Out of My Closet: Paola Sinisterra

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 6:47pm

The sound of 1930s jazz seeps out, as Paola Sinisterra opens the door with a big smile. The Colombian is the designer of the boutique clothing label Tangram.

Four years ago Sinisterra was living in Spain, working for Zara and looking for a job in Shanghai. Instead, she found one in Hong Kong. "Hong Kong is fantastic; the city stimulates me beautifully. It's a great place to do business, and I have an ever-growing family of friends," she says.

She describes Tangram as "practical fashion for women on the go who want to look good".

"I'm surrounded by inspirational women; I create with them in mind," she says, explaining that loud, charismatic women in her family have influenced her from youth.

Her paternal grandmother runs a small coffee farm and looks great even in plastic boots, says Sinisterra, while her maternal grandmother inspired her love for fabrics and using her hands. "She is super chic in white linen shirts and jeans."

Her maternal grandmother makes her clothes using antique bedsheets from her mother. The family initials are just visible at the bottom of a shirt. The high-quality embroidered fabrics hail from Cartago, a small Colombian city famous for hand embroidery. Sinisterra hopes to partner with a company there that works with prisoners, in a corporate social responsibility programme for Tangram.

"I love to collect," Sinisterra says. She has more than 100 scarves in her wardrobe and recently acquired a turban headpiece to show them off. Like any good granddaughter, she regularly roots through her grandmother's flat in Cali, Colombia. "We're crazy about each other. I have around 30 scarves from her; no one else cares about them. But a visit to anybody's grandmother's house invariably ends in a closet raid."

Sinisterra wasn't initially inclined towards fashion. She loved theatre and storytelling when she was growing up. "It still matters," she says. "Each garment should tell a story, or have something specific about it."

If you look at Sinisterra's mix of '60s vintage and Tangram items, her love of textiles shines through. "I'm crazy about colour, patterns and the tactile aspects of fabric," she says. "I'm fascinated by the magic of printing, and I'm a fan of illustration."

She sees fashion as creativity applied to something practical, but doesn't like the throwaway aspect of it. "Good fashion lasts forever and grows with you," she says.

When you ask her about other designers, a range of names come up: "I'm head over heels for anything Alber Elbaz of Lanvin designs, says or dances to." She also admires Marni's Consuelo Castiglioni and New York designer Rachel Comey.

She has finds from AB Boutique on Aberdeen Street in Central and Vie in St Francis Yard, Wan Chai. She also finds inspiration in the nearby Kapok store and praises The 9th Muse on Lyndhurst Terrace for its well-curated collection and personalised service.

Modern fashion is sometimes less appealing to her. "I'm tired of internet street style," she says. "It's too self-indulgent and focuses on blatantly fashionable characters."

She believes in passion for the craft rather than what she calls "the never-ending treadmill of seasons", and gets more inspiration watching people on the street - especially older women and their mixed prints.

"Nothing is sexier than confidence," she says. "And nothing dresses you better than walking tall and smiling. Don't be a slave to trends."