They say that the key to a successful business lies on the owner’s passion for the brand, and that’s perfectly the case for Leona Lavina-Panutat and Charlene Panutat-Carlos, the two women behind home and lifestyle store, L’Indochine. What started out as a store crush on Anthropologie turned out to be their sole inspiration—a brand with an east-meets-west concept that offers a well-curated selection of traditional and handmade lifestyle products from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and other nearby countries.
And by well-curated, we mean serious good taste. As you can see, both women (who are also moms, by the way) are stylish in their own right; a testament on how much heart they put into the brand to offer their clients something unique and exclusive, just like their distinct personal styles.
Since L’Indochine’s inception, the two have been inseparable. “We were sisters-in-law before L’Indochine, so we hang out during family gatherings but the only time that we got really close is when we started traveling, researching, so much so that my husband is already complaining because I really spend time with her not only in the office or for work but even the weekends,” Char candidly shares. Plus, they do several buying trips around Indochina for two weeks straight which further made their bond stronger.
“Our buying trips sound really fun but it’s a lot of hard work. We wake up at 6:00 am and then sleep at 2:00 am the next day. We try not to buy on the cities as much as possible, so we go on treasure hunts in the provinces. We cross rivers and climb mountains. So it’s really a tag team effort,” says Leona.
Their hard work surely paid off, now that their first store has been featured on the pages of every lifestyle magazine and broadsheet there is, just after six months from its grand opening. Well, how can you not love L’Indochine? Merchandise aside, we think that Leona and Char perfectly represents their brand—unique, dynamic, and nothing short of chic.
Read on as we talk about their personal styles and get inputs on how to dress the L'Indochine way.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE.
LEONA: Hmmm… that’s hard. It depends on the day! Eclectic would be the closest one. I’m not the type to do a proper outfit, I can’t be perfectly coiffed. Something always has to be “off”. I’d pair gowns with a denim jacket, well cut trousers with sneakers, ripped jeans with pearls. It’s always a mix of high and low. Plus I really love mixing prints, patterns and colors.
CHAR: Classic Prep and Tomboy Chic.
WHO ARE YOUR STYLE STARS?
LEONA: Kate Bosworth, Ashley Olsen and Jenna Lyons.
CHAR: Eva Chen, Miranda Kerr, and Phoebe Philo.
IS THERE A FASHION ITEM THAT YOU COLLECT? IF NONE, WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST FASHION SPLURGE?
LEONA: I don’t really collect anything. Probably the closest I have to a collection are the accessories that I pick up from my travels. I like getting 1 (or 5!) baubles and layer them with pieces I already own. I like pieces that tell a story, it’s a nice way to remember a trip.
CHAR: I collect bags! My most recent acquisition is a monogrammed Moynat. Prior to that, my husband bought me a Proenza Schoeler PS1 as pasalubong from a business trip. I have been crushing on a Louis Vuitton Sofia Coppola since 2009! I finally was able to get a navy with gold hardware in a recent trip to Hong Kong. As for the second question, a men’s Rolex watch would be my biggest fashion splurge. I am bugging my husband to get a Hublot for himself. He lets me borrow his watches from his collection. Haha!
WHERE DO YOU SHOP FOR CLOTHES?
LEONA: L’Indochine! I shop everywhere! I buy my basics from Uniqlo—I love that they’re affordable and really well made. I also frequent Suite Blanco, their pieces are amazing! So obsessed with my fringe kimono. Zara is my go-to for shoes, they come up with the chicest designs that are priced just right.
CHAR: I pick them up from travels. I try to wear one piece from L’Indochine every day. I like shopping at J Crew whenever I am in the States. Locally, I head over to Suite Blanco, Uniqlo and Zara.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO GET READY FOR WORK?
LEONA: Just to get dressed? Around 10 minutes.
CHAR: 45 minutes!
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE AN OUTFIT? DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR DRESSING PHILOSOPHY OR STRATEGY?
LEONA: No strategy, well more of I base my outfit on the activities I have planned for the day. I also make sure that the outfit works with both heels and flats!
CHAR: I try to select one piece first, whether it’s a top or bottom, then I work around it. I am a hoarder. So I try to wear something I haven’t worn or hardly ever wear and work around it.
WHAT'S THE ACCESSORY YOU CAN'T LEAVE WITHOUT?
LEONA: I have two: my watch and wedding ring.
CHAR: My watch.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE WARDROBE PIECES THAT YOU WEAR CONSTANTLY?
LEONA: White V neck Tee, leopard pumps, black coated denim pants, denim jacket, Nike Pegasus ’83 sneakers.
CHAR: Button down shirts, diamond studs, slouchy sweaters over pencil skirts, wedding ring layered with my Cartier Trinity ring, and black patent pumps.
NAME 5 BEAUTY PRODUCTS YOU SWEAR BY.
LEONA: I use Celeteque facial wash and moisturizer, Bobbi Brown BB Cream, Urban Decay Naked Flush Blush, Clinique Chubby Stick in Strawberry.
CHAR: Becca Ever Matte Poreless Priming Perfector – I tried TONS of mattifiers, and this actually works! Giorgio Armani Designer Shaping Cream Foundation, Bobbi Brown’s Bobbi & Katie Palette, Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, and Clarisonic Plus Sonic Cleansing Brush to take it all off at the end of the day!
NAME A SPECIFIC TREND/FASHION ITEM THAT YOU WOULD NEVER WEAR.
LEONA: Lucite shoes. I just can’t.
CHAR: Floral and bows! I’m really a tomboy at heart!
Can't get enough of these two? Visit The Inspiration Seekers blog and check out their column at Smart Parenting Magazine for a monthly dose of chic design ideas.
Shot on location at L'Indochine, 3/F SM Aura, Taguig City.
Photography by Dakila Angeles.
Click on the gallery for more office wardrobe tips from Leona and Char!