As the creative director of Bonia and Braun Buffel, Datin Sri Linda Chen cuts a striking, stylish figure, often wearing edgy streetwear looks that best reflect her personality. While some describe her as enigmatic, she begs to differ, saying she is an open book. She says that fashion makes her feel confident, in control and puts her in a good mood when she does dress up.
Chen has had an understanding of the importance and impact of style from a young age. “You know how kids would normally carry their backpack to school?” she asks. “I carried a striking red patent leather shoulder bag from a luxury brand instead. I was kind of particular about the bag and wallet I used; I loved fashion and styling myself, so I guess I was already very into fashion [aged] 13... I wanted to be different.”
I remind her of the bodycon dress with the feathery neckline that she wore for our Style File shoot in 2019, and ask if her style has evolved since then. She says, “I feel like it changes as I get older. Right now, I’m more of a deep thinker—not so bubbly anymore. I find myself moving away from the past ladylike or feminine [looks]. So I would say my style has changed to more chic, edgy, minimalist. I tend to go for things that lean towards the more masculine side nowadays—maybe because of my career, the experiences I went through that shaped my character and my mindset over the years; I’m more grounded and settled.”
Chen was born in Johor Bahru, attending primary and secondary school in Singapore before joining her elder brother in Kuala Lumpur to enrol in the Canadian International Matriculation Programme in college. She then moved to Melbourne to do a degree in management and marketing; upon graduating, she had to decide between moving back to Johor and helping in the family business or seeing what else was out there. Recalling the fun she had during her short time in Kuala Lumpur, she made up her mind. “I was in Singapore for many years, and felt like I hadn’t really explored KL enough, so I decided to move here—and a lot of things happened.”
She was accepted as a management trainee but was bored after a few months, so moved into banking. She became a top sales banker within six months but again, the job soon lost its allure and she started getting restless. “I’m the kind of person who, when something stops exciting me, feels the need to move on to something more challenging. I’m constantly seeking to improve myself because I feel like I can do even more.”