hwang rarely looks to models or celebrities for fashion advice. Instead, she flips through editorials from Italian and French Vogue, and searches out vintage styles to act as inspiration.

She is now developing a The9thMuse house line, inspired by vintage purses, which she plans to launch this year.