updated 11 May 2009, 08:30
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Mon, Mar 09, 2009
Urban, The Straits Times
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Naughty but nice
by Karen Tee

Only a limited range of her girlie-rocker clothes are available here, but Anna Sui has made her mark in Singapore with her quirkily packaged fragrances and cutesy make-up.

The American-born Chinese fashion designer served up a crowd-favourite fall/winter 2009 show last month at New York Fashion Week, where everybody got to see what she does best - clothes for a girly girl with plenty of attitude.

Think flouncy babydoll dresses in bold colours such as violet and black paired with dark leggings and tough leather boots.

It is a look she has kept to since her first runway show in 1991.

'Whenever people talk about Anna Sui's fashion, it is always a combination of nostalgia with trendy rock 'n' roll, an element of good girl with bad girl,' Sui, who is single, told Urban last week in an exclusive phone interview from New York, where she is based.

'It is the contradictions that people are attracted to.'

The distinctive look is echoed in her fragrance and cosmetics lines launched in 1999. These are licensed to American cosmetics giant, P&G Prestige Products.

Her products, packaged in black rose-embossed cases and displayed on intricate boudoir-like dressers and cupboards, are whimsical.

Bestsellers include Ring Rouge, $26, a rose-shaped ring which contains a lipgloss, and Mini Rouge, $33, a rose-shaped bag or mobile phone charm with a lipgloss and mirror inside.

This year, Sui marks a decade in the beauty business with a fragrance called Live Your Dream ($71 for 30ml) - a motto she has always lived by.

'It is important to have that focus. It helped me to do the impossible and build this business from scratch without a backer,' said the fashion design graduate of the prestigious Parsons The New School For Design in New York City.

She declined to reveal her age but going by past interviews with Urban, she is 53.

Sui, who was born in Detroit, Michigan, to a Cantonese father and a Shanghainese mother, says of her cosmetics line: 'I love how just a touch of glitter or the colour of lipstick can create a mood and set you apart.'

She thinks other cosmetics brands such as Too Faced, Benefit and Stila, which are also known for their quirky packaging, are 'fantastic' but says: 'None of them have someone behind them. There is a real person and a real world behind what I've created.'

She is involved from the concept to the final approval of her cosmetics line.

Besides the attractive packaging, often in her trademark colours of purple and black, P&G ensures that only the best go into the products.

The products are developed in P&G's cosmetics laboratory in Tokyo. Key ingredients include botanical extracts like apricot oil, raspberry fruit extract and olive oil, which not only smell great but also have moisturising and skin-tone improving properties.

If all that is not enough, Sui launched Dolly Girl, a diffusion line of clothes for young women from 18 to 25, in Japan last year. It has grown from nine stores to 21 stores in under a year.

She has no plans to open any Anna Sui boutiques in Singapore, although a selection of her designs are available at multi-label boutique Tribeca at 01-18 Forum.

There are currently 32 standalone Anna Sui boutiques in five countries, including China, Japan and South Korea, and her clothes are sold in 300 stores in 30 countries.

'There is no rush to do more at this point,' she says.

Guess we just have to live our bohemian rocker fantasies through her cosmetics for now.

Super Mascara DX Long Lash, $41

This lengthening and curling mascara contains tiny fibres which attach to your lashes for maximum length. It is also water-resistant, so the mascara will not run even in the heat.
Loose Powder, $65

Use this ultra-fine powder to set your make-up for a flawless finish. The powder absorbs oil to keep your face matte all day.
Anna Sui Rouge, $35

Try any of the 30 shades from this range for a moisturising lipstick with high colour intensity.
Flight Of Fancy (30ml), $69

Dab on a little of this fresh fruity scent and you might just be inspired by the intricate peacock perched on the top of the bottle stopper to strut your stuff.
Secret Wish (30ml), $66

One spritz of this fruity, grassy scent and you can almost imagine yourself frolicking in a dewy garden with the fairy that adorns the cap of this delicately carved bottle.
Live Your Dream (30ml), $71

This fragrance, released to mark the 10th anniversary of her cosmetics and fragrances, is special because it takes its name from Sui's personal motto. The subtle floral scent is perfect for those who like lighter perfumes.

Anna Sui cosmetics and fragrances are available at the seven counters here, including Isetan Scotts, Robinsons Raffles City and Takashimaya Department Store.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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