As a buyer for Shoreditch's cult designer den Hostem, Christie Fels spends her days curating a collection of insanely covetable fashions, crossing the globe as she scouts out new and innovative designers. Call it an occupational hazard or just plain good luck, but naturally, many of these labels — including Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto — wind up in her own wardrobe.
As these images of Fels showing off some of her favourite looks in and around her North London nabe reveal, the South African-born beauty clearly has a knack for pairing a natural, bohemian sensibility with boyish, well-proportioned pieces that don't overwhelm her petite frame. Consider us inspired!
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Photographed by Claire Pepper
How would you describe your personal style?
"It's pretty laid-back. I tend to dress down feminine pieces with boyish, avant-garde classics."
Christie hits up Stamford Hill in a Meadham Kirchhoff top and skirt paired with Ann Demeulemeester boots and a Comme des Garçons wallet.
Who are your go-to designers?
"Yang Li, Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto, and Haider Ackermann."
Tell us about your grandmother's engagement ring.
"My father’s mother wore this ring for 66 years. It was designed in the late '40s by our family jeweler and was first placed on her finger at the tender age of 22. It’s one of the most beautiful rings I have ever seen and I am honoured to be its keeper today."
What does your job entail?
"Working for an independent, family-run business presents a brilliant opportunity to learn about every aspect of a company. The team isn’t massive so everyone has to be prepared go above and beyond their job descriptions. I enjoy buying trips to Paris and the shows, but I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty. The store is undergoing some big changes in the coming months, which means I’ve been doing a lot of multitasking; it’s a very exciting time."
Christie goes monochrome in a Rick Owens vest, Faustine Steinmetz waistcoat, Yohji Yamamoto trousers, and a Céline clutch and shoes.
What books or films inspire you?
"Autobiographies, documentaries, historic novels, and anything rooted in design or architecture. I’ve never really been able to get into fantasy; I find the exploration of real life much more interesting. I’m obsessed with the Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. His work is slightly unhinged in the way it depicts reality — and the art direction is amazing."
How has living in South Africa and Belgium influenced your style?
"I used to be really into clothing growing up in South Africa, but had limited access to any big labels out there. Mainstream fashion felt inherently linked to being abroad as, given the hot climate and beach culture in Cape Town, people don’t invest as much in what they wear. When I first arrived in Belgium I was like a kid in a candy store; even thrift shops had old Raf Simons and Margiela pieces tucked away and I quickly realized how accessible it all was. Living in Antwerp, where the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten are household names whether you’re into fashion or not, marked a turning point in the way I understood clothing. I began buying less, investing in quality over quantity, and only considering pieces I really loved (most of which still have a firm place in my wardrobe today). Essentially, I was buying into the vision behind a brand’s ethos, the lifestyle, the whole story."
Your beauty routine seems very natural and low-key. What hair and skincare products do you use?
"I use L’anza’s White Tea range and their Keratin Oil on my hair. I try to change it up every now and then with Aveda depending on which smell I’m in the mood for. My skin is terribly allergy-prone so I can’t be too adventurous with trying different products. REN is my go-to for daily cleansers and moisturisers; they use 100% plant- and mineral-derived actives and it’s really well-priced. Santa Maria Novella’s Rose Water is a must-have in my home. It doubles up as a makeup remover and toner but I use it everywhere: in the bath, on fresh laundry, even on my bed sheets. Finally, La Prairie Skin Caviar Eye Cream and Illuminating Serum are the absolute best for those tired face days."
Christie wears Dries Van Noten sunglasses.
What clothing items could you not live without?
"I have moved around a lot, so I’m quite good at detaching from things at a certain point. There are, however, two pieces I will always make space for: an Ann Demeulemeester shearling from Fall 2008 (it’s bright purple and happens to be the warmest thing on earth), and a Balenciaga handbag that has been worn to death but is deceptively large and can fit an entire week's worth of clothes in it. Both pieces were gifts from friends and represent a really special time and place in my life."
The South African goes ethereal in a Phoebe English top, Marni dress, Ann Demeulemeester boots, and Comme des Garçons wallet.
What upcoming designer should we all know about?
"Paris-born, London-based designer Faustine Steimentz is really challenging traditional perceptions of luxury fashion. Her inaugural collection gives life to her belief in craftsmanship over trend, through the replication of mass-produced garments using artisanal techniques. Each piece is hand-woven, dyed, and finished in her U.K. studio using locally sourced materials. It’s a labour-intensive process, which takes an everyday tracksuit top to new heights."
What will you never throw away?
"My mother once gave me a key ring she's had since she was a young girl. I don’t know where it came from or what the story is behind it, but it’s traveled the world with me and has held the keys to every home I’ve ever lived in and car I’ve driven."
What are your favourite hangouts in London?
"There’s always an abundance of new places popping up in London but a few I’ll never tire of. When I need to clear my head, I find swimming at the Hampstead Heath ponds a really great way to reprogram. The park is 20 minutes from my house and big enough to find a spot of tranquility. For Sunday culinary inspiration, Brixton Market in South London offers a variety of exotic produce. The street market dates back to the 1870s alongside England’s first purpose-built department store, Bon Marche. Jackson Boxer’s restaurant Brunswick House Café is housed in the old Lassco antiques yard in Vauxhall. It’s a really fun place to spend an evening and they do a mean espresso martini. Soho has also completely regenerated over the past two years and is home to Koya, my favourite place for Japanese udon noodles."
A Faustine Steinmetz top, Yohji Yamamoto skirt, Ann Demeulemeester trainers and chain ring, and Dries Van Noten sunnies take fashion to new heights.
What's your style pet peeve?
"I’ve never quite understood the belt-over-tight-top story. The way I see it, belts are for holding trousers up or cinching in the waist of an otherwise loose-fitting piece."
Who are your style heroes?
"I can’t think of any one person who I class a style hero. Anyone who is comfortable in what they wear, whether it’s a reflection of their persona or not, is doing it right."
What's one thing you could never see yourself wearing?
"Never say never, but Spanx."