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Sinful sartorial splendor - From Siberia to Shanghai

FASHION designer Yana Sin believes a woman must be feminine and she can be glamorous and beautiful. She tells Sam Riley about her creative journey from the Siberian oil fields to her own Sin City.

In the grubby, rough world of the Siberian oil industry, Yana Sin cut a striking and glamorous figure in her own chic fashion designs.

The Russian designer recalls that her sartorial splendor did turn a few heads in the macho oil and gas industry, where she had worked for more than eight years in an office.

"I was very popular and I am a woman so it is nice to be looked at and admired," says the immaculately attired Sin, 30.

With both Japanese and Korean lineage, Sin was born in Japan but when she was three her family moved to Russia's Siberia and the island of Sakhalin.

The resource-rich island lies in the North Pacific between Russia and Japan.

In 2007, Sin decided to turn her homemade designs and sketches into a career, opening up her own label, Cat Walk, in Shanghai.

Sin held her first fashion show in February, showcasing a collection of 20 evening dresses with figure-hugging gowns that the designer says give the wearer a touch of "Hollywood red carpet" glamor.

"It was so much hard work for five minutes of glory, but we saw the reaction of people and it was fantastic," Sin says.

Along with her partners, local twin sisters Michelle Wang and Christina Zhou, Cat Walk is preparing its second collection and recently completed its first catalogue.

"I design things that I would love to wear myself, and I really believe that a woman has to be feminine and she can be glamorous and beautiful," she says. "But there is also an intrigue in a woman and my designs celebrate the curves of a woman and create an elegant, sexy silhouette."

Along with all things feminine, the fashion designer has also branched out into menswear.

She has created a range of suits that draw inspiration from the safari suit to provide tall, straight lines that she calls both "official and sensuous."

But growing up in the beautiful surrounds of Sakhalin Island with its mountains, forests and ocean, Sin took a well-trodden path into the lucrative oil and gas industries.

With international giants like Shell and Exxon operating on the island, Sin was working in the industry while still at university.

After studying fine art and art history and completing a bachelor's degree in philology, she worked for Shell, helping to ensure projects meet a raft of government regulations.

She worked in the regulation-focused role for a number of companies in the Sakhalin oil and gas industry. But Sin says her creative fires burned throughout this time and she kept sketching designs and avidly following fashion.

It was on a holiday to Taiwan at the end of 2005 that she met an American man and decided to pursue a romantic and adventurous life. She left her stable, well-paying job and started afresh in Asia.

"I was fed up with my life in oil and gas and I wanted some adventure," she says.

Unsure of what to do, Sin says a chance encounter with a Taiwanese artist led her to study traditional Chinese ink-wash painting. She also started learning Mandarin Chinese.

The shapes and colors she worked with in her art studies have inspired some of the pieces she makes.

A floor-length evening gown in her studio features traditional Chinese ink-wash motifs and subtle shades of grays and blacks.

But it wasn't until she came to Shanghai in 2007 that Sin finally decided to take the plunge and try her luck in the fashion industry.

After visiting a friend in Shanghai, she decided to move here and initially worked in a financial services company where she met her future business partner, Wang.

"We are both shopaholics, we would talk about fashion and clothes and we both had a dream to make our career in fashion," Sin says.

Wang's sister recently entered the business and the trio have branched out into customized wardrobes, wedding planning and personal styling.

In addition to designing fashions, Cat Walk provides makeovers and even has designs for corporate clients.

Sin is currently designing new Moroccan-style uniforms for People's Square restaurant and bar Barbarossa.

Yana Sin

Nationality: Russian (Japanese/Korean)

Age: 30

Profession: Fashion designer


Description of self:

Unique, adventurous, vogue.

Favorite place: Airport - love to feel the movement of the crowd. Someone is leaving (what do they feel); someone is coming (what are they expecting from Shanghai); someone is in transition. It's like an overview of life. Very inspiring!

Strangest sight:

Oh! There are so many and I have not seen it all yet! One was the chairman of my previous company eating soup at a meeting.

Worse experience: Visa issues! Always! And local trains.

Motto for life: Follow the flow because you never know how it will work out.

How to improve Shanghai:

People's attitude.

Advice to newcomers:

Don't listen to the stories, come and see and make your own.


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