Gal of style – Passionata's Shannon Chester


shannonHow did you get into the fashion industry?

I first started in party plan jewellery when my boys were little and I discovered that I got a real joy out of helping people choose the right accessories to suit their personal style. I have always had a passion for vintage and as the years went on I discovered that I couldn’t find the perfect shop out there. I was always driving for miles to find things I liked and could never get them all in one place. One day after ending up in Tirau (I am based in Auckland) my husband said ‘why don’t you open your own shop’ and that’s how Passionata was born!

What is your favorite era when it comes to fashion – and how can we translate this look and wear it today?

I have favourites from every era and like to incorporate the best of these eras into what we wear today…using old favourites and mixing with current fashion.

For example the 1920s cloche hat is back in fashion for the first time in decades. It is gorgeous and we can wear it with many looks, whether casual or dressy. This modern take on the hat can look fabulous with a vintage evening bag find. What makes it even better is that you can use a gorgeous beaded 1940s bag if you feel like it, or a funky 1960s retro bag instead. There are no rules!

If we tipped out your handbag, what would we find?

Inside my 1980s Chanel carry-all is a fab clutch. The clutch contains my retro Oroton white mesh wallet, my fave lipsticks, hairbrush, phone, camera, jewellery (you never know when you need a change of jewels during the day), keys, pen, a few business cards, and dates for my diary. The Chanel carry-all contains notebooks, paperwork, sunglasses, business stuff, and – always – treasures for the shop. And I can never find my keys!

What is your best fashion memory?

Going into Auckland city on the bus when I was 12 (quite grown up) in my gorgeous orange trouser suit – I thought I was so cool. My grandmother made my clothes, she was clever. Also seeing Passionata’s refurbished retro Tim Allan haute couture range paraded by models at our Soiree last year. The models looked fab thanks to our amazing stylists Michiko Hughes and Debbie Toko-Stevens.

What is your favorite piece of clothing?

I keep falling in love with other pieces, but, like other women, I am still hanging on to my Thornton Halls when other items of clothing have been sacrificed. Note: Thornton Hall was THE label in the 1980s and early 90's – beautiful! I am also loving the gorgeous Omsa Italian tights we have in store – they dress up any outfit and make it look stunning.

Your biggest fashion disaster?

Insisting on wearing heavy platform shoes in the '70s. I looked cool, but, oh, my poor feet.

Your best jewellery memory?

That would be the day that a lady walked in with some of her collectibles and one of the pieces was a 1915 Whitby Jet coal necklance with huge big faceted balls. It was simply divine and never made it into the store – I had to have it. I can wear it anywhere with anything and it is so clearly vintage. (Most people don’t know that vintage Whitby Jet is coal and French Jet is glass.)

Your current top 5 items?

  • My early '60s pouch Oroton diamante handbag – very rare (featured in Simply You Collectors Edition last September).
  • The 1950s Lucite box bag in my shop, covered with diamantes, which has just arrived from the US.
  • Our haute couture Tim Allan retro collection on display at Passionata
  • My Whiting and Davis silver mesh shoulder bag
  • My beautiful Shabloon silver handcrafted watch with opals.


What are your top 5 indulgences?

  • Church Road Chardonnay
  • Flat whites
  • Pampering at The Elements Medi Spa next door
  • Having first choice of Passionata's gorgeous treasures!
  • 1920s hand painted Titian ware china…can't help collecting it.

What is the best way to add a little vintage to your wardrobe?

Follow your heart. A piece you love, you will treasure and then pass on to another generation. You don't have to wear the item either. I get a lot of pleasure from hanging up vintage items on my dressing table mirror, in the lounge and even in the kitchen.

Start with an accessory – an amazing brooch, stunning necklace, cute handbag, then with more confidence, add a classic item of clothing. Indulge your creativity and people will notice your amazing personal style. The bonus to wearing vintage/retro is that no one will be wearing what you are wearing.

For a glam night out you always wear…

Vintage sparkly jewels…there is no modern comparison to the same standards and people will always comment. A vintage evening purse is an absolute must. I have several stunners and people just keep looking at my handbags when I go out. The scary thing is, people keep trying to buy my 21st birthday present – a Whiting and Davis silver mesh shoulder bag. Sorry ladies, they will have to bury me with it!

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