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Homestyle-beautyFrom costume jewellery to great grandma’s earrings: The collector with an obsession...

From costume jewellery to great grandma’s earrings: The collector with an obsession for unusual accessories

Angie Chen’s passion for accessories isn’t just a leisure interest, it’s a legacy that she has happily embraced. “My grandma and mum are huge collectors of accessories, and they base their looks on the pieces that they are wearing at the moment,” explained the 32 year-old manager at a communications agency.

She described how her grandmother would even plan her outfit for a trip to the market beforehand around the accessories she had chosen to wear and her mother would do the same for work.

”I loved seeing them get ready to go out. As a child, I could just stare at them while they put things together by mixing and matching contrasting prints and bright colours and somehow make them work,” she said.

Chen’s outfits as a young girl were also accessorised with bonnets, matching socks and hair clips.

(Video: Gingerrottihouse) 

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Even on leisurely days, she said she completes a simple outfit with accessorises, “I could just put on a really nice necklace, a pair of earrings from an interesting independent designer, and it would completely change the look. It’s really the finishing touch. The finesse on every outfit.”

A treasured piece in her collection is her engagement ring which her husband diligently worked on, sourcing the emerald from Hong Kong, sending it to Switzerland for certification and finally to London to be designed by award-winning jewellery designer, Anabela Chan.

“It’s something that he spent almost a year preparing from the sourcing of the stone to the design details which makes it extremely sentimental and precious to me. He also knows my exacting tastes, so when everyone saw my ring they said it was made for me,” she said.  

She also cherishes the Ann Demeulemeester Bug Brooch which she bought as a 17 year-old with money she earned from part-time work. This purchase was pivotal as this was when she began to actively collect accessories. Moving to London soon after to further her studies helped to expose her to a wide variety of new and vintage fashion and piquing her interest in vintage jewellery.

She appreciates vintage pieces because they are often unique and not mass-produced. She explained: “If they’ve lasted 20 years, they’re going to last another 20 years more. There’s longevity in them.” Chen recently spotted the same Billy Boy Fraternity Goon necklace from a reseller. “It was going for US$1,355 (S$1,855)!”

She also has a keen interest in history and geopolitics and enjoys seeing how history and current affairs directly impact fashion trends, “I’ve always loved the glamour and contrast of the 80s and 90s the most, it was a great time with flourishing economies and it showed on the runway,”

(Video: Gingerrottihouse) 

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SHOPPING WITH INTENTION

Chen believes that collecting accessories is about acquiring pieces that tell a story. “It could be something that was purchased in a far-flung location or any kind of setting that creates an experience that is meaningful and memorable,” she said, adding, “Stories are really important to me because I think that is fundamentally what creates human connection.”

Her approach to shopping is conscious and intentional as she doesn’t believe in being wasteful. Before making a purchase, she asks herself a few important questions. “When I walk into a store, number one is ‘Do I have the intention to buy?’ I don’t really like to browse for the sake of browsing. Number two is ‘Can I afford it?’ And number three, ‘How would it fit into my closet and my lifestyle?’”, she explained and assured that by responding to these questions, shopper’s regret can be avoided.

A key factor in deciding whether she should make a purchase is how unique the piece is and she sources her accessories from independent designers, vintage jewellery sellers and even Taobao.

Has she made mistakes with her collection? “I rarely make mistakes when it comes to design and have kept almost everything since I started collecting. But I would say that after so many years I’d steer clear of obviously branded pieces and also materials that tarnish or wear easily in humidity as I find that these pieces do not have longevity and can look dated,” she said.

To store her collection, Chen keeps the smaller pieces in clear pouches for visibility and to prevent tarnishing, while larger and more fragile pieces are kept in their original boxes. Hats and most hair accessories are kept in hat boxes in her cupboards with charcoal filters.

THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING YOUR STYLE

Chen doesn’t believe in taking yourself too seriously when dressing up but shared that when mixing pieces, having a ratio helps. She explained, “For example 4:1, four low-end pieces mixed with one high-end piece creates a good synergy and does not make you look like a walking brand advertisement.”

(Video: Gingerrottihouse) 

Contrast is also important, and she suggests pairing something simple or classic with a statement piece or an item that is more outstanding, and vice versa.

She intends to wear her collection for as long as possible because she believes that her style will stay unchanged as it has since she was a youth. “Of course, maybe it’s gotten a bit more classic. I pick things that are maybe not so crazy,” she said but emphasised that her taste in accessories hasn’t changed.

She added, “I think if you have a very singular vision of what your style is, and you’re very decisive about the pieces that you pick, then they will never go out of style because your style shouldn’t go out of style. It’s you.”

Senior editor: Serene Seow; creative director: Chern Ling; senior producer: Lindsay Jialin; photography: Kelvin Chia; hair: Jenny Lee; makeup: Ginger Lynette using Nars

06:11 Min

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