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What’s in her wardrobe: Nejla Matam-Finn shares her style secrets

Ever walked past a woman who looks enviously chic at an event or on the street and wondered how she puts herself together so effortlessly? Yep – we hear you, which is why we track down women in Singapore with on-point style every month to tell us just how they do it, despite juggling multiple commitments! This month, we spoke to the founder of The Fifth Collection Nejla Matam-Finn, who gives the low-down on her daily routine as a retail & tech entrepreneur.

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We’re totally digging that long sequin skirt Nejla…


Her daily routine…
For the couple of years while I was building and launching The Fifth Collection, every day was quite unpredictable, and I’ve had to deal with the inevitable (and sometimes incredible) curve balls of life as an entrepreneur. The only routine was late nights, sleep deprivation and coffee – lots of it! Now, after almost two years in operation, we’ve grown from a one-woman show to a team of eight outstanding people that feels like a family.

I’m a night owl by nature, but with my daughter starting her new school this year, I’m up most days at 6am. My day starts on the balcony at twilight in my PJs with an espresso (all right, maybe two) while my husband and COO gets ready, and then we trade places. I have a systematic checklist in the morning – emails, social media, to-do list, calendar – so by the time I hit the shower, I have a pretty good idea of what else I want to get done that day. I’m ready in a flash as I rarely wear makeup during the week. Next, I drop our daughter off at school before heading to the office around 8am.

A typical day will usually mean some combination of meetings with vendors, journalists, clients or team members on projects and reviewing new stock arrivals. That said, I try hard to carve out some time during each day to isolate myself from distractions under my gigantic headphones (I consider them the “do not disturb” signs of open workspaces!) so I can answer emails and work on our social and editorial strategy.

We usually pack up around 7pm and drive home to spend some time with our daughter before she heads to bed, then have dinner before round three of the workday, which all happens on my iPad while watching the news or catching up on my favourite series. I check my to-do list for the day and read articles. My dream is to one day be able to manage the company from a phone or tablet.

Her dress code…
I love comfort. I think that a woman who is comfortable exudes greater confidence. I pick what fits me and grow my collection from there. And of course, I practise what I preach by upcycling, meaning I buy, sell and collect from our site!

My uniform is jeans, jeans and more jeans, usually paired with T-shirts. My favourite ones are from American Vintage (JAC51) and Majestic Filatures, and linen ones from Zara. When I want to take my look up a notch, I’ll reach for a long, oversized shirt. I discovered a brand last time I was in Hong Kong called Pye, and I’m obsessed with its white Chinese collars.

I rarely splurge on clothes, except for key pieces here and there, but I’m pretty full-on when it comes to accessories. A good bag and shoes can take your look to the next level in a heartbeat. My go-to is a Goyard St Louis bag – it’s spacious, sturdy and easy to clean, and you can make it your own with monograms. When it comes to evening, I think you can’t go wrong with an oversized clutch. Céline does a great version, which I use as an extra pouch in my day bag.

For shoes, you will always see me in flats – I’m lucky to be tall so I don’t need the extra inches! Last but not least, I always carry a scarf. I own a fair share of Hermès. Living in Singapore means dealing with constant fluctuations of hot and cold, and a scarf is your saviour whatever the weather – they are such an undervalued wardrobe staple! Also, to make my look more formal, I usually have a jacket or an oversized sweater on hand in case of a last-minute meeting.

Her personal style…
I accessorise more in the evening, often with vintage pieces that I collect from my trips. Some are branded, some are more ethnic, but I always come back from my travels with at least one accessory. They are great conversation starters and make lovely souvenirs. I still wear jeans in the evening – sometimes a colourful pair – finished off with heels. I can’t really wear super-high ones, otherwise I look so tall no one wants to talk to me at events! My go-to pair is my nude Louboutins. I’ll also add either a nice leather jacket or an old school blazer with a twist. I’m currently eyeing a white Alexander McQueen blazer and a black Marni leather jacket from the site.

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An assortment of Nejla’s favourite picks off the site

Her fashion sense…
I believe in building a wardrobe that fits you and your life. Even the name of my company speaks to the idea of transcending the four seasons of fashion to find your style. I keep a pretty lean wardrobe and I edit it constantly; if something doesn’t fit or doesn’t make me look good and feel good, then it’s out. As a consequence, I’m also a very picky buyer.

My favourite colour is turquoise, so I’ll always have a little something in that colour on me. I stay away from green because it makes me look tired. When shopping, I always take my time and think about what will mix well with what I already have. Whenever I buy something on impulse, I end up regretting it!

Her wardrobe staples…
The things I’ve invested in over the years and never regretted include: a black East West Chanel bag, an Evelyne bag in brown from Hermès, and my Goyard St Louis. When it comes to shoes, I like Repetto and Chanel flats, and for heels, pumps from Louboutin and Miu Miu. For dresses I keep going back to Tomas Maier. Most of my accessories such as belts, scarves and jewellery are vintage and not necessarily branded, but if I buy from a name, then I’ll pick Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent: they have bold, colourful pieces that make just enough of a statement without looking wild.

Where she shops…
Despite my job, I’m not into brands. I’m more interested in quality than quantity, but also good craftsmanship. Ask anyone in my entourage and they will tell you that I refuse to buy from certain brands (who shall remain nameless!) because I simply cannot justify the price versus the quality of the item. The price-to-quality ratio is very important to me.

For more readers’ wardrobes click here, and for more style inspiration head here.
This article first appeared in LIV March 2016 issue of Expat Living. Subscribe.

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