A chat with Swarovski Insider, Tengku Chanela Jamidah on all things brilliant
Right before the city was swept up in the frenzy of Singapore Fashion Week, Swarovski gathered a collective of influencers, media and guests from Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries to showcase the brand's current and upcoming collections.
Swarovski's SS17 collection, Urban Romance was unveiled for the first time in Asia at an exclusive trunk show at Singapore's Naumi Hotel. A tale of two cities—Paris and Los Angeles—inspired a crystalised range that spanned from one-off couture pieces to pared back everyday staples featuring the intricacies of Parisian architecture and the bohemian aesthetics of the Californian city.
With a glimmering skyline as a backdrop and the FW16 Crystal Galaxy Collection on display, the day concluded on the deck of Singapore's National Gallery where 250 guests graced the Swarovski Opening Showcase Party for Singapore Fashion Week.
Amidst the revelry, we managed to catch up with one of Swarovski's Insiders, Malaysia's very own Tengku Chanela Jamidah for a tête-à-tête on all things brilliant in jewellery and fashion:
It's so nice to see you again, Jamidah. You're here at Singapore Fashion Week (SGFW) as a Swarovski Insider. Could you tell us a little about your role as an Insider for SGFW?
It's something like being an ambassador. We get the exclusive privilege to preview and wear a lot of the pieces from the newest collections. It's quite an enjoyable affair—connecting with other influencers around Asia, discovering new local designers, and doing events like meet-and-greets.
How would you define a modern Swarovski woman?
The term used is 'multi-faceted' because Swarovski is all about crystals. I think they were quite clever when they chose the Swarovski Insiders. We each have our individual strengths. I come in as a mother and a career woman with a business in fashion. It's all about balance. It's a struggle I face myself—balancing everything and to do it all gracefully. It's something Swarovski crystals represent as well; the cuts are always perfectly balanced, beautiful and timeless.
Your line, Thavia debuted at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW) earlier this year. What are your thoughts on Singapore Fashion Week and how does it feel to be back in the midst of the fashion frenzy?
At KLFW, you go to fashion week to support your local designers, you see a lot of your friends, but here it's a whole new experience. It's always good to back in Singapore, though. You see so many familiar faces and you meet so many warm people; it feels like a second home.
I feel like the fashion scene here in Singapore is a little edgier than Malaysia. I have noticed very different styling choices—band tees, statement tops, and biker jackets were all mixed and matched with feminine skirts.
Last year, fashion week was held at Takashimaya and it was intense—there was a lot of walking in heels involved. The struggle is real for us girls. The location this year is outstanding. The National Gallery represents Singapore's heritage and shows off incredible architecture and interiors. To put nice clothing in that kind of atmosphere, just really brings out the whole vibe. Nowadays, it's all about the vibe.
What are your daily go-to accessories?
I guess you could say that I'm a chameleon. During the day, I go for more classic pieces and typically stick to bangles and earrings. For the evening I pick more big statement pieces. When I'm looking for something minimalist, my go-to piece is this simple wraparound Swarovski piece, the Crystaldust bracelet.
Going back to your clothing line, Thavia—how do you think jewellery can elevate an outfit?
For Thavia, we're all about street style and key pieces for the season. So, I think it's important to accessorize well to make the outfit pop. We like to make pieces you can style to wear during the day; but tie it, twist it, or put it off shoulder, and it can go through to an evening function. Incorporating bold statement pieces adds glamour to an outfit—transforming the look from day to night.
What do you think sets Swarovski apart from other jewellers?
I think Swarovski is quite contemporary in a sense. They have done collaborations with many big designers; Mary Katrantzou and Jean Paul Gaulthier, for instance. It keeps them current and on trend. They consistently push themselves in that direction while staying classic at the same time.
Do you have plans on expanding your fashion line to include accessories?
Definitely. We'll slowly be incorporating a line that's more lifestyle-skewed, with handbags and shoe pairings. This is in a few years' time though—not so soon. I've also just hired a new designer for Thavia. She has had great exposure after working with brands like Proenza Schouler and Mary Katrantzou. I'm really excited about upcoming collections.
What about creating a stronger presence for Thavia in Singapore?
Thavia has been very well received in Singapore. I intend to be more physically present; either in stores here, through Fashion Valet or our own pop up. We're currently going through a transitional period where we will have a new structure to be able to cater to the demands of our customers. I think being in Singapore brings really good opportunity and exposure for the brand.
Could you tell us about any collaborations you're working on at the moment?
I have a personal collaboration with Material Lipstick coming out sometime in December. It's an edited version of one of their bestsellers, the 1960s Nano. The best part: it's modular. The bag will be sold as a package—a detachable top with two different bottoms in completely different materials.
Swarovski has also been very smart in recruiting many digital influencers. Karlie Kloss, the new face of Swarovski, herself is a perfect example. What do you think is the importance of social media and digital advancement in fashion?
It's a very fast, instant, effective way of communicating because not many people have the time to go and read magazines. Like you guys, Buro 24/7, it's fully digital. I'm toying with the idea of starting a website myself but that's still in the works. People want to know what goes on behind the scenes, how you develop the concept, and it's execution which can be properly communicated through a webpage.
That being said, Instagram and social media are still the fastest and most effective tools to tell a story about your brand. I've used it in most of my businesses.
Swarovski's SS17 collection was inspired by two cities—L.A. and Paris. Of all the places you have visited, is there one city that is particularly special to you?
Actually, Paris brings back a lot of memories. I feel very connected to Paris, especially because it launched my career in fashion, through Ultra. I love the vibes in the city. Walking through Le Marais, seeing all the art exhibitions, and meeting people during fashion week—it's so inspiring.
It just has this sense of romanticism as well—from the rivers, to the beautiful bridges, and the museums. Paris is definitely my favourite and will continue to be for years to come.
If you were to design a new line, would you pick Paris as inspiration for the next collection, or do you have another city in mind?
I find Tokyo quite interesting. It's so fast paced and forward thinking in terms of trends. Their rich culture and attention to detail are also very inspiring. My daughter is obsessed with Japan, anime, and these videos where they make incredible miniatures of food! Actually, she's the reason I'm inspired by Japan.
So, for our final question, Coco Chanel said, "Before leaving the house, a lady should look in the mirror and remove one accessory." Are there any golden rules you abide by when it comes to jewellery?
Yes, I don't mix metals too much. I match accessories to the outfits I'm wearing. If it has gold accents, I'll purely choose gold accessories and match that also to my shoes and bag. I think avoiding too many colours that clash is something that everybody should think about when choosing their accessories for the day.