Today’s interview is with Plumtree – a lovely, very accomplished woman with lovely style and an absolutely killer wardrobe. Plumtree is a lawyer (with great advice for you future lawyers out there!), animal lover and Asian art aficionado. She was a supreme pleasure to get to know and I learned a great deal from her during our conversations! Enjoy meeting Plumtree.
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I’m Plumtree, a lawyer and mum-of-two who lives and works in Asia’s world city.
You work in the legal profession. How has your experience been in this industry? Can you share some general professional learnings and advice – for the aspiring lawyers out there?
I am a solicitor (I don’t go to open court) in a major global law firm, specializing in financial law. I spend lots of time in the office. However, I am lucky enough to be able to work from home one day a week, which allows me time with my kids and time to ride my horse.
I am lucky to have found (or rather, chanced upon) a niche area in which to practice that I find immensely interesting but that still gives me some time to pursue my other interests. What young graduates don’t realize and aren’t told is how diverse the legal profession is: one can practice financial law, litigation, family practice, trademarks and intellectual property – to name but a few.
When choosing your specialization, unless you have an overwhelming interest in a particular area, it is also important to have a long term view and to try to think of what sort of lifestyle you want in 5-10 years’ time. Do you want a high-flying job with lots of international travel? Or one that is more flexible that gives you more family time? Talk to practitioners in the area to work out whether that field suits you and to get a feel of what it entails. Unfortunately, there is sometimes not a lot of formal guidance as to what each of the specialisations entail and a junior law may have to take matters into his or her own hands and seek out someone to talk to. The legal profession is such hard work that unless you’re really interested in what you do, you’re unlikely to have a very nice time.
I know that you’re an animal lover. Can you share some more details about your pets?
I have four rescue dogs and one cat that is also a rescue. My husband picked our cat up as a scrawny kitten that had to be fed out of a dropper. She was so small that she that had to sleep on a hot water bottle in a Lego box to keep her body temperature up. Now, she’s a glossy little fat thing that hops about the house terrorizing the dogs and kicking them out of their beds when she wants a nice place to lie on. Did I mention that one of my dogs is a 36 kg Doberman…and that when she tells him to get off his bed, he goes!
You also ride horses. How long have you been riding – and has any part of that equestrian background driven your style choices?
I took up riding as an adult and have been riding for about 10 years, which isn’t all that long, as riding goes. I am a leisure rider. My horses have all been retired ex-racehorses. They typically come off the track with some old injuries or strains from their racing days (which is why they were retired in the first place). Some of them have had bad experiences that can give them an explosive temperament. As the horse becomes more secure in its daily routine and rider, it realizes that there is nothing to worry about and gradually relaxes. I like working with a horse and watching it gradually change and mature.
As will be evident, I love animals, and horses in particular. That has definitely influenced my sartorial choices. I’m a sucker for designs that feature pretty horse print!
Given your equestrian background, it seems natural that you’re a Hermes lover. Can you share some of your special pieces and how you came about them?
I love Hermes for the beauty of its designs and the quality of the workmanship. Like everyone else, I have a budget, and started collecting vintage pieces that I could afford.
To be honest, time, patience and cultivating a good relationship with an sales associate is the way to go. I’m lucky enough to have found a lovely sales associate who understands my taste and who is not offended when I say no. Some of my favourite things are:
My beloved 32 black Swift Kelly Lakis that’s my “go to” workbag.
I don’t have many red bags, but I love my Rouge H Clemence 32 Kelly and Rouge Garance 31 Bolide.
My “Craftsman” Garden Party from 2012, which features a needlepoint design.
Can you tell that blue is my favourite colour? My Thalassa Clemence Evelyne and Isabella in Sky from KPC Collection (I call her my “Sky croc”) are my weekend go to bags. I have a weakness for anything in Hermes blue electrique: it’s such a happy colour and I love looking at it!
I have a soft spot for my Bleu de Malte Clemence Cirkin, which has a lighter blue (Ciel) inside and on the base. My lovely Hermes store manager saw this on a buying trip, knows I love blues and thought I’d like it. And I did!
In this photo, I’ve paired it with a diamond and tanzanite ring and tennis bracelet my husband had made for me one birthday. In Asia, we’re lucky enough to be able to custom order things, including jewelry. My husband and I typically don’t give each other expensive things and usually, I give him a new bridle or some piece of kitchen equipment. But this one year, he surprised me with this: he knows of my love for blues and that I love coloured stones. I love the blue-y violet tones in these stones.
What are some of the most “underrated” Hermes bag designs that you love?
I don’t think any Hermes design is underrated; it’s just that the Birkin has become such a celebrity favourite that it is a little overexposed. I love the Birkin and think it’s very well made, but for my lifestyle, perhaps not so practical: I usually go to work with a huge canvas document bag, my handbag and a bag with my lunch. I’ve realized that I need a bag with a shoulder strap! There are so many other great Hermes designs that I enjoy using:
I like the Toolbox. My 33 Bleu de Malte in Swift leather is a daily workhorse bag and in summer I can carry it over the shoulder with the short handles.
I have a couple of Bolides that I use when I want a bag that is more under-the-radar but that has still that Hermes quality and workmanship.
For weekends, the Evelyne can’t be beaten! I also have a Cabalicol in canvas with Vache Hunter handles. This bag is great for weekends with the kids in our hot, rainy and humid summers when carrying a full leather bag is asking for trouble.
Of course, the Constance isn’t always very practical but is so pretty that one can’t help but love it.
Can you share some of your H collection and some of your absolute favorite pieces?
Personally, I love Kellys. My favourite is the 32cm black Swift Kelly Lakis and I have a soft spot for my Rouge H Clemence Kelly. I would love a Kelly in an exotic skin one day!
I also have a soft spot for anything in Barenia leather, the oil tanned saddle leather that Hermes makes so well. I love how this leather evolves and changes as it ages and you handle it, going from a rather anaemic pale butterscotch colour to a full, rich tan.
I don’t use clutches all that often but love collecting them.
What’s some advice about building a perfect wardrobe that you can share that you’ve learned over the years?
I used to be a lot more carefree and unthinking about my clothes shopping. Two things changed this: first, I had children and second, we moved house (my due date was the date I moved into the flat I am in now…and it was only half finished! But that’s another story). We own where we now live, which is a comfort, but our flat is smaller than anywhere I’ve lived in before. And so I have had to be much more careful about what I buy and have had to go through my wardrobe and edit down.
Like any new mum, I discovered that mornings are not as peaceful as they used to be, and early wake up calls at 6 AM didn’t help much. Getting out of the house to get to work in a half-decent state was a real challenge. I realized that I had to be more disciplined about what I wear. I have a bunch of basics that do good duty both at work and on weekends. White and grey Ts, both long and short sleeve, form the backbone of my wardrobe. I have a bunch of work trousers and a bunch of weekend trousers and jeans, some skirts and about 10-12 work dresses. In the mix, I have some special things that make me happy when I wear them: I love jackets and some Armani and MaxMara ones I bought in the days when I was a junior lawyer still work well. I have a few nice Hermes things from the RTW collection. Helmut Lang cuts a mean jacket.
I don’t wear prints (apart from stripes) and put the colour in using my Hermes scarves and shawls, horn pendants and accessories.
What are some of your other favorite brands – high street and luxury?
Most of my clothes fall happily into the mid-range/affordable bracket.
My H&M and Victoria’s Secret T shirts are a lifesaver!
My work trousers range from Victoria’s Secret (no kidding!), DVF and Marks and Spencer to MaxMara and Hermes.
I have work dresses from DVF, Armani, Tangram (an Asian brand designed by a lovely couple, Paola and Ignacio Sinistra from South America) and MaxMara.
I love jackets and I have favourites from Armani, MaxMara, McQ, Helmut Lang and Hermes.
Weekends see me in mummy-mode in my Gap chinos or 7 for All Mankind jeans.
Bizarrely, I like sea animal-inspired designs, partly because I’d really like to learn to scuba dive. I find the McQueen De Manta clutch so appealing for that reason.
Do you keep pieces that you no longer use, or are you constantly trimming down/refreshing your closet?
You would not believe how small my wardrobe is! Like anyone else, I’m always reassessing what I have and wear, making style mistakes and learning. Things that I don’t use are culled, passed to relatives or to charity shops.
There are some things I can’t part with even though they don’t quite work any more: the suit jacket I wore to my registry wedding; my first cheongsam; a dress I wore as a maid-of honour at a dear friend’s wedding; a jacket my late mum gave me. I’ll always make space for those sentimental pieces.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
I spend lots of time either at work or working from home. The rest of my time is divided between my horses and helping at the stable and being a mum to my children. There isn’t much time for anything else but I do enjoy cooking and also am on the board of a sports NGO. I ride and rely on my weekly gym visits to keep fit.
I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is a serious antique collector of Chinese antiques and antique jades. Through him, I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few small things, for example, my pair of Tang horses from the Tang dynasty, and some bronze/gold animals (purportedly from the Tang dynasty but more likely Sung or Ming). Can you see a horse theme anywhere?
What draws you to Asian art?
I didn’t specifically set out to collect Chinese art. However, I find it amazing that people of that era could make such lively, dynamic, vigorous things with only the barest of tools. In those days, jade was carved only with a bamboo pick and it must have taken artisans ages to make a single piece. Learning more about Chinese history is an added bonus.
Given that you have some experience with Asian art and antiques – how do you feel about the Asian art market overall? Has the demand just increased astronomically in the past few years, and where do you see it heading?
I don’t have very much experience with the Asian art market: I am just fortunate enough to know people who do! From what I know, the market for certain types of Chinese art has increased astronomically: those would be Ching pottery, Tang horses, things that have a certain amount of recognition in the Western world. However, there are amazing things from other dynasties that are less recognised but equally wonderful. With a little research, it’s possible to pick up good things at pretty reasonable prices. It’s a question of finding a dealer you trust, and picking up enough knowledge on your own.
I can only see prices rising: after all, there’s a finite supply and from what I understand, these things are tightly controlled on the Mainland. However, I’ve always bought things I loved and not because of potential value and if you adopt that approach, there will always be things out there.
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
NCC-1701-C! I am a total Star Trek- The Next Generation fan and love sci-fi in general. I think “Blink” (featuring the 10th Doctor: if you have to ask, you don’t know Who) is one of the best episodes of anything ever written for TV.
I love that Plumtree collects Asian art – I’ve always loved it, and ever since I interviewed Don Thompson, I’ve dreamed of one day having a little collection of my own. I really enjoyed meeting Plumtree – it’s clear that she’s a woman of diverse interests and many talents, and really, how can you not be anything but a fan of a woman who loves Star Trek? Thank you very much Plumtree for sharing some of your beautiful interests and expertise with us all today!