Finance lawyer, Frederique Gilain may have started her career in Paris, but life and work soon took her to Tokyo, London and now Hong Kong. Known for her edgy style and love of Céline, she’s developed an appreciation and taste for art and fashion, as a channel for her own creativity. So much so, that when breast cancer got in her way twice in six years, she fought it fiercely, adding a weapon of her own into the mix: frivolity.
Now in remission and back at work, she continues to cultivate lightness in life, particularly through her very, stylish Instagram account @lafredtouch, started while she was undergoing treatments. Here she shares her style secrets with PAKT.
1) Describe your style in 3 words
Edgy, minimalist with a twist. I like tailored, masculine clothes that are empowering and comfortable but with a certain femininity and a pinch of humour. I know quite a bit about flexing the corporate dress code!
2) What’s the most precious item in your wardrobe and why?
My wedding dress. This is probably not a very original answer, but it’s true. A one of a kind Paule Ka dress, made especially by Serge Cajfinger in the mid-90s for a charity auction, it was later altered to become my wedding dress. It had fabric flowers all over it, and when the guests started to leave the wedding party, most of them very naturally picked the flowers from my dress and brought them home!
3) What’s your go-to outfit?
I don’t really have a go-to outfit. I wake up in the morning and dress according to my mood. That said if I had to pick an outfit in the dark it would probably include a pair of high waisted pants, a cashmere sweater half-tucked in the pants, sneakers or skaters, with a maxi bag and maxi earrings.
4) Favourite piece you bought recently and why?
A knit skirt from Céline by Phoebe Philo that I got from Vestiaire Collective. I had been hunting it for a while and I am a big fan of slow fashion and second hand which includes sourcing and buying the pieces you really want, at the price you are willing to pay. It makes shopping and dressing so much more personal and interesting.
5) What is the best fashion advice you have received?
“Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.” This is obviously not advice I received directly or personally as it is from Coco Chanel herself!
6) Who are your style icons?
This is a difficult question, style is (or should be) extremely personal. I would say Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, Rei Kawakubo and Phoebe Philo.
From left: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, photo by Evan Agostini via Getty Images; Lee Radziwill, photo via W Magazine; Rei Kawakubo, photo by Benjamin Lozovsky via BFA.com ; Phoebe Philo, photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff via Getty Images
7) What’s your personal style signifier?
Maxi earrings. I have very short hair and dress a bit masculine sometimes, so my earrings are always the finishing touch to my looks — to the point that I feel naked without them — somewhat similar to my red lipstick.
8) Less or more?
Less! But I might add a little tweak of my own.
9) If you could have anyone’s wardrobe whose would it be and why?
May I keep mine please? I am not the jealous type and I know what I love and I love what I own!
10) If you were an item of clothing what would you be?
A grey lace triangle bra by Eres, nothing replaces intimacy…
11) Where do you love to shop?
Vestiaire Collective has to be top of my list. HULA in Hong Kong is another great spot for second hand. Otherwise, I like Farfetch for its broad offering, places where I can find independent designers both online and offline while Dover Street Market in Tokyo is one of my favourite shops ever.
12) What is a must-have clothing item everyone must own?
I won’t pretend to know the response to that. It is a very personal question and how boring would it be if everybody was wearing the same things? In my view, clothes and what you wear are such an expression of who we are that I would struggle to answer. Perhaps all women should own a really, well cut and flattering swimsuit that gives them confidence and makes them feel like a million dollars!
13) What’s your number one fashion rule?
“Does it feel good”? Looking good is not enough, wearing a piece of clothing or an outfit HAS to give you feel-good vibes. A kick of confidence and empowerment puts a smile on your face. My second fashion rule is “if it is complicated to put on in the first place, forget about it”!
14) What will we never find in your wardrobe?
I never say never — although I generally think that trends I did in my teenage years are not to be repeated — so I would have to say neon.
15) If a museum asked you to donate one item from your wardrobe that represented you what would it be?
A Céline fringed dress. It is not the most iconic piece I own but this dress is me: the top part is a plain navy cashmere knit and the bottom is made of black fringes. It is a perfect combination of simplicity and eccentricity, of day and night, of serious and fun. It has no fussiness to it and I feel happy every single time I wear it. I could go on and on about it!
16) Top 3 accounts to follow on social media
17) Where were the last three places you travelled to and what are the can’t miss shops?
But the best spots will always be the ones you discover by yourself!
Follow Frederique Gilain on @lafredtouch