Foray into fash­ion

Lee Sinje has sashayed from act­ing into de­sign­ing. The tal­ented beauty will be seen next at the Malaysia In­ter­na­tional Fash­ion Week.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By FIONA HO

FOR some, Lee Sinje will al­ways be the blind girl with the big, be­witch­ing eyes in the 2002 hor­ror hit The Eye. The ac­tress was so con­vinc­ing in her role as a trou­bled vi­o­lin­ist who gains an eerie abil­ity to see ghosts af­ter a suc­cess­ful cornea trans­plant, it made her the ris­ing queen of scream.

Lee’s per­for­mance in the film also helped her clinch the best ac­tress awards at the 39th Golden Horse Awards in Tai­wan, the 22nd Hong Kong Film Awards and the Eight Golden Bauhinia Awards in Hong Kong, cat­a­pult­ing the Kedah-born beauty to in­ter­na­tional star­dom.

In no time, she be­came the face that would launch a thou­sand hor­ror films, lend­ing her quiet charm and charisma to 2004’s Koma and 2006’s Re-cy­cle. It seems in­evitable that her brand of grief-stricken help­less­ness would also be­come a per­ma­nent fix­ture of the genre.

In per­son, though, the tal­ented 35-year-old bears no hint of that poignant vul­ner­a­bil­ity she so of­ten es­pouses in her films. Lee is chatty as she is vi­va­cious and ra­di­ates a great, pos­i­tive en­ergy.

She is also sur­pris­ingly down-to-earth. Dressed sim­ply in a grey off-shoul­der dress that flares from the waist, Lee is a pic­ture of un­der­stated el­e­gance. Her pixie hair­cut adds a sassy edge to her soft, girl­ish de­meanour.

True to her min­i­mal­ist style, Lee says that chic, func­tional ev­ery­day looks for the modern wo­man em­body the essence of her cloth­ing line, Ca­cac.

The line de­fies the tra­di­tional Asian con­cept of el­e­gance. “In the past, Asian women of­ten equate el­e­gance to wear­ing heavy, dra­matic make-up with lots of jew­ellery. But for me, el­e­gance is all about sim­plic­ity and be­ing con- fi­dent. It’s a life­style,” Lee elab­o­rates.

In­deed, the launch of her lat­est col­lec­tion, Ca­cac City Ro­mance by Ca­cac by Sinje in Kuala Lumpur last month saw an ar­ray of sim­ple but el­e­gant ready-to-wear ca­sual and evening pieces in shades of cham­pagne, navy blue and a touch of bub­blegum pink.

The clothes range from stylish ca­sual wear to flirty cock­tail dresses that ac­cen­tu­ate the del­i­cate fe­male form – no­tably the legs, shoul­ders and waist. Fab­rics are mainly silk, satin and chif­fon, with a mix of jersey and polyester. There are ac­ces­sories and shoes avail­able as well.

“I picked sim­ple colours be­cause I think they em­body the con­cept of el­e­gance. I also picked soft, com­fort­able ma­te­ri­als that will take a wo­man from a day at work to a nightout with friends,” Lee en­thuses.

With Ca­cac, she wants to help women look their best. “Ca­cac is de­rived from the Malay word ‘kakak’, which means ‘sis­ter’,” she ex­plains. “The brand is all about sis­ter­hood and I want to treat all women like my sis­ters.”

Ca­cac also cel­e­brates fem­i­nin­ity, she adds. “It’s about re­joic­ing life, be­ing bold and be­ing proud of one’s in­di­vid­u­al­ity.”

Lee, who be­gan the ven­ture with two of her best friends, hopes to make her mark as a fash­ion de­signer with Ca­cac. She ad­mits

she has had no for­mal train­ing in fash­ion and has learned the trade through trial and er­ror – with swathes of fab­rics and a man­nequin, of course.

Be­ing the creative di­rec­tor and de­signer of Ca­cac, Lee over­sees the en­tire clothes-mak­ing process, from de­sign­ing to se­lect­ing and sourc­ing for fab­rics, to try­ing out sam­ples and en­sur­ing the qual­ity of her cre­ations.

She launched her first range of clothes with Ca­cac in May last year and aims to come up with two col­lec­tions yearly. She also hopes to go to Lon­don for a pro­fes­sional fash­ion course one day.

“I’m proud to be a Malaysian de­signer and I hope to cre­ate an im­pres­sion in the lo­cal fash­ion in­dus­try. This is a very im­por­tant chap­ter of my life,” says Lee, who looks to be in a state of such in­tense ex­cite­ment that it is hard not to be drawn in by her zesty per­son­al­ity.

Her first foray into the en­ter­tain­ment world be­gan in 1996 with the re­lease of her Man­darin al­bum, Un­der The Same Starry Night. She made her de­but as an ac­tress in 1999 in The Sun­shine Cops. In 2001, she picked up the best new­comer award at the Ber­lin Film Fes­ti­val for her role in Betel­nut Beauty.

In spite of her suc­cesses, Lee has never been the showy, os­ten­ta­tious type, pre­fer­ring her books and can­vases to the lime­light. She likens the de­sign­ing process to paint­ing a pic­ture and re­cently held her maiden art ex­hi­bi­tion – a col­lec­tion of ab­stract oil paint­ings in Taipei, Tai­wan.

A fan of bold colours – her favourite be­ing red – Lee de­vel­oped a pas­sion for fash­ion when she was just a child.

“I bought my first dress when I was 12 in Pekan Lang­gar, which is a small town in Alor Se­tar. And it was from that mo­ment, right af­ter I put on that dress that I knew, for the first time, what it was like to feel pretty.

“It wasn’t even one of those fancy dresses, just a plain one I bought from the mar­ket. But that was when I started be­com­ing re­ally in­ter­ested in fash­ion. I went on to buy more dresses and I loved them all so much I even wore them for tu­ition classes,” she shares with a laugh.

Clearly, her love for dresses hasn’t di­min­ished at all. Her lat­est col­lec­tion boasts strik­ingly bright evening pieces im­bued with ur­ban piz­zazz. Her stand-out piece was a royal blue chif­fon knee-length dress with an elab­o­rate train that flows like waves from the waist down to the floor.

While Lee may look like a mil­lion bucks in that dress, which also fronts her pro­mo­tional print ma­te­rial, she ex­udes none of the hau­teur in­her­ent in most su­per­stars. Can­did and ki­netic, Lee has no qualms shar­ing her per­sonal thoughts and de­tails with the me­dia. Ex­cept, maybe, when asked about her age. “I’m not telling you but you’ll be able to find out on the In­ter­net,” the ac­tress says with a loud laugh.

We’re guess­ing that her mirth­ful can­dour and com­pelling pres­ence prob­a­bly had some­thing to do with her get­ting dis­cov­ered by Sylvia Chang, Tai­wan’s doyenne of film and mu­sic at a Kuala Lumpur au­di­tion in 1995.

Chang be­came her men­tor-man­ager and changed the young girl’s life for­ever. In 2004, they starred to­gether in drama-com­edy 20,30,40, a film that chron­i­cles the in­tri­ca­cies of the fe­male psy­che at three dif­fer­ent stages of life.

Lee’s easy like­abil­ity also won her the role that made her a world-fa­mous star. The Pang Broth­ers, Danny and Ox­ide first saw Lee, then an un­known in Hong Kong on MTV and This out­fit that ac­cen­tu­ates the del­i­cate fe­male form, is com­ple­mented by a lacy head ac­ces­sory. knew in­stantly that their long search for the lead ac­tress of The Eye had ended. They were swept away by Lee’s per­for­mance of her song,

Ocean Of Love.

A year af­ter film­ing The Eye in Thai­land, Ox­ide and Lee started dat­ing. The cou­ple tied the knot in Fe­bru­ary last year in an in­ti­mate is­land wed­ding in Pu­lau Pangkor. Now, the power-cou­ple are join­ing forces again in the up­com­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, Sleep­walker

3D. The film, which is due for a Nov 3 re­lease, also stars Lee’s good pal Char­lie Ye­ung and Chi­nese ac­tress Huo Siyan.

Lee plays a wo­man who sleep­walks and her noc­tur­nal ad­ven­tures may prove shock­ingly mur­der­ous. “My char­ac­ter strug­gles with her con­science and she may have killed her ex-lover in her sleep. But I wouldn’t call this a hor­ror movie, it’s more of an ab­stract way to talk about love,” Lee re­veals, her dark eyes gleam­ing.

The pro­duc­tion is also her first with her hus­band with­out Danny. “We have re­ally high ex­pec­ta­tions for this film and that placed a huge amount of pres­sure on us,” she adds.

“We never ar­gued, but we’d looked so se­ri­ous in our dis­cus­sions that peo­ple thought we were fight­ing.”

Lee, who has 18 films un­der her belt in­clud­ing last year’s ro­man­tic com­edy Ice

Ka­cang Puppy Love (di­rected by Ah Niu) says she loves all her cin­e­matic ad­ven­tures. “They’re all my ba­bies,” the ac­tress pro­fesses.

Speak­ing of which, will we be hear­ing the pit­ter pat­ter of lit­tle feet any­time soon? “I love kids but I’m too busy for that right now. Be­sides, I love my ca­reer and I re­ally just want to en­joy life for now,” Lee tells us.

Ca­cac by Sinje is now avail­able at Park­son out­lets in Pav­il­ion Kuala Lumpur and Gur­ney Plaza in Pe­nang. Ca­cac’s flag­ship store is lo­cated at Sun­way Giza in Kota Da­mansara, Se­lan­gor.

You can catch a glimpse of Lee at the Asia Magic Gala in Ze­bra Square, Kuala Lumpur on Nov 24. The gala is or­gan­ised by the Malaysian In­ter­na­tional Fash­ion Al­liance (Mifa) and co-hosted by Log­win Lo­gis­tics, and is part of this year’s Malaysia In­ter­na­tional Fash­ion Week (MIFW).

Lee will present a more ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion from Ca­cac at this event, which also fea­tures Lon­don-based Sin­ga­porean de­signer Ash­ley Isham, lo­cal de­sign­ers Khoon Hooi and Benson Chen, as well as up-and-com­ing de­signer Jonathan Liang and his la­bel Nue. Lo­cal la­bels Klutched and Gallo will also be un­veil­ing their lat­est col­lec­tions.

Lee Sinje look­ing glam­orous in the ad cam­paign for ca­cac.


Stand-out piece from ca­cac is a royal blue chif­fon knee-length dress with an elab­o­rate train that flows from the waist down to the floor.

Lee Sinje (third from right) flanked by mod­els in ca­cac’s lat­est col­lec­tion at a fash­ion show in Park­son Pav­il­ion Kuala Lumpur last month.

Flirty dress with sheer top layer and a belt at the waist.

Sleeve­less dress in pink makes a bold state­ment.

dress in bold colour with un­usual neck­line from ca­cac.

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