The Urbanite

Dorothy Ho cuts an international figure.

Dorothy Ho doesn't think she's stylish, but we're not sure who she's comparing herself to. Carrie Bradshaw? Coco Chanel? With her internationally acquired wardrobe and fantastic shoes and handbags, the 32-year-old writer and photo editor stands out in Seattle. When not compiling documentary photography for her Web site, ThePhotoEssay.com, Ho teaches writing classes and pens articles for publications such as Where magazine and newspapers in Singapore, her native city. She's also lived in New York (where she met her husband, a designer) and San Francisco. Though Seattle isn't her favorite metropolis—yet—she says she's really gotten into the art scene here, attending First Thursdays and mixing with other creative types. She shared her thoughts over tea in the Fairmont Hotel.

Q&A

Where do you shop for shoes? Far East Plaza in Singapore; Nordstrom and Edie's in Seattle.

Where do you shop for clothing? I try to do all my shopping when I go home to Singapore; there's a very different fashion aesthetic there that I identify with. I buy clothes from Singaporean designers I love such as WOMB and Song + Kelly. And many labels from Japan or Hong Kong that are not available here. In Seattle, the one store I frequent is Anthropologie. I also like Fancy because [owner] Sally Brock brings in great T-shirts.

When did you find your style? I think I'm still looking! I take a little bit from each city that I've lived in, and my present look is an amalgamation of my life. If there's one constant, though, it has to be comfort. I walk everywhere, so heels or ill-fitting clothes are not an option. I know I'm lucky to have that ability to look outside of Seattle for fashion. My style is really me putting together my favorite items from different cities.

Did you ever go through any horrible fashion phases? I permed my fringe in the '80s.

What do you hate about Seattle style? Comfort without style. Buying an entire getup from one store. People wearing "work clothes" with running shoes, which I gather they change out of when they reach work. Why?

What's your opinion on East Coast vs. West Coast style? I can only compare this with New York City, since I've lived there. I love the New York style because it makes no apologies for what it is. People wear whatever they want, and everyone tells a story with their clothes. In Seattle, people prefer to let the brands talk for them. There is less experimentation and mixing and matching. The trends and styles are taken wholesale without any tweaking. To truly be a trendsetter, I think people need to be unafraid to take an "old" trend, pair it with something new, perhaps, and then throw on a fabulous accessory.

What are your clothing staples? Comfortable tees. Yes, there are uncomfortable tees!

Who's your style icon? Hello Kitty. She rocks that red bow every time.

Is there a piece of clothing you bought on a whim that languishes in your closet? I bought a traditional Vietnamese ao dai [an outfit consisting of a long tunic, usually with a high collar, worn over loose pants] on a trip to Ho Chi Minh, thinking I could wear it for some formal event. Yeah, right. First I need to be invited somewhere.

What object in your home or apartment says a lot about you? My Apple computer. No fuss, easy-to-use operating system, awesome packaging and design aesthetic, clean lines, simplicity.

What are a few of your favorite hang-outs? My LoveSac at home. It's like a giant beanbag, right in front of the telly. Yes, I won't apologize for watching television. People make it out to be such a crime here. Also: Shiro's when I can afford it. Best damn sushi in the world.

 
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