Effortless city chic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am


The contents of Susanna Ngao's wardrobe and enviable shoe rack present a neatly arranged picture of New York chic.

It's a look she's been cultivating since she became hooked on Sex and the City as a teenager. 'I love the mix of Manhattan streetwear style - those effortless, modern and feminine looks,' says Ngao, who trained at Parsons in New York and worked for Diane von Furstenberg.

The early TV-show style mentors have taught her well. Her closet - meticulously organised according to season and function - includes favourite frocks from Vera Wang and Helmut Lang. She often wears jersey dresses and high-waisted leather hot pants from her own label, S.Nine, whose fans include Kelly Chen Wai-lam and Karen Mok Man-wai.

'I love jersey dresses because they're easy to wear. And with accessories, you can easily glam up the look,' she says.

Not that her wardrobe is short on glamour. Statement pieces include a metallic leather jacket from Gareth Pugh, python-leather pumps from Christian Louboutin, Nicholas Kirkwood stilettos and Betsey Johnson booties - in hot pink.

'I wear heels all the time and especially stilettos. I only wear sports shoes if I'm doing sports,' she says.

But one pair stands out - gold, strappy sandals from Steve Madden. 'I wore this pair on my wedding day,' she says. 'I've hardly worn them since, but I still keep them where I can see them. It makes me happy.'

And she paired them with a wedding dress she designed herself, of course. 'I wore my dress in three different ways,' she says. 'I walked down the aisle with a long train, removed the train at the party and got rid of the floor-length skirt to create a cool mini when I threw the bouquet.'

The designer's wardrobe choices are either uber-feminine or edgy power-dressing pieces. 'It's all about balancing and mix-and-match,' she says. 'If I wear a body-hugging number, I'll never wear pumps to go with it but some quirky booties. If it's something frilly and feminine, I'll balance it out with leather shorts.'

She digs out a box full of punk leather-and-stud cuffs she found on a recent trip to Thailand. 'These are the perfect antidote to a full-on girlie outfit,' she says.

Her bag choices are less brand-oriented than her clothes and shoes. She has a few small boxy clutches and well-worn leather bags from her mother. Her favourite is an Anne Valerie Hash bag. 'I like it because the leather's so soft. It's very easy to wear and perfect for travelling,' she says. 'I don't invest a lot in bags, but I think at the very least you need an evening clutch, a work bag and a shopping tote.'

Anne Valerie Hash seems to be one of the few European brands nestling in Ngao's closet.

'I love European brands like Rue du Mail. They're very interesting. Anne Valerie Hash designs suit me best, though,' says the designer, who worked at the atelier of the French couturier in Paris after winning its Arts of Fashion competition in 2008.

'I don't care much for big brand names, actually. More often I buy stuff that I truly like,' she says.

One of her favourite New York shops is Intermix: 'I love how they have a mix of established designers and edgy up-and-coming labels.'

But her favourite accessory is attitude and she has to be dressed for shopping, 'because if I don't, I won't be able to buy anything. I have to feel pretty and be in the mood.'