Dress Like the Boss: Shirley Chen’s Business-With-an-Edge Basics

 

Photos from elle.com

Photos from elle.com

Shirley Chen, the founder of BAM, a forthcoming, real-time bidding platform that connects luxury fashion and beauty brands with editorial opportunities, has a polished aesthetic that reflects her supremely organized mind. And with marketing experience at both McKinsey & Company and Moda Operandi under her belt, she’s prepared to venture out on her own—but becoming your own boss requires a slight fashion reorientation.

“I definitely believe in investment items and feel no shame or unease in wearing clothing that is not in-season,” she says. “However, I am firmly against hoarding. I donate or consign every year and only hold on to what I love.” And all is fair in love and clothing, it seems: Chen’s Soho apartment is spotless; and her closet, which is jam-packed with high-rise denim, sharply tailored shifts, and boss lady suiting, is nothing short of miraculous. Check out a week’s worth of workday outfits courtesy of one of the most stylish women in New York.

elle-01-shirley-h-xln

Life Imitates Art

“I own at least 6 pairs of blue stilettos ranging from soft blue to cobalt. I have a very vivid memory of going to a Vermeer exhibition with my dad as a six year old. We waited in line for five hours in the cold. Although I was too young to understand light and composition, the color in his paintings absolutely astonished me.

Marni Vest
Gap Boys Shirt, $34.94; gap.com
J. Brand Maria High Rise Jeans, $180; jbrandjeans.com
Tabitha Simmons Flats, $420; modaoperandi.com
Marni Bird Pin, $225; gilt.com

elle-02-shirley-v-xln

Set Dressing

“I dress simply. Structure and attention to detail are important to me. [Inspiration] will always be books and films for me. I grew up in China and would watch smuggled American DVDs with my cousin on the roof of our house. Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair, Uma Thurman in Gattaca, Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. Chungking Express and In The Mood for Love are two Chinese films that are such style inspirations.

Michael van der Ham Dress
Aurelie Bidermann Ginko Cuff, $782; farfetch.com
Manolo Blahnik Pumps, $595; bergdorfgoodman.com

elle-03-shirley-h-xln

Coat of Arms

The summer of my freshman year I got an internship at [3.1] Phillip Lim. It was right after he did the rosette collection and I knew I had to be there. Unfortunately, a few days before I’d also been offered a summer job at Morgan Stanley. My very Asian parents were distraught at the idea of me working in fashion instead of finance and refused to offer any financial assistance. I got a part-time job four days a week to support myself. At the end of the summer, the Phillip team gave me a classic, black tuxedo jacket. It wasn’t my first designer piece, but it felt like the first designer item I’d really earned. What a sweet, sweet feeling.

Givenchy Jacket
Yang Li Dress
Bottega Veneta Sandals
Hermes Clutch

elle-04-shirley-v-xln

Brave New Heights

“I went to Columbia [as an] undergrad, and the campus is notorious for cobblestone. It didn’t faze me at all, I even wore heels in the snow once. Thank god I did gymnastics as a kid, or else I would have taken many more tumbles. These days I find myself wearing plenty of flats—and staying far away from cobblestone.

Altuzarra Coat
Lanvin Checkered Dress, $1,642; farfetch.com
Lanvin Bag
Manolo Blahnik Pumps, $595; bergdorfgoodman.com

elle-05-shirley-h-xln

Get Smart

“I went to high school in D.C., where I was an extreme science nerd. I worked at the National Institute of Health and the Walter Reed Navy Medical Research Center for two years. I even had a research paper published. That is a long way of saying I was not a fashion person! The summer before college I read a runway review by [Style.com editor-at-large] Tim Blanks. For the next three months, I watched every Fashion File I could get my hands on. I still don’t know if I qualify as a fashion person, but I’ve certainly come a long way.

Max Mara Coat, $4,490; saks.com
Chadwick Bell Turtleneck
Cushnie et Ochs Pants
Hermes Kelly Bag

WILAB LOVES is a series of articles and blog posts from across the web that Women’s iLab supports. This article was written by Danielle Prescod and published on Elle.com on December 3, 2014.