With creations meant for ladies who lunch in the Lower East Side, New York City fashion designer Grace Sun thrives on creating modern-classic pieces with a serious edge.
Since launching her own line in 2007, the 36-year-old Korean-born American has been flitting back and forth between the United States and Shanghai, where she out-sources her clothes. Having just wrapped up her seventh season, her goal is to make couture details more affordable to fashionistas in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Kuwait, where her label currently sells. From trendy-casual knit tops to ultra stunning cocktail party dresses, Sun soon hopes to introduce her collection to China.
Hollywood celebrities, too, have taken a liking to her simply bold style, with stars as big as Charlize Theron, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Heidi Klum and Natasha Bedingfield donning her apparel. Shanghai Star Weekend writer Linda Yu caught up with the fashion-forward Sun for a few last-minute tips before she returned to the Big Apple.
Q: How does the Shanghai fashion scene compare to New York's?
A: Well, New York fashion is ahead of the times, so Shanghai fashion follows what New York starts. People are more individualistic and have their own style in New York. Shanghai tends to be more conformist, so a lot of people wear similar things. But true fashionistas know how to mix brands, styles and price-points well, and right now Shanghai lacks that.
Q: So how can Shanghai step-up its style?
A: People need more opportunities to dress up. They don't really dress up here. In New York, people will go out to dinner and get dressed up. It's kind of like etiquette. Here, I've been to dinner on the Bund, and people come in cargos. The gap has closed drastically in the past three years, but Shanghai needs a fashion-forward mindset more than anything.
Q: What are the worst Shanghai fashion faux-pas'?
A: Bad English T-shirts and "bedazzling" them. Panty lines are bad. Girls will wear really skimpy shorts and then "ginormous" underwear - and then you can see it. Rhinestone banana clips. They're just so 80s, but not in a good way.
Q: So what's the trick to looking good?
A: Shanghai ladies should learn to accent one item. If you are highlighting a bag, your outfit should be neutral. It doesn't all have to be 'matchy-matchy'. Nobody dresses like that. They need to concentrate on one item and accessorize appropriately.
Q: Do you get any inspiration from Shanghai?
A: Yes. I like the Old Shanghai modernized. Not like Xintiandi, where it's been bulldozed and rebuilt, but more like streets in the French Concession. I was walking down a street and saw a leaf that could be used as a fabric design. The street was so China with a geometric-shaped road and this black shadow from a tree - but it wasn't over-the-top red, or qipao (traditional Chinese dress). Those are stereotypical inspirations. I like everyday items that are Chinese, but add a subtle Shanghainese flavor to the collection.