Anna Sui loves tea roses and thumbs her nose at fashion's current dalliance with pared-down chic, all grey, lean and intellectual. She favours glittery lipstick, powder puffs made of lavender fluff, and likes to see as many of her cousins as possible - her mother has 11 siblings, her father 14 - at her New York fashion shows. And for an ethnic Chinese who has used fleeting references to her heritage in her surreal, kaleidoscopic collections, Sui made her first trip to China about a year ago. 'My mother told me to use the toilet before crossing the border' is the most potent memory Sui carries of the trip, preferring to talk about other things instead. Indeed, we were there to talk about other things, like the new make-up line that Sui would unveil that night in Cannes, during one of the many social functions cluttering the Tax Free World Expo calendar. Sui had been approached a couple of years earlier by Cosmopolitan Cosmetics, an international conglomerate that has developed, among other things, the hugely popular Gucci fragrance Envy for Men. Would she, they asked, be interested to work with them on creating a make-up and fragrance line that would add a dimension to her own name, and provide Cosmopolitan with a funky, exciting edge? Sui jumped at the opportunity, describing it as a dream come true. The resulting collection is pretty dreamy, too: lacquer-black lipstick tubes capped with tiny rosebuds and shimmering pots of eye-shadow tucked away into packages festooned with little tea roses. 'It's what I love, it's the colours I want to wear. There is a definite signature look about it,' said Sui. No doubt. Here is the woman who has dubbed one of her collections Tibetan Surfers, whose store in New York's trendy Soho contains such delectables as fur-covered Eskimo-like boots, woolly lurex-infused knits in vibrant shades and little lingerie dresses in cobalt and peach. Her Manhattan apartment, featured in design bible Architectural Digest, boasts walls and floors painted Indian red and a life-size mannequin of legendary fashion diva Diana Vreeland. Indeed, Sui has made kitsch cool. 'It's so charming!' Sui trilled, fingering the tiny tubs of glittery lip-gloss. 'I had fun creating everything that struck my fancy. It's got all the features I really like about make-up. Plus you get some nostalgic glimpses,' said Sui, referring to the lavender-coloured powder puffs that were inspired by something she saw in a Paris flea market years ago. Japanese consumers evidently pick up on the charm thing, too. Sui and her partners conducted an experimental launch of the collection in Tokyo and Osaka earlier this year. Within two months of the official unveiling in Isetan and Henyu, customers had bought some US$1.6 million (about HK$12.4 million) of the product, breaking Isetan's records. Sui was there and couldn't believe grown women were literally fighting over the last mascara wand. Her business partners will be content if she has even a fraction of that reaction in Hong Kong, where the line goes on sale this month at Duty Free stores at Chek Lap Kok and is slated for wider distribution from next May. The perfume - imagine floral, fruity and powdery accents - will be launched thereafter. The beauty line is the latest business coup for the Michigan-born designer, daughter of Chinese immigrants who left their native village near Tianjin to get an education in France. Her parents recognised early on that Sui was a handful: on her 10th birthday, she insisted everything at her party had to be in the colour lavender (yes, she's rather partial to purple), from her dress down to the birthday candles. Her father, a structural engineer, hadn't been back to China in 40 years until he accompanied his wacky, slightly wayward but very endearing daughter there last year. However, he does continue to remind her that she has the best of both worlds. 'The luxury of having these two cultures behind me. I'm the most WASP-ish person I know, but I get my sense of colour and art from my parents and grandparents. It's like in my soul. I've been raised in a double family.' Her first trip to China held some surprises. 'I had heard about this little family home, but when I got there, there were high-rises and a compound and a well into which a bomb had dropped years ago. It was bizarre.' Sui went to the Parsons School of Design in New York, where she met celebrity photographer Steven Meisel and eventually went to work for him as his stylist. She paid her dues at a series of other design houses, before finding work at a company, Glenora, where she was free to experiment with clothing that had a historical bent, mixing these with vintage elements. In 1983, Sui set up her own fashion house, basing her first few collections on images of the New York punk scene through the 1970s. Of course, the only stores buying her line were rock'n'roll boutiques. Her design aesthete continued to evolve, as Sui added a high-fashion gloss to her funky, punk-inspired clothes. She now has free-standing boutiques in Tokyo, Osaka and Los Angeles in addition to her New York store. At her first major catwalk show in 1991, models like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, all of whom had bought and worn Sui's clothes and become her friends, strutted down the runway for free, although they were entitled to keeping the clothes afterwards. Evangelista has described Sui's sartorial outpourings as exquisite executions of fashion, while industry heavyweights like WWD said her autumn 1997 collection was saucy and sweet. She has a knack for combining the familiar and the frivolous in a way that makes perfect sense. Others, like Vogue's fashion director Paul Cavaco, describes Sui's mind as a place where fashion, rock'n'roll, movies, art and sex have a head-on collision. Sui describes her fashion pursuits, and the make-up collection that became one of them, as a series of new adventures. 'Fashion does change so much, and every day you are on a different playground. There is unbelievable pressure - that is probably the scariest thing about what I do.'