Helen is a designer, she has her own fashion brand, Maralena, and she is the blogger behind The Style Schedule, a blog filled with style inspiration for home, fashion and living. Helen has an eye for style and the fashion knowledge to back it up; she also loves classic films, which I know for sure would be the starting point for a long and interesting conversation…one day. And, she lives in Melbourne, which makes it really hard for me, an avid tennis lover, not to envy her when the Australian Open, which has lately become my favourite tennis tournament, is on. Welcome, Helen!
Left: Scanlan & Theodore navy blazer, Sass & Bide silk top, Country Road jeans, Zara pumps, Hermès watch | Right: Scanlan & Theodore ruffle detail top, Vanessa Bruno cropped pants, Prada sandals
How would you describe your style?
This has got to be the most difficult question to answer! But having to look at my wardrobe for this exercise, I notice that I favour a classic urban style for day, and quite a chic, artisanal element for my evening looks. It’s really understated and quite discreet; I don’t like massive labels or heavy hardware. As I am petite, I need to keep the focus on a neat & clean silhouette, quite classic really, and add interesting details in textures, or beading, or embroidery (that’s where the artisanal quality comes in). I like pieces that are easy to wear, easy to look after and easy to transition for several events. Being a designer, I do love something that has an old world quality about it, something that harks back to another era without being to vintage-y. It could be the trim on a hem, or the cut of a sleeve, or the drape of a dress.
I think a slick, no fuss silhouette lends itself to being in control and pulled together in some respect and I like that. So I can’t do boho rock chick… well, I’m not 20 anymore! But I would introduce some studs on a classic pointy toed shoe or a leather cuff and pair it with a simple neutral outfit to do Punk Revisited! I subscribe to the ‘KISS’ acronym… ‘Keep It Simple Stupid!’. I love to pour of fashion magazines (yep ,the printed versions) and see what’s trending, but I definitely have to put it all through a sieve and sort through what’s going to be realistic for me rather than imagine my life as a front row attendee or an international fashionista. I try to keep it real.
Who are your style models?
Aha…too many to mention, but Emmanuelle Alt, Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Tautou, Marion Cotillard, Sofia Coppola, Phoebe Philo, Giovanna Battaglia, Isabella Rossellini; do you see the trend – brunettes, discreet, understated, European, cool, elegant, chic and, I just noticed, not too much makeup on these ladies.
Your signature day outfit:
A soft navy blazer from Scanlan & Theodore which I love, gets an outing weekly, and when it’s cooler then it’s the Zara wool navy blazer; blue or black jeans (Country Road); a neutral t-shirt (Kain, Sass & Bide or Trenery) and leopard print pointy toed flats (Country Road) or black suede booties (also Country Road). In summer it will be coloured sandals or Birkenstocks, striped tees and cropped pants and when it gets really steamy and hot (over 35 degrees), it’ll be a linen dress with Havaianas, hair pulled back in a tight bun and eyeliner – you don’t know summer until you’ve been to Melbourne in February!
Your signature evening outfit:
A nice pant or pencil skirt, a detailed shell top, and heels. Topped off with an interesting shawl, cape or jacket. I favour a bit of flick of eyeliner (navy, purple or black) and a pinky/beigey lip. At special occasions I like a black dress with a little jacket or a pencil skirt and shell top. I might even splash out and add earrings – that’s just a sparkly stud or something.
Left: Maralena ruffle detail shell, Maralena skirt with leaf detail, Midas Silver Tango shoes | Middle: Scanlan & Theodore printed silk jacket and drape detail dress, Zara pumps | Right: Agnès B. trench, Maje dress, Escada loafers
Is there an item you don’t leave the house without?
My beautiful watch that I received as a birthday present and sunglasses. Oh, and my toner face mist!
Your most cherished wardrobe item:
I think they’re all cherished! … A Dolce & Gabbana silk chiffon top that I got in Milan years ago and my plum coloured Givenchy heels that I found on super sale. A beautiful felt wool cape and a lovely silk crepe black pleated dress from Aussie label Scanlan & Theodore which were purchased a few years ago, but they still get outings on special occasions. A printed Maje dress that’s great for summer and my Agnès B. trench that I’ve had for years – definitely a wonderful investment! And many of my own label (Maralena) pieces that I’ve worn to special occasions – nothing like wearing something made for you. Of course, these special items don’t get worn daily, or weekly … but they are classic and timeless and they will be able to be worn for years to come. Except for my watch – that I wear every day.
Five pieces a woman should have in her closet:
Only 5!… A great fitting pair of jeans (just keep trying different styles on until you find the ones that make your legs longer, slimmer, fitter looking) / A blazer (black, navy, charcoal) / A classic little black dress (doesn’t have to be plain, can play with texture and details) / Beautiful leather accessories like a classic bag or supple leather gloves/ and a tailored pant suit (charcoal, black, or navy) – it will always come in handy, either separately or as a suit. I’m going to add a classic t-shirt here too… plain/printed/striped… such a universal, democratic wardrobe item that can be dressed up or down.
Which is the most underrated piece in a woman’s wardrobe that should deserve more attention?
Definitely the right lingerie. Pay attention to the bra straps, ladies!
Left: Dolce & Gabbana silk top | Right: Scanlan & Theodore felt cap
Flats or heels?
Flats for summer and heels for winter.
Shoes or bags?
Shoes… no, bags… no, shoes!
The 20s, the 30s or…what is your favourite fashion decade? Why?
If I totally had to edit it all… it’s late 50’s to mid 60’s – a neat hip length jacket over a trim pencil skirt to the knee and stilettos or kitten heels and a flick of eyeliner. I’m sure that my subconscious has been invaded by really slick b&w images from classic cinema that I grew up with (Jeanne Moreau, Anouk Aimee, Monica Vitti, Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren).
Neutrals, pop of colour or colour blocking?
I thought I had more colour, but looking into my wardrobe for this exercise I find that mostly it’s neutrals (navy, charcoal, black, white, and the addition of khaki or blues).
Mini, midi, maxi or knee-length?
Knee (just below) to midi.
Audrey or Marilyn?
Both so beautiful, but I’d have to say, I love the poise and grace that Audrey always seemed to convey.
The little black dress or something else?
I oscillate between LBD and pant suit. Case in point, I have 2 little black dresses and 2 pant suits.
Paris or Milan?
Paris.. Bien sûr! I can imagine myself back within the scenes of ‘Paris Blues’ starring Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Joanne Woodward. That would be perfect.
A beauty trick you’d like to share:
Drink more water, get more sleep, your skin will love it, especially as you get older! I carry around Lucas’ Paw Paw cream in my bag and it’s perfect for a slick of gloss on your lips or taming those stray eyebrows from time to time and it works wonders on little cuts and bruises. I put my moisturisers in the fridge when it’s high summer and then, when I apply to my face, it’s lovely and refreshing.
What’s your frangrance?
Chanel No. 19. I keep all the old bottles and store them in my drawers and sometimes I can get a small whiff of the scent.
Not just one… Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Yves St Laurent (note, the originals!). Dries Van Noten, Miuccia Prada, Alber Elbaz, Giambattista Valli, Alberta Ferretti, Tom Ford and Australian labels Scanlan & Theodore, Sass & Bide. And for everyday wear, Country Road which is equivalent to a High Street brand – easily accessible, great styling options and very easy online shopping.
Is there a style rule you like to break?
I actually love how Isabel Marant wears her grey hair with pride… and she’s the figurehead for such a cool label – now there is a style rule that I’d like reconstructed – how to wear your grey hair with coolitude! My friends and I always say there should be more women looking cool with natural silvery hair. I love navy and black together; I was told years ago
that it was a no-no, but I ignored it.
A piece you would like to add to your wardrobe this fall (spring in your case).
Now you’re talking a wishlist! An Alexander Wang bag; anything from Scanlan & Theodore; a lovely soft as air printed t-shirt from Sass & Bide or a special trimmed blazer. I just got a pair of pointy toe leopard flats from Country Road, so they are currently on rotation. Can’t go wrong with more jeans.
A style quote you live by or your own piece of advice on style.
“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.” – Jean Cocteau. And I totally subscribe to the Quality over Quantity aesthetic. I believe that you should look after your clothes and they will look after you; I think that’s because when I make clothes for someone I have to know that they will look after them when they leave my workroom. I’m very attached to something I’ve handmade.
Thank you, Helen, for stopping by. It was lovely having you over.
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!
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