Master Class

Being good at googling stuff doesn’t make you an expert. That’s why we’ve got three people who are experts in their fields to teach us how to do specific things better.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Being good at googling stuff doesn’t make you an expert. That’s why we’ve got three people who are experts in their fields to teach us how to do specific things better.
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The Expert: Angie Chen, 28, who has been the curator of second-hand luxury resale site The Fifth Collection for four years. The fashion equivalent of a museum curator, she “authenticates, checks the condition and weighs in on the relevance of” more than 200 secondhand and vintage pieces almost every day.

Pre-loves to Definitely Buy

• Vintage Louis Vuitton trunks, Chanel lambskin bags, and Hermes Box Kellys are some of the best pieces to collect as they age very well and always remain classics.

• Rare pieces that any brand has stopped production of so that you know you have something totally unique.

• Choose leather goods with textured skin over smooth ones if you’re the careless type, because textured skin doesn’t get scratched as easily.

Pre-loves with “Defects” That Can Be Saved

• Some things can be rectified with a little imagination and creativity. “For example, we received a vintage Kelly with major discoloration. We had it professionally tattooed to create a one-of-a-kind art piece.” (See picture above.)

• Certain tarnished metals can simply be polished with a polishing cloth so that they look pristine again.

Pre-Loves to Definitely Not Buy

• Anything in modern-day patent leather, because it uses a plastic-based finish to reproduce the glossy effect – to the detriment of the material’s original resilience. That creates the conditions for humidity, oils and dyes to seep under the plastic finish in areas where it has been compromised by wear. This makes it hard to maintain in humid Singapore. Opt for vintage patent leather as it has excellent longevity because of its oilbased treatment.

• Anything ill-fitting – unless you have a great seamstress and are willing to spend time, energy and money to reconstruct it. Also avoid items with non-fixable tears or large stains, or which feel like they’re about to disintegrate.

Protect Yourself Online

• Always check if the company is registered by googling it. Ask questions over e-mail or phone and expect an answer. A phone number and a deal on Whatsapp don’t protect you from being cheated.

• Don’t believe the hype of followers on social media and in online comments. They can be bought to trick you into thinking you are dealing with legitimate sellers.

• Don’t believe a company that says its items are authenticated by the brands. It’s total nonsense – especially in this part of the world. The brands don’t see the secondhand market as being part of the same ecosystem – for now.

• Always read the terms and conditions or request them before making any purchase, in case the item turns out to be fake. An honest company or individual will have no problem backing up their promises with some form of guarantee. We have seen some companies offering authenticity guarantees for only seven days, and others with terms and conditions that do not cover a purchased item that’s found to be fake afterwards.

• An item’s box, dust bag, authenticity card and invoice can be easily counterfeited. Certain individuals are known to sell designer labels’ boxes and paper bags, which are then used by counterfeiters to package a fake bag.

• Always pay via Paypal or a credit card, because you will be protected if the transaction turns out to be fraudulent. Don’t be tricked into doing a bank transfer or paying cash on delivery just for discounts.

Get Info from the Right Sources

• Don’t just follow any fashion influencer; be smart about it. “I personally follow @alexanderfury. He is the editor of Another magazine and his wealth of knowledge, coupled with his take on modern fashion, makes his account one of the most unique voices in fashion today.”

• “I also like @defunctfashion, who focuses more on the history of fashion. His is the account to follow if you are interested in learning about textiles or a specific fashion era.”

• Visit discussions on credible forums and websites to give you insights into luxury goods. “Purseforum and Bagaholicboy are two of my favourite websites for this purpose. Purseforum is a community of collectors who have been around for years. They are more than happy to share their latest purchases or insights, and other collectors also weigh in, forming a balanced discussion where the opinion is not just one-sided. The forum is not sponsored, so you know that what you are reading is not just advertising. Bagaholicboy is extremely informative and succinct, making it digestible for people who don’t enjoy reading.” 

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Choose textured over smooth leather if you tend to be careless with your bags.
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"Danilo Giannoni is here to serve anyone from affluent clients to someone with only a $1,000 budget."


The Expert: Italian jeweller/gemstone specialist Danilo Giannoni, 47. Now based here (he is married to a Singaporean) with Arte Oro, a bespoke jewellery atelier which he opened in February, he has worked with established brands like Bulgari, Crivelli and Damiani, and worked in Hong Kong for nine years.

Always Ask for Ethicallysourced Stones

“Don’t support blood diamonds. And everyone should respect nature. We are now leveraging blockchain technology to track gemstones from mining to certification and after sales, so our clients know the origins of each stone and can be assured that it comes from sustainable sources. From 2020, Arte Oro will no longer purchase any stone that was not recorded from the day it was mined.”

Choose Only the Stones You Love

It seems obvious enough, but sometimes people are swayed by others’ opinions or advice to pick something they like less. Your jewellery should complement you. So, the stones should always appeal to you the most. Then you won’t end up wearing a piece that you don’t like.

Clarity Over Size

The three factors for evaluating any stone are cut, clarity, and colour. Choose the purest and most wellcut stones possible. Don’t buy stones with inclusions and defects, even if it means you have to sacrifice size. It’s better to buy a cleaner stone if the choice is between a smaller and cleaner one and a larger one with defects.

Try a Different Method of Mounting

Be adventurous: Ask for semi-precious stones to be mounted upside down (also known as reverse setting) for a different and more modern look and texture. They can be used as accents around a main stone. “I showed a client pictures of a piece I’d done like that, and she requested a similar one immediately.”

Bespoke Jewellers Can Do More

“We can remake your old heirloom jewellery into personalised designs that are more modern and suit your personality. We can also help to restore, repair and resize jewellery.” 

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A classic tennis bracelet is a frequent request at Arte Oro.
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Trending now: pink, light purple, and purplish-pink.
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Rubies are almost as tough as diamonds.
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The Expert:

Japanese shoemaker Noriyuki Misawa, 38, specialises in making bespoke shoes and conceptual footwear. His works have been exhibited in cities like Tokyo and New York, and at the Cannes Film Festival. He also conducts regular shoemaking courses here at E-mail him at contact@ to make an appointment.

How to Choose a Good Pair of Shoes

• Buying good off-the-rack shoes boils down to luck. How comfortable a shoe is isn’t determined by its price, the quality of the leather, or even how much effort goes into making it. What is important is the last of the shoe. If the shape of the last used to make the shoe matches your feet perfectly, the shoe will be comfortable for you. You never know if shoes will be comfortable until you try them on.

• Shoes shouldn’t be too loose; they should grip your heels, and your toes should never touch the front. If they are too loose and don’t grip your heels well, you will adjust your gait and walk differently to make them work, and that isn’t good.

• When shoes rub against your heels, it means they are either too loose or too tight. Too tight is better than too loose. When they are loose, it means you have chosen the wrong shoes. When they are tight – which can happen even when you buy bespoke shoes – and if they are leather, our feet will adapt to them. “I recommend you wear socks with them first and endure the discomfort for two to three weeks to break them in. The skin on your heels will also adapt and change to become a little bit harder. Your feet eventually adapt to shoes that are a bit tighter, but never loose ones.”

There Is No Such Thing as Comfortable High Heels

This is an impossible request. The maximum height for shoes that are both beautiful and comfortable is 75mm (slightly less than three inches).

My Favourite Shoe Designers

“I really love Christian Louboutin. He not only makes very good-quality shoes, he also comes up with an artistic theme every season. That kind of constant effort is what I respect. I used to buy Louboutins just to admire them, and my goal is to design shoes that are as beautiful as his, but are still comfortable. Ditto for Manolo Blahnik.”

Why Bespoke Shoes Rock

• They consider every individual detail of the wearer – her body type, the way she walks, and her lifestyle. The leather used is also more beautiful and of a very different quality from what is used in ready-made shoes.

• It’s possible to wear them for a lifetime and even pass them on to the next generation if you fix them whenever needed. “I own and sometimes wear a pair of vintage bespoke shoes that was made 150 years ago.”

How to Do Bespoke

• It’s important for the shoemaker to know what you are wearing them for, and your lifestyle, so he/ she can design them with a looser or tighter fit, or make them harder or softer, depending on your needs. Are you planning to wear them for a lifetime, or just one season?

• Trust the professional to make shoes that fit you best instead of giving very specific directions about how you want your shoes to be.

• Do tell him/her precisely which part hurts and which part is comfortable. - RT 
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Misawa created these beaded shoes in 2006. They were exhibited at Rogue Space Chelsea in New York last year.
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Two shoe brands Misawa admires: Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik.