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Sun, Feb 08, 2009
Urban, The Straits Times
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Stefanie Sun: Our Kate Moss
by Noelle Loh

Singapore's top pop export is hitting the right notes on the fashion front too. The pixie-faced Stefanie Sun - Singapore's first recording artiste to crack the regional market in a huge way, selling over 10 million albums in Asia since her 2000 debut - has been snapped up as a cover girl on magazines because of her looks and style.

The business graduate from Nanyang Technological University has graced at least 50 magazine covers in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China since her debut album, Yan Zi, in 2000.

Stefanie Sun shares three tips on how to look like a star:

1: Exercise regularly

'When you have a toned body, you will naturally look good. I do sports such as rock climbing. I try to exercise whenever I can, even if it's raising my legs or lifting dumb bells while watching television.'

2: Do not second-guess yourself

'When you've put on an outfit and are out of the door, don't think about whether you should have worn something else. If you were uncomfortable with it in the first place, you should have changed.'

3: You matter most

'Never let the outfit overshadow who you are. Be confident about yourself.'

This includes a fashion spread in the April 2005 issue of influential British design magazine i-D.

She has graced the cover of local Chinese fashion title Nuyou five times - the latest in December.

An advertiser's darling who has hawked brands ranging from sportswear label adidas to food brand New Moon, she currently stars in SK Jewellery's 2009 ad campaign, which was shot in Melbourne last October.

She has been the face of the home-grown jewellery brand since 2006.

With all that under her slender 25-inch belt, the 30-year-old Singapore-based star blazes a trail for local artistes in the way that music stars elsewhere now double as trendsetters.

For example, the music industry's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday are as much watched for what the stars wear as for their rock and pop achievements.

Case in point: Who can forget a heavily pregnant Gwen Stefani rocking the red carpet in a leopard print empire-waist toga dress in 2006?

No wonder, then, that Sun, with her fresh-faced look, sparkling eyes and clothes hanger frame, has been dubbed the Kate Moss of Singapore by some in the fashion circles.

Insiders love the occasionally edgy, always individualistic take she gives to a look.

Grace Lee, 42, editor of Chinese-language fashion title Nuyou, cites as an example: 'She would wear adidas sneakers with a very pretty dress or girly blouse.'

She adds: 'There are so many singers out there who don't realise that looking dressed up doesn't necessarily mean you have style.'

Veteran stylist Johnny Khoo, who is in his late 30s and has worked with Sun since 2006, adds that she is a versatile model, in part because she has 'very good' body proportion.

He says: 'When I throw in little surprises into a look for her, such as a leather jacket over what is supposed to be a very girly outfit, she carries it off just as well.

'That's something I can't do with a lot of other celebrities.'

Sun's star style has, without doubt, lent a shine to SK Jewellery, says the company's senior brand manager Hor Su-Ann, 29.

The singer has shot four campaigns for the brand - two set here and the others in Prague and Melbourne - each costing a six-figure sum.

Says Hor: 'Stefanie is a Singapore artiste who is well-recognised in the region, in particular Malaysia, China and Hong Kong where we also have a presence. She is also very stylish and has a youthful energy - all traits of our brand.'

She adds that the brand has seen its customer profile expand from the target group of those aged 28 to 45 to include those under 25, especially after the launch of the 2008 Prague campaign which featured Sun with a refreshing new image.

To think the singer claims to have been a 'fashion victim' during her days at Raffles Girls' Secondary School.

Taking time off from her recording session here to speak to Urban over the phone last Friday - she is planning her 11th album which she hopes to release by the end of the year - she says: 'My bunch of girlfriends and I would call ourselves The Spice Girls and wear all sorts of funny things.

'I was supposed to be a cross between Posh and Sporty Spice.'

Like Mrs David Beckham, who has evolved over time into an international style icon, Sun attributes her style savviness to experience.

'Over time I have become more self-assured about my image,' she says.

'You know how you want to be portrayed in pictures. You know what kind of clothes look good on you. When you see an outfit, you immediately know how it will look on you.'

Indeed, in her latest campaign for SK Jewellery, she carries off outfits ranging from a pretty flowy gown to an androgynous coat and jodhpurs with the panache of a professional model.

Of modelling, she says: 'Being a singer is a very intimate experience where you explore your inner self and try to express it.

'Fashion is very fun, sometimes even frivolous. Doing fashion is like a break for me.'

Urban chats with the singer-songwriter about her fashion hits and misses.

How would you describe your personal style?

I like to look a bit un-made up or laidback.

For example, if I were in a very nice dress, I would not style my hair at all or I would tone down the make-up.

When I'm dressed up from head to toe, I feel a little uncomfortable. It's as if the outfit has taken over and you are forced to act in a certain way.

How much of your image as a performer is you and not the result of professional styling?

I am very particular about the way I look so I would say that at least 70 per cent of it is me. Whether I'm made up to look girly, edgy or like a rocker, there is always some part of me in there.

What do you think about being hailed Singapore's Kate Moss?

It is very flattering but I think it's actually hard to draw a parallel between us. After all, she's Caucasian and a professional model and I'm certainly not as fashion conscious as she is.

We have heard that you are particularly picky about who styles your hair. Is that true?

I admit I am very picky. It's not a matter of which hairstylist is good or bad, though, but whether he 'gets' your hair. That's why people have their favourite hairstylist and mine is Dexter (Ng, local freelance celebrity hairstylist).

Have your fashion tastes grown more expensive with your success?

I do love very good-looking, functional and roomy bags. My latest buy was the Yves Saint Laurent Easy Y in bronze and I love it. Compare me to a normal person and I would probably look like a fashion victim because I have a lot of designer bags, clothes and shoes. But I probably lose out to other female counterparts in the industry though.

Where do you usually shop?

I like Blackjack in Forum as well as Topshop, which I go to so often that when I don't, the sales staff go: 'Hey, I very long never see you ah.' I also like Belgian labels Dries Van Noten and Maison Martin Margiela because the designs are always unique. I tend to buy them in Hong Kong as they are cheaper there.

You travel so much. Which is the most fashionable city?

Singapore. Nowadays, Singaporeans are very well-dressed. We also have brands like Topshop and Dries Van Noten and multi-label stores such as Club 21 that countries like Taiwan and China don't have.

What was the worst fashion faux pas in your career?

Probably the bikini-over-clothes combo that you see on the sleeve of my first album, Yan Zi, which I believe was a take on a Christina Aguilera look.

I felt very uncomfortable in it but when you are a newbie, you just shut up and do as you are told. Now, looking at those pictures just makes me cringe.

How important is image to a musician?

It is, unfortunately, very important. You should not let the way you look overshadow you as a musician but it certainly should work in tandem with your music.

It is always weird when a singer doesn't turn out looking the way a listener expects him to. It's not about looking fashionable or stylish but simply a matter of whether your look reflects your sound.

I'd like to think that what you see on my album covers conveys a certain kind of fearlessness - the message that a girl can dress as she pleases - and that's me.

What are three items in your wardrobe that you can't live without?

A big bag that fits a wallet, a mobile phone, a recyclable bag, a notebook, a lipstick and tissue paper. I'm currently using the YSL Easy Y. I also can't live without black thong slippers. I have flat feet so most shoes hurt when I'm on my feet too much. I also need black elastic bands to hold back flyaway hair. They aren't exactly fashionable but an absolute essential.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Feb 6, 2009.

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