This Wednesday’s interview is with the very chic Jane – a New Yorker working in finance. Jane has a beautiful working and off duty wardrobe, and is gorgeous, well traveled, and successful. She’s clearly a woman who takes her career seriously and has worked hard to where she is today – just one of the reasons I admire her. I hope you like meeting Jane, and enjoy her gorgeous photographs!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I’m one of the few non-hipsters living in Williamsburg, NYC. I work in a bank, am married, have no kids, and I’m in my 30’s.
You work in finance and have a pretty demanding job. What are some pieces of career advice that you’ve learned along the way that have helped you land where you are today?
1. Even if you are the most junior person in a company, think as if you own the business, rather than as a worker bee who is paid to do what the job description says.
2. Think big picture and always ask yourself: do the results/findings make intuitive sense?
3. As a female professional, do not be emotional at work. Do not ever cry in public. Do not ever act on impulse.
What is your take on wearing “obvious” or clearly identifiable luxury brand items at work?
I think that it really depends on the work environment. I’ve worked in companies that are dressier, and companies that are very low key. I think that we need to respect the environment. I can probably carry a Birkin comfortably at Vogue, but I will never carry a Birkin to a low key office where most men wear Brooks Brothers shirts (I have nothing against Brooks Brothers!). Learn from men: understated luxury is the way to go.
Generally speaking, you have more flexibility once you are more senior, but fashion statements should never distract people from what you do. By the way, have you noticed that some very powerful men wear Casio watches to even formal occasions? It’s the other extreme and I find it pretentious.
You have fabulous style. How would you describe it, and what are some of your “go to” components of your outfits – for work and play?
Thank you. It’s difficult for me to describe my own style, but I think that the key words include downtown (I could never pull off a classic Williamsburg look), androgynous, minimal, and sometimes, elegant. I believe in “form follows function”.
There are a few categories of “go to” looks in my wardrobe: work, comfortable leisure, and dressier events.
Work: My current work environment is very low key, so my work outfits are understated accordingly. I wear Seize Sur Vingt made to measure shirts and J.Crew or Balenciaga pants. I sometimes wear skirts, but our office is always too cold. I wear J.Crew sweaters to work, mostly in merino wool. They are comfortable, look crisp, and they are inexpensive to replace: I wear out a few each season and it’s pretty easy to go to J.Crew to replenish. I often accessorize with Hermes scarves. Mostly 90cm (I have two dozen or so) but I have two 70cm. I wear either oxfords or heels at work, depending on my mood.
Comfortable leisure: Jeans + oxfords or heels or riding boots + a top or a crew neck sweater + a jacket or a coat + a Birkin or a retourne Kelly.
Dressier occasions: Dress + heels + jacket + Louis Vuitton epi leather evening clutch. I’m eyeing a Kelly Pochette.
What are a few of your favorite, cherished items in your closet?
1. Two Balenciaga jackets from the S/S 2006 collection. I pre-ordered a blue one and I believe that it was the only combination the store got. I liked it so much that I bought a grey one from eBay a year after. Also, a schoolboy Balenciaga jacket from the F/W 2007 collection – I also pre-ordered it from the store. It’s a great service Balenciaga provides.
By the way, I’m not a huge fan of Nicholas Ghesquiere’s latest collections, but I’m very upset that he was replaced (reason number 1) by Alexander Wang (reason number 2). Alexander Wang is too commercial and Balenciaga should never be a commercial brand. Perhaps commercial is what they need, but it shouldn’t be Balenciaga.
2. An Alexander McQueen jacket. I went nuts in F/W 2006. I got one jacket, two pairs of boots, two pairs of pumps, and two skirts from the same collection. The jacket is the most worn. I believe that Victoria Beckham owns the same skirts and I believe that both she and I would agree that they are not very comfortable (but look good!)
I learned about McQueen’s suicide at work (from my Bloomberg). I remember that I was very upset. I walked to the bathroom as calm as I could be and then I cried. I felt that I could understand him…and no one could design like he did.
3. My Chanel sweater jacket – it instantly makes any outfits more elegant. I think that I will buy more Chanel jackets in the future.
4. My Hermes bags. When it comes to bags, no other brand provides better quality. I am very lucky that I have a great sales associate who I trust and love. He has such a good heart.
What about the items that you wear the most – that you get the best “cost per wear” from?
I wear the above jackets the most often, mostly on weekends. They are all expensive but I thought them through before I made the purchases, so I got a lot of use out of them.
Another workhorse item is my work bag – I carry an Hermes Whitebus bag. I bought it from eBay and I carry it every day to work. It’s very low key yet it’s very well made. I love how my finger tips feel when touching Chèvre de Coromandel leather.
If you could go back in time to when you first starting buying pricier wardrobe items like Hermes – what would be some advice that you would tell yourself?
Luckily, when I started buying Hermes, I had learned my lessons via previous purchases. I now have the habit of doing lots of research and thinking before I make a major purchase. One thing I learned very early on was to always pay close attention to material, construction, and fit. And never buy any clothing just because it’s a bargain.
You have an amazing collection of accessories. Can you share some of your favorite items? What was the first bag you ever bought?
My first true designer bag was a Balenciaga City bag. It’s was the Bordeaux color from the Pre-fall 2005 collection. I wore it so much that certain parts of the leather are almost worn through. I learned that a bag with distressed lamb leather will not last long.
I also purchased a Chanel reissue in late 2007. I actually wore it quite a lot, but I’m very careful with my belongings, so by the time I sold it, it was still nearly perfect. I sold it at a very small discount compared to the price I paid. Why did I sell it? Because by then I almost used my Hermes bags exclusively. Another reason is that Chanel’s retail price had risen to such an absurd level that I just wanted to have a little fun to see how much I could fetch.
What’s a piece of advice about style and building the perfect wardrobe that you’ve learned over the years?
As a young professional who pays for clothes with her hard-earned salary, I’d advise not to buy luxury items early on. Spend a year or two to experiment and understand your body type and style (or play with your mum or sister’s wardrobe), and then buy staple pieces with patience and a critical eye. At all times, buy clothes with good material.
About budgeting – I do believe that each individual has the right to live the way he/she wants, but as a young professional, balancing saving and splurging is key. Try to find a balance so that you can save a little, yet enjoy life a little.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
Food (eating and cooking), fashion, photography, and travel.
Finally, please share something surprising about yourself!
I don’t like jewelry and I don’t have my ears pierced!
I was a tomboy when I grew up. I remember that when I was 3 or 4, I wasn’t interested in any girly things and I only played with boys. My mum was worried! I grew interested in fashion when I was in college, but even to this day, I still can’t deal with all the “fuss” jewelry brings (and they even have any function). My mum, whose hobbies are extremely feminine and the complete opposite of mine, has been disappointed through the years!
I love Jane’s style – the perfect mix of cool, chic and professional. I especially appreciated her advice as a young working woman to take one’s time when buying luxury items. I remember when I got my first paychecks, how tempting it was to spend it all (and how often I indulged on that urge!). I wish I had someone like Jane to listen to back then. Thank you Jane for sharing some of your advice and closet with us all today!