We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
It's been a decade since Chriselle Lim started her blog, The Chriselle Factor, which would catapult the then-stylist and YouTuber to the front rows of fashion weeks across the globe and make her a regular across the social feeds of millions of people. Looking back on her time on the Fashion Internet, though, she doesn't think her approach to style has changed all that much.
"It's funny, because when you brought that question up of an outfit that would encapsulate me now, I immediately go to this one photo I took when I first started my blog," she tells Fashionista. "I was a stylist back then — that's how I started off my career, before blogging or being a digital influencer was even a thing. I would get all these cool pieces for editorial and magazine shoots, and I would secretly shoot them on my own, on myself, and post it on my blog. The PR companies for one of the brands actually found out and was really offended by it. It was an Oscar de la Renta dress and I just remember twirling around in it, just feeling the most fabulous. I still remember those images because when I look back on them, I'm like, 'Oh, that's still my style today.'"
The industry has evolved, though, and Lim with it. Beyond simply getting on all the new platforms (seriously, she's quite good at TikTok), that has meant expanding her horizons beyond strictly content creation. Her big focus right now is BümoWork, a members-only co-working space designed for parents with licensed childcare on-site, that she co-founded with Joan Ngyen, which was finally able to open its doors last month. It was originally supposed to debut in 2020. When that couldn't happen, the team did what pretty much every business had to do: pivot. They digitized the early childhood curriculum they had developed for BümoWork and launched it virtually as BümoBrain, until they could safely cut the ribbon at their first location.
Of course, Lim has proven to be resourceful — and resilient — throughout her career. Ahead, Lim talks about how the pandemic has affected the way she dresses (and how TikTok convinced her to try a trend she never thought she'd wear), how the industry has evolved over the past 10 years and more.
"I've evolved since I started on the Internet a decade ago, so my style, naturally, has evolved with that. I would say the underlining thread is that I've always loved glam. I love dressing up. I'd rather be more dressed up than casual.
"Probably a year into my blog, back in 2010, I started getting comments — back then, it was on blogspot.com or something — like, 'Do you ever look casual?' And I'd be like, 'But this is casual. This is my casual.' I think that's when I realized that I do love getting dressed up and when people started recognizing me for my fashion. I think when I started I was 21, and I guess people realized that that's how I actually dress every day, even to college. And that's when I realized that, okay, I did have something here in the luxury world. Even though I couldn't afford luxury back then, I would always fake it.
"If you look at a lot of my photos [from back then] now, a lot of them are still dressier dresses and fancier pieces — and that was literally 10 years ago. I mean, there are questionable things, like the accessories I wore and my hairstyle back then, but I think overall the outfits that I chose, I would still wear them today. I have a lot of those pieces still and I like to bring them out here and there, once in a while, just because it's so nostalgic. It's a good reminder where you started.
"I like to describe my style now as 'casual glam.' I naturally gravitate towards more elevated pieces that are dressier, whether it be a suit or a dress, but I love pairing it with more casual pieces, whether it be sneakers or flats. I think that has to do a lot with my role as a mom now — it has to be practical and functional. I always try to figure out how I can mix in my world of glamour with practical and functional accessories.
"The thread [in my style] has always been glam and dressing up. What has changed from the beginning has been just adding more things that are wearable. When I was purely a content creator, I would do my best to create outfits and things that are really outside of the box, where people are like, 'Where can you wear this to? This is cool, but can you actually wear this?' And that was my job as a content creator, to try different things and to try to inspire people to do different trends. But I think now more than ever, I stopped doing that, especially as a mom and entrepreneur. One, I don't really have the time, and two, I naturally gravitate towards more sophisticated pieces, more classic, clean lines — still with the idea of glam, but instead of a big poofy princess dress, I naturally gravitate more towards a streamlined, tailored suit, dressing that up with diamonds or whatever and sneakers. I really stopped playing around with trends and trying to do different things [and started] sticking to what makes me feel the most confident, which are really clean lines and sophisticated pieces.
"Of course, I love my Diors and Chanels and all of that, but obviously, who actually wears head-to-toe Dior and Chanel all the time? I surely don't. I'll try to incorporate a tweed jacket here and there, but there are some contemporary brands that I find myself wearing a lot. Anine Bing is an L.A.-based designer that has really beautiful tailored suits. I've worn the suit that I have of hers, I think, over 20 times already. Another brand is Khaite, they have the most beautiful tops that just hug the body so nicely. I have this knitted top that looks like a bustier, but it's just a classic sweater; I also have it in dress form. I love their jeans. Those two have been my go-to brands as of late.
"I would've never ever looked into or spend my money on loungewear because I'm not a loungewear girl — that's just not a part of me — but naturally, with being at home, I discovered some really amazing loungewear brands. Sleeper has the cutest pajama sets that you could also wear out with a pair of jeans. Entireworld is where I got all of my sweatsuits — easy, simple, no crazy colors. Loungewear was one really big missing piece in my closet that I discovered during COVID. But I try not to spend too much money there, just because I know myself and the minute that I don't have to stay at home, I just won't wear loungewear anymore.
"I have to say, pre-COVID, I did love shopping in person, mainly because I hate dealing with shipping and returning. Online shopping can be a little tricky for that reason, like what you see on a model might not fit the same. But this past year all I've been doing is online shopping, so obviously my habits have changed. I do prefer shopping in person if I have the time and the availability to, because it's just so much easier, in my opinion. Also, BümoWork is in Westfield Century City, and they have pretty much all the contemporary stores you can think of. Whenever I'm there — which is pretty much every day — I stop by Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom to see what they have.
"I didn't really shop when I was at fashion week, just because my schedule's pretty insane during that week. But at the end of fashion month, which usually ends in Paris, I always get something really nice — [like a] luxury bag, a lot of times from Chanel — as an end-of-fashion-month treat for myself because we've been on the grind for a month non-stop. My Hermès Kelly bag in black, that's absolutely my number one thing that I will forever cherish, that I probably won't ever pass on to my kids. I love it so much. [I got] my Dior bar jacket, just a classic piece. I have a Chanel tweed jacket as well.
"I did used to love going vintage shopping in Paris at the flea market. But that's always on the weekends and there are always shows that I can't skip. In the early days, I used to go to the flea markets and just find the most amazing pieces there. I got this vintage mirror from the flea market and had it shipped back to my house — that was really special.
"I have so many [memorable fashion week outfits.] There's this one Balmain outfit that I wore that wasn't my typical fashion week look — tweed parachute pants and a jacket. It was really off of what I usually would wear, but it's probably one of my most memorable and most photographed outfits. That immediately comes to mind, because people went crazy over that outfit, I think it was because it was out-of-the-box. Then I would say a lot of my Dior and Valentino looks are always favorites because, again, I'm a glam girl and I love just being able to get glammed up in fancy dresses.
"I find inspiration everywhere, but I especially find inspiration on these different social platforms, especially TikTok. I get inspired by seeing what the new generation is inspired by. I naturally incorporate not everything head-to-toe, because I don't want to look like a teenager that's trying too hard or an old mom trying too hard to look like a teenager, but I do love going to TikTok and seeing what that generation is into.
"It's not a trend that I love, but I do have to say that I tried tie dye because of TikTok. I absolutely hate tie dye anything, and I started to wear tie dye in a more sophisticated way — that's an example of how this new generation has inspired me and is encouraging me to try trends that I probably would never try.
"I also get a lot of inspiration from Asia. I'm subscribed to Vogue Japan and Vogue Korea. I find a lot of inspiration in the foreign countries, seeing what they're into. There are a lot of similarities, but it's interesting to see how they style things.
"When I first started, the people that had access to fashion and the people that were in power were the editors and the stylists. Almost, if not all influencers or digital creators back then were shunned from this role. We really had to fight for a seat at the table. I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish within the past 10 years. Now, almost every single brand has to have an influencer digital marketing strategy. And I think because of where we are now with consuming fashion, a lot of it is online, and a lot of the next generation isn't necessarily looking at just movies and celebrities and magazine editorials — they're following their favorite influencers and seeing what they're wearing, so these fashion houses are realizing that, for them to capture the next generation, they have to figure out how to work with influencers like myself. I consume almost, if not all, my fashion online as well. Of course, it's really important to step away and see from the editor side, like in the magazine world, what they're looking at, but now it's so blended. When I open up a magazine like Vogue Japan, there's a section on what influencers are wearing... Even if you're looking at an editorial, a lot of the things I see are influenced by what you see online. That's really encouraging for me because this is what we've been dreaming of: being able to seamlessly have the editorial world blend in with the digital world, with the creators.
"My number one thing [when looking for collaborators] is making sure that the brands that I'm aligned and associated with are supportive and are aware... of all the injustice that's happening right now. A lot of people think that a brand always has to come out and say something, but I know a lot of brands that organize internal efforts to make change, where they don't actually speak out about it. That's really important to me now more than ever. Way more of these brands stand with these issues that are so important and close to my heart.
"The past year and a half has been an eye-opener for so many people, especially in the fashion industry, for how we all can do a better job. That really gets me excited, because now there's a lot more conversation about how, externally, we not just cast more Asian models or Black models, but also see a shift internally. Anyone could put something online, but it's really what they're doing internally that's going to make the biggest difference.
"In fashion, I guess you can say there was a lot of sameness happening for a while and I think it was because people were getting a little burnt out. But now, there's this new excitement in the industry, because people have been in lockdown for over a year and are looking for reasons to get dressed up and glammed up and go out. I think we're going to really see that towards the summer and 2022. I went out for dinner with a girlfriend of mine to a casual restaurant and people were dressed to the nines like I've never seen before. It was exciting to see that. I think people are excited about fashion again, which is something that I haven't felt in a while."
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