Updated: Jul 20, 2020
In this monthly column, we go into the closets of some of Singapore's most underrated style stars. Here, Parsons alum and etiquette consultancy founder Astrie Sunindar-Ratner lets us in on the effortless and feminine pieces in her wardrobe.
There’s no one way to approach style, but it has to be said that there’s a certain chic to someone who knows who they are, what they like, and stick to it. It’s certainly the case with Astrie Sunindar Ratner, founder of A-Etiquette Consultancy , whose wardrobe is distinctly feminine and light in colour. It’s also got a real ease to it, that reflects the relaxed way she approaches fashion and style.
Etiquette and manners, in fact, underscore much of her philosophy with regards to dressing up. “It’s the way you carry yourself, and if you feel confident and happy with yourself you’ll look wonderful,” she says. It’s perhaps why,though she has labels like Chanel, Celine and Hermesa plenty in her wardrobe, she doesn’t leave the house in head-to-toe designer. She credits the emphasis on the inside to her parents, who used to tell her that one’s carriage outweighs wearing expensive things. “It’s wonderful to have, but the way you carry shines through what you wear, even if it’s a white T-shirt and jeans.”
That undoubtedly influences the way she shops these days, which she describes as being more emotional. Specific pieces to remember trips abroad by, for example, or treasured pieces that she can pass down to her children. It’s changed, she admits, from her early 30s where she used to chase fashion down because it was new. Bags in particular were a soft spot, but save for special styles from designers like Gabriela Hearst, she is mostly “over it”, she says. “I think I have enough bags.”
There is, however, a nighttime indulgence she concedes to: silk pyjamas. “I’m obsessed, I can’t live without them!” admits Sunindar-Ratner. It’s a habit she suggests was picked up unconsciously as a child watching her mother wear those. But she’s quick to clarify that the love for plush sleepwear isn’t just because it’s fancy, it’s more of a self love ritual. “It’s such a comfort, taking care of yourself and going to bed with the right mindset,” she explains. She’s even extended that habit to her children, making sure they go to bed wearing nice pyjamas.
Do you have designer favourites?
I was a big old Celine fan. I have tons of Celine bags . Everything Phoebe created was so effortless and timeless, and that’s what I think women want.
How did you react when you found out she was leaving the brand?
I was very, very sad. I bought a few – not a lot – of key pieces that I knew I would miss. But it turns out they’re still making them, like the Box bag. What I miss are the coats, sweaters and pants. Yes, it costs a fortune, but when you put on a Celine shirt you feel that it’s a must have.
What other brands make you feel special?
I would say Dior. I love how feminine, elegant and chic it is. This Dior jacket (pictured below) I think is so beautiful, and I have a red coat that’s quite timeless. As I get older I buy pieces I know I’ll appreciate in years to come.
How has your shopping style changed?
I used to buy random pieces here and there but now I really think twice about what I want to buy, do I need it, do I have it already. Investing in beautiful bags, shoes and key pieces is the way to go. You grow up and you feel your priorities shift, so now I think twice about spending. When you really do a proper clear out of your wardrobe and see how many clothes you have, that’s a wake up call.
Where do you shop from on the high street?
I love going to H&M or Zara. Less Zara these days, to be honest, because the quality isn’t as good as it used to be.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m very visual, so I get it a lot from when I travel. I love Tokyo, and it’s the way they merchandise and shop that inspires me. The boutiques are so beautiful – and it’s not the high end ones – it’s the smaller, independent boutiques that curate vintage Hermes bags with a plain shirt and jeans and make it look effortless which I think is so cool. And Paris, there’s just something about Paris, you know?
After graduating from Parsons, you launched your own fashion label and designed lounge, evening and childrens’ wear. What do you think you’ve taken away from those experiences?
Between womenswear and children’s, I enjoyed the kidswear more. The eveningwear was fun, but as a creative I found the kids’ line more challenging and rewarding. Maybe it was the timing, because I had my first son. But if I were to go back to designing, I’d want to do a children’s line and not womenswear.
How do you do evening wear? For society events and such.
I find it interesting that gala dinners here are such a big deal. People will spend hours on makeup. Which is totally fine, but that’s not me. I like to just clip my hair up, put on a dress, put on some makeup and go. But I do love wearing beautiful dresses and having the occasion to dress up. I like the whole experience, but I focus more on the dress than my makeup. Even then, my dresses are all very simple. It takes me about half an hour to get ready. As long as I know what I’m going to wear, because what takes long is figuring out what to wear. Once I know, it’s very fast.
Is there a designer you turn to for evening wear?
My go to is (Indonesian designer) Biyan. I did custom for my wedding, but not all the time. I also got all my girlfriends obsessed with the brand. They’ll go for the weekend or a few days to Jakarta with me and buy his dresses, so that’s my fault.
Is the evening scene different here than it is from Jakarta?
Well, we do love to party, get dressed up and go all out. If I’m in Jakarta, because it’s the culture, I’ll go out with my mother for big functions. She will have her hair person, but she does her own makeup. She doesn’t have a makeup artist on standby every day – which is common in Jakarta. That’s maybe where I get it from. My hair on the other hand, I need my blowdry. I’m Indo that way.
Where do you get your hair done?
I’ve been seeing Andy at Kim Robinson for I think 14 or 15 years. There have been changes in length, but I’ve always had my fringe.