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Doretta Lau

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

I usually feel at my most attractive after a run. I feel particularly strong and look really healthy.

3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

I’m always impressed when other women have smooth shiny hair or flawless looking skin—I don’t have the patience to straighten my hair to apply foundation with that much care. I like seeing outfits where someone has put a lot of thought into exciting patterns or bold colours.

6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

I prefer to avoid synthetic fabric and I never wear yellow.

7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

My family was in garment manufacturing when I was growing up, so I know what sort of hard work goes into clothing production. During some summers and weekends, I spent time clipping excess thread from clothing and folding it to be shipped. As a result, when I go to a shop and see clothing that is wrinkled and is covered in dangling threads, my first thought is that it was produced in a shoddy factory. Later I interned at a couple of fashion magazines, but none of the knowledge I had about clothing was applicable.

Also, my dad is always telling me that most things that say dry clean only can probably be handwashed—but only if it’s not synthetic.

9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

I have at least twenty scarves or shawls. They’re useful to have to ward against being cold in air-conditioned rooms. I also have more cardigans than I can count.

13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?

I used to wear a lot of clothing my parents wore in the 1970s. Even though my dad is nearly six feet tall I once thought it was a good idea to wear his old sweaters. A friend once pointed out to me that I have the same body type as Michelle Williams (the actress, not the singer), so sometimes I look at paparazzi photos of her when she’s out running errands to see the kind of shapes and silhouettes she’s rocking. But since I hate wearing costumes, I don’t often adapt dressing ideas from other people. I like to feel completely like myself in my clothing.

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

My style changed dramatically as I was finishing university. During the 1990s I wore a lot of clothing I found in my parents’ closets. My brother and I used to fight over clothes. By the early noughts I started wearing clothing that fit properly because I began buying more clothing rather than scavenging it.

16. Please describe your body.

I am an American size two. I’m short and when I gain weight it all goes to my midsection—I guess I’m apple shaped. I have thin arms and legs. I have broad shoulders and no hips and a flat ass, which meant that for the longest time I had to buy my pants and jeans from the junior section.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

I’m wearing a grey scarf and a scoop neck aquamarine cotton jersey dress with pockets. The hem is two inches above the knee. I’m wearing eyeliner, mascara and blush. My hair is in a messy ponytail.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

I have a friend who gives me all sorts of advice on fashion that she’s culled from the Internet—we also talk about writing when we’re not looking at Japanese street fashion.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

I know as soon as I see a shirt or a dress whether or not it is right for my body type. Generally, I don’t wear anything that’s tight around the midsection, because that’s where I gain the most weight.

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

I think I have an okay eye for photography, but I don’t collect.

37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

I check the weather and see what kinds of meetings and events I have that day. If I have time to go to the gym, I put on gym clothes and work at home for a few hours. If I have to leave for a meeting right away, I look in my closet and decide whether I want to wear something I have to iron. Once I’m dressed I decide on jewellery, bag and shoes.

38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

I like to wear clothing that is comfortable, practical and flattering. The less fussy, the better.

42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?

My family is Chinese, from Hong Kong. When I’m in Hong Kong, I tend to keep my necklines higher. Once I was wearing a button down plaid shirt when it was 18°C—everyone else was wearing woollen turtlenecks and heavy scarves—and a family friend called my mother to tell her I showed up at tea looking like a slut.

62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?

I didn’t wear any makeup until I turned 30. Then I started to use eyeliner, mascara and a little bit of blush.

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

A navy blue Comme des Garçons jacket with brown buttons.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

I follow the care instructions and rarely ever put anything in the dryer, except for jeans. (The humidity in Hong Kong makes it hard to air dry thick fabrics.) My closet (well I have four closets—two in Hong Kong and two in Vancouver) isn’t as tidy as I would like it to be, but I try to keep everything organized. No wire hangers!

77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

I tend to shop only if I’m in the mood to try on clothing or shoes, rather than set out with the intent to buy a specific item. Though I like sales, I try to think about whether or not I’d want an item even if I had to pay full price for it so that I don’t end up with clothes I don’t really like but bought because it was a bargain.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

I always carry Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm. If I didn’t use it every hour I’m awake, my lips would be flaky and bloody.

What’s your birth date? 
Where were you born and where do you live now?

1978. I was born in Vancouver and I split my time between Vancouver and Hong Kong.

Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.

My family is from Hong Kong. I'm Chinese.

What kind of work do you do?

I'm a fiction writer and freelance arts and culture journalist.

Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?

I’m single and I don’t have kids.


Doretta Lau is the author of the short story collection HOW DOES A SINGLE BLADE OF GRASS THANK THE SUN? (Nightwood Editions, 2014).

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