Interview with Marlene

I have yet another fabulous interview to share with you all – this time with another long time blogger friend of mine, Marlene. Marlene writes the style/travel/lifestyle blog called Chocolate, Cookies & Candiesand always has the most amazing photographs and travel stories. She was kind enough to share with us some of her favorite photographs and outfits, which I’ve happily included throughout. Please enjoy!

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

I’m Marlene. I was a technical engineer for a telecommunications company in New Zealand but ever since I had my little girl, I’ve decided to pursue my passion – handbags. I run an online consignment business specializing in designer handbags. Currently, I live in the UK where it rains every other day.

Ted Baker jacket, Uniqlo pants, Repetto shoe, Louis Vuitton shawl, Hermes Bolide bag

You’ve lived all around the world. What are some of the other countries you’ve inhabited?

Iย roughly averaged one city every 10 years or thereabouts. I was born in Borneo and lived there in my formative years. I spent 18 years in New Zealand and now we’re in the UK. It’s still a novelty to me having the rest of Europe on my doorstep.

Isabel Marant jacket, Petit Bateau top, Uniqlo jeans, Repetto flats

You seem like to be quite a travel bug – can you share some of your top travel/packing advice?

I’m afraid I’ve got a permanent travel bug in my system. I think my traveling style has evolved quite a bit over the past 14 years. I was pretty adventurous in my 20s, trekking into the mountains to look for obscure minority groups, slept in shacks where the crocodiles swam freely in the river a few metres away (I hope my mom isn’t reading this!), treated like a celebrity in a tiny Greek village as they’d never seen a person with oriental features and thought that I was Bruce Lee’s daughter and so forth.

I used to travel with a medium sized backpack and would leave a small trolley at a base for the little souvenirs I picked up along the way. I’m older now and like my comfort a tad more these days but my rule of thumb as always been the same that is to travel lightly with as few suitcases as possible. It can be a challenge traveling with little kids and all the paraphernalia attached.

A small 60cm trolley is ample for a 1-2 week holiday. I normally bring clothes that are

1) easy to wash
2) versatile and requires no ironing
3) can be layered.

Hermes belt, bag

Comptoir des Cotonniers dress, Hermes shawl, All Saints jacket, Topshop boots

I’ve learned that the weather can change in a split of a second so layering is the way to go. Simple dresses that can be worn with a pair of sandals for warmer days or worn with leggings, thermal vest and a cardigan when the temperature drops. I roll everything up. As for toiletries, I pare down to a minimum taking only small bottles and 1 moisturizer (my current favorite is Trilogy Organic Rosehip Oil)). I always carry a cashmere shawl (my favorite is either the Louis Vuitton leopard shawl or Hermes), Longchamp Le Pliages folded up and tucked away and my camera. Everything else can be purchased along the way. I also keep a list of essential items I have to bring on trips on my iPhone so that I’m always organized at a moment’s notice.

Hermes horn necklace, Hermes bag

I love your fashion sense – it’s very “French edited” I think. Can you share some of your favorite designers in your wardrobe?

Thank you! I draw inspiration from fellow bloggers more so than the fashion magazines. As I’m rather petite, I find French clothes fit me best. I think the bulk of my wardrobe comes from Comptoir des Cotonniers, Uniqlo and Petit Bateau. I’m also loyal to my favorite Kiwi designer, Karen Walker. More often than not, I tend to have my LV leopard stole or Hermes cashmere shawl around my neck.

The English weather is way too unpredictable so one has to be prepared at all times.

Karen Walker dress, K Jacques sandals, Hermes Kelly bag

What’s a day to day outfit for you?

My everyday run around outfit would be a breton top from Petit Bateau, Uniqlo straight skinny jeans, jacket or blazer with a Hermes scarf or shawl tied round my neck and a pair of Tod’s moccasins or Repetto flats. I’ve been too lazy to change my bags lately so it’s either my Hermes Rouge H Evelyne or Kelly 28cm.

3.1 Philip Lim top, Karen Walker skirt, Chanel clutch, Repetto shoes

I know that over the years you’ve accumulated some beautiful items from around the world for your home. Can you share some of your favorite pieces and maybe a bit of story behind them?

I started collecting little meaningful keepsakes 15 years ago from every country I’ve visited. I don’t like clutter so I tend to invest one or two pieces only per trip.

1. Shoes for bound feet from Malaysia and Singapore

My beloved grandmother was a reminiscent of the last vestiges of the practice. She described the agonizing pain when the toes were broken and then tightly bound. Her mother couldn’t bear hearing her screams and finally agreed to spare her from the torture. This vintage pair was a find from Singapore and they reminded me of my grandmother who passed away almost 18 years ago.

2. Long horned Miao costume from Guizhou, China

The women from the elusive Long horned Miao minority tribe wear a wooden horn tied into their bun. Their courting process is fascinating where both the girls and guys would sing to each other. Their voices were like angels! Unfortunately, the Chinese officials that govern the villages of these minority tribes rule over them with an iron fist. This particular costume is what the girls and women wear everyday. It was explained to me that they planted the cotton, weave and dyed the fabric themselves. The embroidery is painstakingly sewn by hand over a period of a few years. The batik design is very similar to the Isabel Marant Flana jacket that I have.

3. Hand painted plate and handmade coffee cup from Cappadocia, Turkey

I had a wonderful time at Cappadocia and wanted to purchase a memento specific to the region. This is a hand-painted plate from Avanos, a short drive from the famous fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. It took almost 3 months from start to finish to complete this plate.

4. Handmade necklace from Crete.ย 

I was told that this was a one of a kind piece from an Athenian costume jewelry designer.

What are some tips/advice you’ve learned about fashion and putting together an ideal closet over the years?

Now that I’m in 30s, I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Through many trial and error, I’ve worked out what flatter my figure and what I feel most comfortable in. Accentuate your positives and draw the attention to that. If you have a tiny waist, cinch itย  If you have fabulous legs, wear skirts or dresses that fall above the knee. I have a “uniform” so getting dressed in the morning is easy.

An “what’s in my bag” picture via Marlene

Finally, please share something surprising about yourself !

I have an aversion to bananas and any fruits with tiny seeds. I can handle banana cakes or pisang goreng (Malaysian version of banana fritters) but I just can’t make myself peel a banana or eat it. Don’t get me started on mashed bananas. As for the latter, it must be due to my parents warning me not to swallow the seeds else they sprout and grow in my tummy!

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, gorgeous outfits, and lovely photographs with us, Marlene! I hope you all enjoyed meeting this super stylish, incredibly well traveled lady – and for more of Marlene, check out her blog here.

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  • Alysson
    June 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    This post was so much fun to read!! Her last two outfits were my favorite! I love collecting things while I travel..she has some real treasures! XO

  • lauraloo
    June 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Loved this blog AND this post on my girl (and chief enabler,) Marlene – she's not only incredibly chic but so sweet and gracious. Go M!

  • Ronisha
    June 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm


  • Vasu
    June 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    so great….love the post….its awesome….

    ps- m looking for unis in Europe….

  • Yaya
    June 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I love your interviews! They allow me to discover so many amazing bloggers out there!!

    I've finally started posting my pics up from my trip from Prague/Vienna/Budapest!
    There's just so much to filter from!!

  • Jenna Lee
    June 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Love the Ted Baker jacket and the top shop boots… but honestly I love it all great choices.

  • Sarah
    June 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    You know I love your interviews:) and all of those looks are fabulous too! Swooning over all those hermes bags!!!!


  • K
    June 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Wow, I winced in sympathy and horror at her tale of her grandmother's foot-binding attempt. The tiny shoes are an amazing memento of a (thankfully) bygone era, but if it was me, I don't know that I'd be able to keep a pair myself. I get goosebumps just looking at them.

    I'm a little confused though. It sounds like the attempt to bind her grandmother's feet was aborted, by her toes were already broken by then and the process begun. Did they heal okay, or did her grandmother have feet problems all her life as a result? (I know, morbid fascination …)

    Love her Hermes collection – very elegant and tasteful!

  • Annette
    June 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    What a beautiful collection of souvenirs! I especially love that plate, it's so pretty. And anyone who hates bananas as much as I do wins major points in my book.

    Good interview as always!

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    June 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    What a wonderful closet full of significant memories and coveted finds!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  • Lydia
    June 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Another great interview. Thanks. How cute is that Isabel Marant jacket & Karen Walker dress! I want them (and of course her Hermes) ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Eve
    June 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    wow looks like she is quite adventurous!
    i love how she put together all the outfit, very stylish, esp the karen walker dress!

  • Kira Lilly
    June 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    amazing post!
    looks like she has such a full life ๐Ÿ™‚
    i love her style as well

    KIRA LILLY fashion blog

  • Tangled In Texas
    June 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Lovely interview! About the "binding of the feet" – it's crazy what we'll do for "beauty". I wonder what will be considered crazy in the future – exfoliating?

  • B.Inspired
    June 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    What an awesome interview! You always get to interview people with the most coveted items in their closet! I am digging the kelly bags ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    June 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @KIn response to K's comment, my grandmother's feet were in the early stages of being prepared to be bound. However, the "torture" as I called it left an everlasting mark as her feet looked slightly deformed.

    I'm overwhelmed by the heartwarming comments left by everyone. Thank you ever so much for your kind words.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    June 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @KIn response to K's comment, my grandmother's feet were in the early stages of being prepared to be bound. However, the "torture" as I called it left an everlasting mark as her feet looked slightly deformed.

    I'm overwhelmed by the heartwarming comments left by everyone. Thank you ever so much for your kind words.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    June 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @KIn response to K's comment, my grandmother's feet were in the early stages of being prepared to be bound. However, the "torture" as I called it left an everlasting mark as her feet looked slightly deformed.

    I'm overwhelmed by the heartwarming comments left by everyone. Thank you ever so much for your kind words.

  • audrinajulia
    June 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Love her story behind things and her wardrobe is great.

  • Katarzyna Zuzanna
    June 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I'm visiting your blog for the first time and I'm amazed! It's great! xx

  • bagfashionista
    June 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    yum…pisang goreng!!! a malaysian here so i love the references to my homeland!

  • Katherine
    June 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you everybody! I'm so glad you enjoyed meeting Marlene who is a total sweetheart ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nelah
    June 29, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    She has such beautiful collection of Hermes and other brands. I love the 3rd and the 5th outfits the most. I bet her wardrobe is amazing. Her orange Hermes bag is stunning. That color is my favorite if I can ever afford one.

  • Michelle
    June 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Great post and Thanks Katherine, for introducing me to a fellow kiwi girl. Marlene you have great style.

  • Michelle
    June 29, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I think that Marlene may be my fave interview subject you've covered so far. I really love her classic, edited style and her travel photos are incredible.

  • alison*elle
    June 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Love this interview series… even more interesting because my family is from Borneo too! I love all her outfits and photos.

    xo, alison*elle

  • Melissa
    June 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I like her rules on what to bring while traveling. Always sage advice. Thanks for another interesting read, it's always so fascinating to look into the lives some people lead! I often have that jarring moment, when I stop and think about all the lives that are being lived right alongside mine. It makes for heavy thought, but isn't it wild! Some people have the coolest stories, and they're right next to you ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Mary Lane
    June 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Wow – really like those outfits! she sounds really interesting… I'm going to have to follow her blog and check out her store.

  • diana kang
    June 30, 2011 at 1:31 am

    love this looks! this is a cute post xx

  • Make Mommy Chic
    June 30, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Katherine, you always pick the best people for your interview posts. Have you ever considered fashion journalism on the side? Think that you'd be great at it. Thanks for the post!

  • Laura J
    June 30, 2011 at 2:33 am

    I seriously love EVERY outfit! Esp. the Isabel Marant jacket- i die for Isabel Marant!
    I really love your interview segments as I am always inspired to hear about what inspires other people!

  • lehappy
    June 30, 2011 at 3:17 am

    nice interview!!!

  • Latkes and Dim Sum
    June 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I've enjoyed Marlene's blog for awhile as well….thank you for interviewing her!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • deuxarmoires
    June 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Marlene is such a lovely person … wonderful interview!

  • pepa
    July 2, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Great looks dear:)
    Love it!!!!

    Follow my blog

    Kisses from pepa:X