Cover Nero Ip & Julien-Loïc Garin (Photo: Aisha Causing/Tatler Hong Kong)

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Tatler turned to creative couples in Hong Kong to talk about their relationships, jobs and how those aspects interplay with their style. In the third and final instalment we spoke to a duo well versed in art, flowers, food and jewellery, Nero Ip and Julien-Loïc Garin, about the importance of a good brooch and quality craftsmanship

Nero Ip works alongside flower artist Kirk Cheng to build flower installations for luxury brands and hotels, and since 2020, he’s been a private chef, cooking Chinese cuisine at people’s homes as #Nerokitchen.

Julien-Loïc Garin started two major projects two and a half years ago: An arts and culture consultancy, Le Cercle, and a jewellery line he started in 2020, The Collection by JLG.

Together, they share a love of rings, brooches and luxury accessories. The couple have keen eyes for elegance with a surprising playfulness about them and tell us all about the joys of dressing up.

When did you first meet and how long have you been together?

Julien-Loïc Garin (JLG): We’re not entirely sure, because we’ve been in Hong Kong and have known each other for a long time. What we think we remember is that we were introduced by friends during Art Week in 2016. We met again in May 2018, and that’s when we started dating.

What were your first impressions of each other?

Nero Ip (NI): Julien was always so dressed up. He could wear a full suit on a hot summer’s day without breaking a sweat. He’d wear cashmere and loafers on a hike. He’s stylish all the time.

JLG: I think our style has evolved through age and through the relationship. I remember Nero was always a cool boy. Not super branded, which is what I like, but he wore very cool designer items and had a younger style.

See more: Couple Style Files: Ollie & Gemma

How would you describe your style, and what do you enjoy about each other’s?

JLG: I’d say it's casual chic. Most of the time I like to dress up. I like to have an occasion to wear a nice jacket, nice loafers and matching accessories. I’m very European in my style. Now that I’m involved with jewellery, I’m inclined to wear more brooches and match my rings with different outfits.

NI: I’d call myself smart casual—I always like to put on a shirt. I also like to be playful and throw on fun accessories, like trendy sneakers that Julien doesn’t understand. I still like to be the cool kid, and not take myself too seriously.

JLG: To keep me young!

NI: Yes, to keep us young.

JLG: Nero highlighted the right word before—I think he’s very playful with his outfits. I like a look that is coherent from head to toe with colour coordination, whereas Nero will throw on an unexpected accessory. He recently bought a Louis Vuitton chain with an eraser pendant. It doesn’t erase anything, but you can turn it into a brooch or a pendant.  It’s a touch of fun, it starts a conversation, and that’s something I really appreciate about him. It’s joyful.

NI: I like how Julien plays with colour. He loves to be very coordinated, from his pocket square, to scarf, to his socks—everything. He’s most happy when he pulls off a perfectly colour coordinated outfit. And it’s fun! He inspires me to wear more fun shades together.

Why did colour coordination become such an important aspect of your dressing?

JLG: In 2006, I worked for Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Yves Saint Laurent was a master of colour—especially with the way he would create unusual combinations. That’s when it struck me that the use of colour could be so important. Colour influences mood, so I really believe that what I choose in the morning will set the tone for the day. Yellow, my favourite, is vibrant and lively. If you want something more peaceful, opt for purple shades. I love to be able to put different colours together and creating something nice to look at—it’s kind of like painting, although it’s a bit pretentious to say that. [laughs]

See more: Couple Style Files: Fu & Mengzy

Do your professions play into the outfits you choose?

JLG: It definitely does for me. Being in the arts and culture industry, it’s somewhat expected of me to be trendy, stylish, and a bit more artistic. It gives me a good excuse to play with accessories and not be on the formal side.

NI: My casual, day-to-day look is fine to go to meetings for my flower business. As a private chef, I wear something more…

JLG: Professional.

NI: Yes, and something that doesn’t show stains. I don’t wear light colours, and I also have this chef’s jacket that a friend got for me. It’s very stylish, and I like to wear that when I cook.

How do you incorporate jewellery into your looks?

JLG: We have different approaches. I like how rings make a statement, and people tend to look at your hands. I’ll pick rings in the same shades that I’m wearing. Sometimes I’ll choose one ring that I want to wear, then build the outfit around it.

NI: My approach is “the more, the merrier”, although it’s not as easy as it sounds! Wearing six rings doesn’t always match with different coloured stones and different gold tones.

JLG: I don’t often lean towards necklaces or bracelets, even though I have them. However, something that we’re trying to wear more of are nice pearl necklaces, particularly when they’re long and layered over cool jackets.

See more: Why Paraiba Tourmaline Is the Gemstone You Need Now

Where do you like to shop?

JLG: I love vintage clothes because the cuts are so fantastic, and I do like some tailoring. There is one Thai brand that we love.

NI: November 27!

JLG: They're a small designer, but it’s very fun. They do a lot of embroidery and whenever we’re in Thailand, we like to go there.

NI: We usually shop when we travel, so being stuck in Hong Kong, we’ve tried to do more tailoring.

JLG: In terms of bigger brands, we like Yves Saint Laurent for the boldness of their patterns and good cuts.

NI: Schiaparelli too, but we can’t get a hold of many of their pieces. Shoes with gold tips are interesting.

JLG: We also like Loewe, and Nero in particular, because it’s quite playful. I like the very tailored cuts and super chic silhouettes of Balmain too. Something we like in general is craftsmanship. It’s not just about the look, but the details.

What are your signature pieces?

JLG: When we go out, we like to wear clutches. We have a collection, and the good thing about being two gentlemen is that we can exchange pieces. I don’t fit in Nero’s clothes, so we share accessories like scarves or clutches. We also like to wear brooches as much as we can and play with designer pieces to highlight not only a jacket, but also a pullover too. It brings a little something to a look.

NI: I do have one signature look I’ve recently started wearing since my private chef gig: I ordered a white, chef’s inspired tweed jacket from my friend, Marco Chan. You don’t wear tweed in the kitchen, but it’s something I wear for interviews and photoshoots. On the jacket there’s a sapphire brooch in the shape of a spoon (although it was meant to be a spatula) to celebrate my 100th dinner last year. Julien designed that for me, and it’s a truly memorable statement piece. 

JLG: We’d always joked that I would give him a golden spatula, like a medal. On the occasion, he picked some nice sapphires, and I designed the spoon. It was a fun thing to do together, and it’s a nice memory of his success as a chef.

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