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Mon, Nov 25, 2013
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Style pals
by Leslie Kay Lim

A walking, talking mirror that helps you pick outfits and inspires your style sounds like a yet-to-be invented gadget of the future.

But it exists, in the form of a BFF - in this case, best fashion friend - who doles out much needed sartorial advice. Even celebrities famous for their style chops, it seems, get fashion tips from their equally chic friends.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton, has a "secret stylist" in her son Prince George's godmother Emilia Jardine-Paterson, reported British magazine Grazia two weeks ago.

It is understood that the 31-year-old interior decorator, who has known the Duchess since they were both 13 years old, has been overseeing the stylish royal's public outfits in the last few months.

The vintage and colour-loving decorator, who first introduced her friend to Prince William, has apparently been steering Catherine away from neutral palates.

She is also reportedly assisting the royal couple with the interior design of their Kensington Palace home.

The benefits of best fashion friends are hard to deny.

Accompanying you on a shopping trip, they can play the role of an objective stylist, give you tips on how to style the item in question, and even push you to venture out of your comfort zone to try new prints, colours or shapes.

Hollywood has its fair share of style pals as well. Take, for instance, actresses Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler, both devotees of designer Stella McCartney, who both embody a slightly glamorous, bohemian style.

On the red carpet, sensual Spanish speaking actresses Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are both fans of the high bouffant and dramatic gown.

Across the pond, British singer Rita Ora and model Cara Delevigne are fond of pairing streetwear-inspired styles with Old Hollywood beauty.

Urban speaks to six pairs of best fashion friends, who share how they have inspired each other.

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Rachel Erasmus, 23, model, & Vishnu Bala, 26, model

How and when did you meet?

Vishnu Bala (VB): We met three years ago while working at Indian designer Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla's fashion show at Marina Bay Sands. Rachel was friendly and not a diva.

Rachel Erasmus (RE): He wasn't one of those male models who thinks he's all that. We just clicked. When did you realise you made great BFFs?

VB: There was no particular moment, but we just gave each other constructive criticism and helped each other over time.

RE: The more we hung out, the more we realised we were compatible. We were saying "why don't you try this on" to each other and before we realised it, we were fashion buddies.

How has your BFF inspired the way you dress?

VB: We started out the exact opposite, actually. She loved prints and I stuck to solid colours. It was a culture shock when we started shopping together. But it was good for us and I definitely started trying more prints.

RE: I think we've influenced each other's taste, for sure. It took us out of our comfort zones in a good way.

What useful tips have you picked up from your BFF?

VB: I used to think all solid colours went together, but I learnt that just because each is plain doesn't mean everything can go together.

RE: I learnt that the clothes themselves don't have to be loud to make a statement. You can play up a look with accessories too.

What do you love best about your BFF's style?

VB: I like that she's unpredictable and never fails to surprise. I'm never bored with what she comes up with.

RE: I love that his style is completely different from mine. It's minimalist but versatile and intriguing.

Do you shop together, and where?

VB: I force her to go shopping with me. I love Calvin Klein and Prada.

RE: We'll visit shops such as Mash-Up, Zara and Topshop.

Are there any fashion faux pas your BFF has committed?

VB: To be honest, on days when we aren't going to model castings, we both look like hobos in flip-flops and T-shirts. I hope no one recognises us.

RE: I mean, there's a time and place for everything and, sometimes, we just want to be comfortable and lazy.

Dawn Koh, 25, co-owner of Chalk Farm bakery, & her mother, Ginny Ng, 63, general manager of Dickson Watches

When did you realise you made great BFFs?

Dawn Koh (DK): My mother has indulged me with beautiful clothes since I was a child and I loved most things that she picked out for me.

We bond over fashion, among other things, so you could say she has been my best fashion friend since I was very young.

Ginny Ng (GN): Dawn has been exposed to fashion and clothes since she was young as I am in the retail industry. I guess you could say we have been best fashion friends since she was a teenager.

How has your BFF inspired the way you dress?

DK: I trust my mum's taste, which is very classy. My own style is more grungy and edgy but I might swop Converse sneakers for heels or flats and doll up sometimes, thanks to her.

GN: She gives me confidence. Usually I stick to the brands I like, but she introduces me to upcoming, non-mainstream brands such as Christopher Kane (before he made it big) and Sacai. I can mix and match and it keeps me young.

What useful tips have you picked up from your BFF?

DK: She's practical and says I shouldn't buy too many seasonal items. She says that having enduring pieces means I'll get the most mileage out of my core wardrobe.

GN: I tend to favour a monochromatic colour scheme but she encourages me to have more fun and try a little colour. What do you love best about your BFF's style?

DK: I love that my mother is ever so elegant without trying too hard. She knows what suits her and what doesn't.

GN: Dawn has a knack for transforming even the most "unattractive" item into something stylish. And she has an unusual way of clashing colours that works well on her.

Do you shop together and where?

DK: She's definitely my shopping buddy. I'll let her know if I see something I know she'll like and she does the same.

GN: We know each other's tastes so well. We like to visit places such as Club 21, Givenchy and Celine, and Dover Street Market in London.

Are there any fashion faux pas your BFF has committed?

DK: She dresses so well for her age, so I can't really find fault with her fashion sense. She carries off really simple items with confidence.

GN: She has a very adventurous, experimental style. Even if I think it's over-the-top, if she's confident, I think it's fine. If I think it looks a bit goofy, I might suggest she tone it down but generally I think it's fine.

April Zara Chua, 27, sales and operations specialist, & Charmaine Ng, 27, Pets magazine editor

How and when did you meet?

Charmaine Ng (CN): I joined Pets magazine as an intern under April, then joined full-time as a staff member. We used to turn up for work in the same things.

April Zara Chua (AZC): We'd both come to work in suspenders, or polka dots or even the same shoes. When did you realise you made great BFFs?

CN: From online shopping together at work. We found we made great BFFs because we could be brutally honest about each other's style - she'd tell me what works, what doesn't and vice versa. She's helped me become more confident with my clothes and body.

AZC: When we would turn up for work wearing very similar outfits. Not matching but coordinated. For example, I'd be in jeans and she'd be in a skirt yet we looked coordinated because we had the same colour palette.

How has your BFF inspired the way you dress?

CN: I like her accessories a lot and she's got me trying more bags, shoes and jewellery with my girl-next-door aesthetic. AZC: I used to wear a lot of black but she's inspired me to be more colourful with my style choices.

What useful tips have you picked up from your BFF?

CN: She's got a "V for Victory"-like hand signal she flashes that means "watch your VPL" (visible panty line).

AZC: I've learnt to dress more for practicality. Like if we were working on a shoot with animals, I have to wear something that lets me move.

What do you love best about your BFF's style?

CN: April may be really petite, but she packs a real punch no matter what she wears. I love how she pulls off an effortlessly stylish look all the time - it's really not fair!

AZC: I love her femininity and how we complement each other even though we are quite different. Sometimes, I'm a tad jealous she can pull off clothes I can't because she is the one blessed with womanly assets.

Do you shop together and where?

CN: Online. We like sending each other links to potential purchases such as on Asos, Net-A-Porter and Wearto.

AZC: We'll also visit the usual shops such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21.

Are there any fashion faux pas your BFF has committed?

CN: Once, she wore this slinky, sequinned top to go clubbing. It had all these chains attached that kept falling off and getting caught in things.

AZC: She wore a tube top once when we went out. She had to hold onto it when she danced and I had to keep looking over and checking to make sure it was still up.

Mohammed Saiful, 24, events executive, & Natrisha Natinoh, 24, flight attendant

How and when did you meet?

Mohammed Saiful (MS): We've known each other for 11 years, since we were at Evergreen Secondary School.

Natrisha Natinoh (NN): I made fun of him at first because he was very flamboyant, but we had a lot of mutual friends and eventually became BFFs.

When did you realise you made great BFFs?

MS: I think maybe when we left school and our uniforms behind, we became more conscious of how we dressed and what trends we could try out.

NN: Maybe when we were around 18? We started dressing for life after school.

How has your BFF inspired the way you dress?

MS: She's very elegant, classy and stylish, so I've been inspired to dress more subtly.

NN: He's very adventurous with bold colours and gives me the courage to wear them.

He tells me straight whether I look good or not, too.

What useful tips have you picked up from your BFF?

MS: She's taught me how to mix and match high- and low-end items.

NN: We've both learnt how things don't have to be expensive to look good.

What do you love best about your BFF's style?

MS: She's got a classic style and she keeps it simple and stylish.

NN: I love that he's preppy and adventurous in what he wears.

Do you shop together and where?

MS: I request stuff from overseas when she travels, such as Primark and River Island.

NN: We shop at H&M and consult each other on online purchases from Mr Porter, Net-A-Porter and Reebonz.

Are there any fashion faux pas your BFF has committed?

MS: She once got a perm full of tiny curls that made her hair look like a giant puff.

NN: There was once a "Be Yourself" day in school when we could wear what we wanted. He wore really tight jeans and an ugly scarf.

Tan Jun Guang, 25, bank manager, & Jo Chieng, 29, bank manager

How and when did you meet?

Tan Jun Guang (TJG): We're both relationship managers at the same bank and division.

Jo Chieng (JC): We met about seven months ago through work.

When did you realise you made great BFFs?

TJG: When I realised how patient and helpful she was.

She really takes her time when we go shopping and gives me tips on how to wear things.

JC: Maybe shortly after we met? He's really proactive.

He'd call me up to go shopping maybe once a month or so.

How has your BFF inspired the way you dress?

TJG: We have casual Fridays at work so I really wanted her advice and tips on how to dress nicely.

JC: When he came to me for fashion advice, it made me more assured about my own style.

What useful tips have you picked up from your BFF?

TJG: Previously, my style was casual but dull. She's taught me how to look more put together and professional by dressing more sharply and in brighter colours.

JC: I learnt that everyone's style is different and that being comfortable in your own skin is important too.

What do you love best about your BFF's style?

TJG: She looks classy and always well put together.

JC: He's a lot more confident and stylish now compared to before. He's less sloppy too.

Do you shop together and where?

TJG & JC: We go to stores such as H&M, or online shops such as

Are there any fashion faux pas your BFF has committed?

TJG: I don't think so.

JC: He used to dress in dull colours, such as grey, that made him look like a 40-year-old man.

Janet Koh, 41, human resource business partner, & Genelle Kang, 39, human resource professional

How and when did you meet?

Janet Koh (JK): We met in 2000 when we were both taking the same graduate diploma course in human resource. Genelle Kang (GK): We went on to work at the same manufacturing company as well.

When did you realise you made great BFFs?

JK: When I badly needed an outfit and didn't know where to get one. I remember seeing something she wore that I liked so she ended up taking me shopping.

GK: When I realised Janet has great fashion sense when it comes to shoes. They can really make or break an overall outfit.

How has your BFF inspired the way you dress?

JK: She has a really bold style and has introduced me to colour and accessories. My safe, classic wardrobe is slowly getting there.

GK: Janet has great shoes, so I'm thinking more about shoes, thanks to her.

What useful tips have you picked up from your BFF?

JK: She's taken me to Chinatown to scout out shops that offer clothing that is cheap but looks expensive.

GK: Nude-coloured shoes and pointed heels are a petite or short woman's best friend as they help to elongate one's legs.

What do you love best about your BFF's style?

JK: I like the way she's very game to try the latest fashion trends and has the confidence to carry them off.

GK: I like that she is always able to carry off an elegant and classic style with subtle unique details that make the outfits look effortless and chic.

Do you shop together and where?

JK: We shop together for bargains. Sometimes, we meet during our lunch hour and go to Zara or H&M.

GK: Chinatown is my secret source of clothes. We like to shop at places that offer imported stuff from South Korea.

Are there any fashion faux pas your BFF has committed?

JK: Once she wore this neon pink jacket to work that looked right out of a 1980s music video.

GK: She wore two different shoes to work once and didn't notice until lunch.

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