Former beauty queen Carol Chen is not afraid to stand out

Entrepreneur Carol Chen goes for statement pieces to add a distinctive style to her outfit

A fan of dresses, Ms Carol Chen prefers timeless pieces that can be worn repeatedly.
A fan of dresses, Ms Carol Chen prefers timeless pieces that can be worn repeatedly. PHOTOS: BILLY YUEN VISUALS, COVETELLA

Q & A

Carol Chen, 35, founder of Covetella, a designer dress rental service

How would you describe your style?

It is very polarised. Everyday clothes bore me, so I like to be either very dressed up or dressed down.

When I am going to an event, my style is very distinctive and glamorous. I am not afraid to stand out, so I love fancy statement pieces and bling.

But if I am working or just hanging out, I want to be as comfortable and low-fuss as possible, so you will find me in plain sweats or workout gear.

When did your interest in fashion start?

I was already making dresses for myself out of blankets and safety pins when I was seven. As a child, I spent all my free time sketching dresses or styling my siblings, so it was inevitable that I would end up with a degree in fashion design.

I love fashion as a means to express oneself and help build confidence, but I am not a huge fan of trends or excessive materialism.

Who are your favourite designers and go-to brands?

For gowns, Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Michael Cinco are among my favourites.

I am also a huge supporter of independent designers, so some of my favourite pieces that I had gotten for Covetella include items such as a fully embroidered dress (photo 1) from Indian clothing brand Pankaj & Nidhi for $1,400 and handcrafted earrings (photo 2) from Indian jewellery label Aish Jewels for $180.

Who are your style icons?

The late French designer Coco Chanel because of her classy style and timeless elegance; the late American actress Marilyn Monroe for her glamorous style and larger-than-life persona; American singer Lady Gaga for her daring style and fearless attitude; and American designer Vera Wang because of her minimalistic personal style and fanciful professional designs.

What are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe?

Probably my classic black Yves Saint Laurent shoes (photo 3) that I got for $1,250 and purse (photo 4) that cost $1,750, because I get so much mileage out of them. The shoes and purse are so versatile that I can pair them with almost anything.

I am more a dress girl, so I stick to a few staple accessories and spend more on novelty apparel.

What are your weaknesses when it comes to shopping?

Good deals and unique designs. Since I used to run my own factory in China, I know how much things really cost, so I hate paying full price for anything.

I am always bargain-hunting, so if I see a good buy, I will be tempted to get it even if I do not really need it.

I also love collecting unique pieces from designers around the world, but I do not feel guilty shopping anymore now that I can monetise most of my closet via Covetella.

What is your favourite splurge purchase?

My most exciting splurge was spending almost $10,000 on buying the remaining stock from the now-defunct Singapore fashion label Zardoze's last collection to help launch Covetella.

It was closing its brand and it had all these gorgeous couture dresses left, including a beaded gown (photo 5) I got for $2,300.

Is there a purchase you have regretted?

Probably half of my online purchases. I think e-commerce is great for most things, but when it comes to expensive clothing, I usually prefer to try them on.

What is your most recent fashion purchase?

I just picked up a very sexy Halston gown (photo 6) that cost $700 for Covetella's growing collection and it is in my size. Now I just need an occasion to wear it.

What is the best shopping or style advice you live by?

Invest in timeless pieces; buy classic items you can wear repeatedly; and rent outfits for special occasions that you would wear only once.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline Former beauty queen Carol Chen is not afraid to stand out. Subscribe