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