Today’s interview is with Penelope – a teacher and mother of one living in Hong Kong. In our interview, Penelope humbly refers to herself as “just a mother of a one year old boy.” Penelope is much more than that however – she’s a teacher with a specialized graduate degree, a traveler whose lived around the world, and indeed a wonderful and very stylish mother! I loved learning more about Penelope and some special moments in her life and I hope you all do too.
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is is Penelope, but all my friends call me Penny. I’m 29, turning 30 in March!
I am a New Zealand born Chinese and have spent half my life in Hong Kong and the other half in New Zealand. I majored in Educational Psychology and after that did a postgrad degree in Early Childhood Teaching – so basically, I am an early childhood teacher. I taught mostly in New Zealand and a couple of years in Hong Kong kindergartens as an English teacher.
I met my husband in Hong Kong at my friend’s wedding, and I moved back to Hong Kong because of him. I stopped working after I became pregnant. My dear son is now one year old, I have been a full time mum since he was born. I have to say, teaching kids at work is much easier than having your own child!
You’ve lived in several amazing places – Hong Kong and New Zealand! What was it like living in these two countries? What were the major differences that you noticed?
The major difference between the two countries I must say is a different lifestyle. In New Zealand, people are pretty laid back, never in a hurry. Monday is still in weekend mode, Friday by 3 PM is beer and pizza time, if you know what I mean. Auckland is definitely a much quieter place to live in where shops all close by 6 PM unless it’s a late night. Here in Hong Kong, people work much longer hours. Everyone seems to be in a hurry, rushing for MTR, bus, rushing to get to work, rushing to go home, rushing to get things done. Hong Kong is a lot more busier, shops dont close till 10 PM or 11 PM at night. Some of my friends here work from 9 AM – 10 PM and that is called normal in Hong Kong. It is quite hard for me to accept that, and I am glad my husband doesnt have to work such long hours!
I have also noticed that people here in Hong Kong are a lot more designer orientated. A designer handbag and designer shoes are a must have for most women in this city. Whereas back in Auckland, people are a lot more practical. They will typically save up for a better living environment and not spend most of their income on designer items.
Can you share some of what your style is like? What are your favorite standard “outfits” to put together?
This is a tough question actually because my style have changed a bit , because I used to love fitted clothing and leather jackets and heels before my son was born. I love my heels, but I can now only wear them when I have a dinner date with my husband. So these heels have become my special occasion shoes. My favorite pair are a pair of Louboutin red mini glitter Simple pumps, as well as my Louboutin purple Poseidons. They make me feel extra special when I get to wear them.
Now, I just wear comfortable clothing that I don’t mind getting dirty when I am with my son. I think a pair of skinny jeans or leggings, flats and a nice fitted top is one of my favorite outfits. I love Ralph Lauren wool/cashmere knitted tops. They are just super comfortable and easy to put on when I take my little boy to play groups.
I also love layering my clothes because I hate wearing big heavy coats or down jackets during the winter unless it is really, really cold. Wearing hoodies underneath blazers and leather jackets or cashmere cardigans under jackets, are one of my favorite ways of layering.
What are some of your favorite items in your wardrobe?
Items I would love forever would be my Burberry scarves, I have a few of them in different colours. I wear them all the time during the winter! Then of course in every girl’s closet, there are the most loved items of all – handbags. My favorite ones would be my Bolide, Kelly, Garden Party and Chanel classic flaps.
Here are a few items in my wardrobe that are very special. This was my traditional Chinese wedding dress. The pattern is hand sewn stitch by stich with gold and silver threads…a craft that is slowly being lost in this modern world.
And here are the red Chinese wedding shoes that went with the dress.
How about some favorite pieces of jewelry?
There are a few pieces of jewelry which I treasure a lot because they are very meaningful to me. Here are some of them, starting with a very special watch from my husband which was my wedding present from him. I think this piece is definitely a classic for a lifetime.
This sapphire ring was given to me by my father when I graduated with my degree.
Here are two of my most loved bangles! The Cartier Love bangle in rose gold with four diamonds, and an Hermes rose gold CDC bangle. The Hermes bangle is a present from my husband for my upcoming 30th birthday. And yes I have been naughty – I couldn’t wait till my 30th and have been wearing it since I first got it!
The Cartier Love was from my husband also for our first wedding anniversary, and I would love to share a little story about it. I was in love this bracelet (the plain rose gold version) for over five years. Back then I was working, and every time I walked past the Cartier shop I really wanted to just go in and just purchase it. In fact, I tried it on what seems like a thousand times. But I didn’t get it in the end, because I thought that might lose the meaning of the bracelet.
Four years went past…and I was getting married. My father knew how much I loved it, so he said he would buy it for me as my wedding present… but I still refused. So I was very, very happy when I finally received this Love bangle for my wedding anniversary present from my husband.
Then of course there is my engagement ring wedding ring and celebration ring (a ring that I received when I had my son). These are the most meaningful and cherished jewelry pieces that I have ever received.
What are some more surprising items that have turned out to be favorites in your wardrobe?
I think it would be my Hermes Garden Party bags. My first was an impulse purchase. I was interested in getting one, but wasnt planning on it at that time. Then somehow, my friend wanted to get one also.. and then we started to look around. Under each other’s influence, we both got the bags within a very short period of time. It was an impulse buy for me because from my point of view, Garden Party bags are a very casual looking bag. Good for picnics, a day at the park, a Sunday coffee or to the beach, and I wasn’t sure if the look would suit my style. And, I didn’t know what colour I wanted! I have always been a black, grey, and navy kind of girl but I also wanted some fun colours. I just couldn’t make up my mind!
When I encountered a Garden Party in Bleu Tempete, I purchased it without giving it a second thought. At first I found it hard to use because of the colour/style, but somehow recently I’ve found myself using it everyday! Especially when I’m out and about with my baby boy…and I can fit in a few baby things too! Recently I have purchased a second one in Bois de Rose. They are now my workhorse bags! Both of them are in Fjord leather which I find them makes them better because they are so much stiffer.
Are there any items that you purchased, thinking at the time that they’d be forever and classic – but you haven’t ended up using as much as you thought?
Burberry trench coats. I got my very first one when I was still a student in university, it was a Blue Label one from Japan. I think I only wore it less than five times. Then I got another one from Burberry London in black, knee length, when I was working. I wore it a lot back then but now both of them are just sitting in my closet.
What’s a lesson about building the perfect closet that you’ve learned over the years?
Well certainly I have wasted a lot of money buying and selling my bags over the years. I started from using Gucci to Louis Vuitton when I started working…then, I rebuilt my closet and sold them all. I collected a few Balenciaga bags for work, and seven Chanel flaps in six colours plus a few other seasonal bags. And now? Only two flaps are left in my closet plus some other Hermes handbags that I have added into my closet recently. I guess my lesson was not to obsess.
Now that I look back I wish I did not purchase so many of these bag in those different stages of my life. Tastes change as we grow older and our preferences on the bag styles changes too, due to different lifestyles. A personal example of mine, are my Chanel flaps. I used to think they were timeless pieces, which actually I still think they are. They fit my lifestyle perfectly when I had no baby but after I had a baby everything changed. I can no longer tolerate a double flap bag, I need something bigger with easy access. I only use my flaps when I am not with my son. Having said that, now I am trying very hard to tell myself not to obsess on Hermes either. I need to learn what is enough and when to stop.
What are some of your other hobbies and passions?
I love cooking, baking and traveling. With my son around though…I haven’t been able to do as much!
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
Hahaha…I will have to say nothing! I’m just a mother of a one year old boy.
Penelope’s dessert looks delicious, doesn’t it? After our interview, I’m suddenly struck with the desire to visit New Zealand! And I loved her advice about learning not to obsess – I know that’s something I need to be reminded of from time to time. I really enjoyed learning more about Penelope and getting to peek into some very special times and events in her life. Thank you Penelope for sharing some of those moments with here today, and thank you all for reading!