With Singapore in a state of heightened alert beginning 16 May and working from home the norm once more, it might seem like there is now less incentive to dress up. But Angie Chen-Tan, curator at luxury consignment retailer The Fifth Collection and owner of local jewellery store The Lobang Shop, abides by the principle: look good to feel good.
“With everyone quite down about the tighter COVID-19 restrictions, dressing up will lift our mood,” she tells Vogue Singapore. “And, one of the easiest ways to do it is to look through your accessories drawer and see what you have.”
Chen-Tan is clearly walking the talk. She shows up to our Zoom call wearing a custom-made pearl and bead necklace. Her blush-pink mask is accompanied by a pearl mask chain from her own store, which she gleefully shares can be converted into a necklace once the pandemic is over.
Her mask goes with her hot pink blouse perfectly. But when I ask if she matched them deliberately, she laughs: “The only reason I wear a mask is for science. This is a medical-grade four ply mask. [It] is the only thing I wear that I never think in terms of aesthetics for.”
Chen-Tan’s choice of jewellery and trinkets strike the perfect balance between practicality and style, professionalism and comfort. Below, she shares seven ways on how anyone can maximise their accessories collection to look good on Zoom while feeling good at the same time.
1. Wear a statement piece
Chen-Tan recommends adding an eye-catching piece of jewellery to instantly pull an outfit together. “I’m sure most of us are hopping onto work calls right after rolling out of bed. Throwing on a statement piece can really dress up your look,” she says.
When she is looking for an instant confidence boost, her go-to piece is a vintage necklace made by designer Billy Boy. She bought it in London almost a decade ago and it remains one of her most-loved pieces to this day.
“It is very sleek, but the gingerbread men design makes it quirky at the same time. It is truly a one-of-a-kind piece. Because it’s so special, it makes me feel different and good about myself,” she confesses. “I like pieces that stand out.”
2. Add some sparkle and colour
For accessories, Chen-Tan usually favours either a full-gold look or something more vibrant and colourful. A recent favourite is a couple of stackable rainbow bracelets from her own store. “I’m a magpie,” she admits with a chuckle. “If something is bright and shimmery, I’m sold.”
I ask if she thinks there is a psychological basis behind her love for shine, and Chen-Tan grins. “Maybe people gravitate towards sparkly things because they themselves want to feel shiny and happy.”
An item that gets Chen-Tan’s magpie heart singing is a crystal-encrusted Ann Demeulemeester brooch that she has had for almost half her life. “It is definitely a conversation starter and elevates any look,” she says of the scarab-shaped brooch. “And the great thing is, because it’s made of fabric, it’s very light and doesn’t drag on my clothes.”
3. Know when to tone things down
For those who don’t want to look too flashy on a work call, Chen-Tan recommends sticking to solid-coloured pieces that still have a bit of an edge. “You can look professional without compromising on your personal style,” she emphatically states.
To imbue yourself with a dose of #bossbabe energy for an important meeting, Chen-Tan recommends wearing something with a minimalist design but bold structure: “Like a chunky chain in gold or silver, or a pair of architectural earrings. Nothing that’s over-the-top but still says a lot about who you are and what you want.”
4. Put the fun in functional
Accessorising should be just as much about fun as they are about function. “When you have a morning meeting and don’t have time to shower, a headband is great for whipping those baby hairs out of your face,” advises Chen-Tan. Her own extensive hairband collection contains pieces from Benoit Missolin and Maison Michele.
Watches are also an easy way to enhance both the utility and aesthetic of a work-from-home outfit. However, Chen-Tan laughingly admits watches are the only accessory she never quite caught on to: “I do sometimes wear an old Rolex that my dad gave me.But even when I wear it, I never look at it. I’m just not a watch person at all!”
5. See what goes with your mood
Chen-Tan sums up her accessorising process with one word: spontaneous. “I don’t plan ahead. In the morning, I’ll just open my drawer and see what fits my mood,” she says. Some workdays have tougher or more meetings, which motivates her to reach for bolder, mood-lifting jewellery instead of more classic pieces.
When I ask if she ever curates her style, Chen-Tan immediately shakes her head. “I have high-end items, vintage collectibles, but also things from Far East Plaza,” she recounts. “I buy whatever catches my eye and wear whatever makes me feel good.”
At this point, I’m starting to wonder if Chen-Tan always looks so put-together. “Oh no,” she replies, looking amused at the very thought. “The moment work ends, it’s time to relax. I immediately remove everything and hop into the shower.”
6. Choose comfortable and easy to match pieces
Chen-Tan gravitates towards materials that look striking but are still lightweight. “I like things made of pearls, resin, and acrylic or glass beads,” she says.
When I question how she reconciles her pursuit of comfort with her love for chunky gold jewellery (often made with heavier metals and alloys), she happily reveals: “PVD coating—that’s the secret. You can use a lighter material and finish it off with PVD coating to still give it that beautiful, decorative metallic look.”
As much as Chen-Tan adores her statement baubles, there is a special place in her heart for the no-frills pieces in her collection that are easy to wear and to match. “I adore ear cuffs because I can just throw them on and they go with all of my other ear accessories,” she shares. “And my rings are always very classic. Usually, the only ones I have on are my wedding band, my engagement ring, and a friendship band. They are just bands, so they are great for matching with other accessories.”
7. Take care of your goodies
Hygiene and sanitation are always at the forefront of Chen-Tan’s mind when it comes to her jewellery: “I put everything in sturdy transparent pouches and try to separate them from one another. I also make sure they’re not in a humid environment.”
Chen-Tan sounds like a proud mama when she says she “uses polishing wipes to baby my jewellery” And just like a good parent, she doesn’t play favourites with her “babies”. “The transparent pouches allow me to see all of them so that none get hidden away or forgotten in a corner of my drawer,” she says seriously.
Then again, Chen-Tan already has a self-proclaimed photographic memory when it comes to jewellery. “Once in a while, I’ll remember I haven’t worn [a] piece for a while and decide it’s time to bring it out.” Her mouth curls into a smile. “I give all of my things equal love.”