Anue | Feature

It’s a rare occurrence for Janie Cai and Jeri Chua to take time off their extremely packed schedules for an interview. But when they do, it’s because they are sisters, and that dynamic of siblings working in the same fashion/publishing industry only serves to strengthen the importance of their interview/photo shoot here at Anue Studios. Janie looked the part of the Esquire Singapore chief decked out in a suave, blue checked suit, while Jeri’s floral ensemble reflects her sophisticated taste as the Group Fashion Director of Indochina Media. They may be doyennes in Singapore’s fashion/publishing industry, but any sense of intimidation thought to be felt in their presence nary exists. There’s a sense of light-heartedness and fun regardless of whoever works with them, and I certainly felt that as I chatted with the sisters about their careers, creative collaboration and their carefree parents.

Janie, you have always been styling for men’s publications, which is such a change from your jewellery design days at CSM. Now you’ve taken on the role of managing editor at Esquire Singapore. Is the jump from styling and fashion editing, to managing an entire magazine, especially content-wise, a huge challenge for you?

Janie: I don’t think it was so much a big jump because it’s looking over a period of 10 years that I started out in the fashion industry in Singapore, having also freelanced for a variety of shoots and styled for other titles. So, with the experience that comes from working closely with the editorial team and especially, understanding how visuals work effectively together with the editorial stories, it was quite a natural progression--from taking over the visual pages to eventually handling the magazine in its entirety and directing the editorial content as well. I’ve always been curious and I want to be involved in everything so I can learn and telling stories is a mix of experience, intuition, talent and lots of research. What’s really important is a close relationship with the editorial team and freelancers to create the best content for the title. By working so closely together with the editorial team and listening to your readers, you start to understand what stories work best for the magazine and for the readers. Plus, I work with a lot of very, very talented people and what I’m really doing is just giving them the right space and the best platform to showcase what they are passionate about.

Janie Cai - Managing Editor of Esquire Singapore

Jeri, I understand that you’ve studied nutrition/fitness in the UK and you are an accomplished athlete/marathon runner who even took on the Tor des Geants. But, you are now the Group Fashion Director at Indochine Media. At what point did styling/fashion directing eventually become your day job?

Jeri: It was Janie who got me into the industry…while Janie went off to do jewellery design, I did my Masters, and so because we were both in the UK at the same time, we still kept in close contact. When she was working with August Man, she had the opportunity to go for men’s fashion week in Milan and Paris and she needed a photographer, and because she thought that it would be a great opportunity for us to work together, she asked if I would be her photographer, and obviously I said yes. It was literally hit the ground running because I had no experience in editorial photography, but Janie is my sister, and I’ll do anything for her!

I relocated back to Singapore about 4 years ago, and I was freelancing as a stylist and a photographer, which was great for me, and I happen to meet someone who I styled for and he introduced me to my current employer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Do you sisters often bounce ideas off each other?

Janie: When we started out we bounced a lot of ideas off each other because it's just so exciting working in the same industry as your sister. You come back and you’re just like, “oh we saw this awesome location outside”, or “we should shoot like that or we should have the models in this, or maybe we should include this prop ”…it's very good synergy.

Jeri: This would be more before I was with Robb Report (Indochine Media), when I was freelancing. We would talk about different shoots as I could still shoot for Janie and do some styling as well, because obviously she's always very busy but the best part is that we really work well together because she is the more creative one and I’m the more logistical one - she'll give me her dream and I'll make it happen.

Janie: Jeri is terrific, she's so organised and she loves to plan things out, very systematically. For me, I enjoy the creative aspect, the ideas. Sometimes she'll roll her eyes when she hears my suggestions... BUT she'll still do it! She’ll prepare everything, set up everything… for example, I once suggested a picnic in the park with Neil Barrett, and Jeri set up a beautiful picnic just before our interview. Unfortunately it rained so we had to have a last-minute back-up plan but still, there’s so much support. Just knowing that she is there is great because I know absolutely that I can trust her to handle this and she'll do it beyond my expectations. It's awesome.

Jeri: Like Miuccia (Prada) and Patrizio (Bertelli)!

Janie: (laughs) I’m more like Paul Smith I think. I love his energy and approach… and we have the same hairstyle!

Jeri Chua - Group Fashion Director of Indochine Media, which manages Robb Report and Luxury Guide

Anyone who is friends with you two on Facebook can tell that your parents are such fun-loving people. And you guys seem to be such a tight-knit family. What are your parents like?

Janie: Our parents are quite unique, in a sense that they are not like typical Asian parents. They weren't very strict but they did instill in us very good values about family and taking care of one another, but also being able to enjoy life and cultivating that wonder about life and also the importance of being playful and positive, you know, because I think when you lose that sense of wonder or curiosity or playfulness, that's when life starts to get really boring and it’s so important in our roles to have that curiosity about everything as well.

Jeri: I think we've always been close to our family. We've always been told that, you know, you're free to go out, explore, find out what the world's all about, but know that we are always here for you.  It's given us the independence and the motivation to go and explore the world. I've grown up thinking that the world is very small, that everything's just a plane ride away. We travelled a lot as kids and our parents are quite happy to just let us go. For them, "as long as you're doing good things, you don't do anything that you know you shouldn't do", they are fine. They trust that they brought us up well.

How have they influenced you two to become who you are today, in terms of character, career choice etc.?

Jeri: If you look at my mum's family…they're either artists or musicians or follow the creative line. The family is just so tight…anything and everything you need, you can just ask, and someone will know how to sort it out or do it or find it. My grandparents were great people, and that has really allowed their children, my parents and aunts and uncles, to blossom in that way. They themselves in turn are good people, not just in terms of their principles, but also that they're helpful and amazingly kind.

Janie: My mum is very open when it comes to sharing things and encouraging us to try new things…the whole sense of joyously plunging into a new activity, I think it's something that I picked up from her and also, being able to appreciate life and what it has to offer. When it comes to design, she's got a great eye for it. I used to go with her on her cloth-buying trips, we'll go to museums and exhibitions too…and it’s through that that I've really come to appreciate certain elements of clothing and design. She's completely open to whatever we want to do, but when I decided to go into fashion, she was very excited. A lot of the stuff that I sometimes wear to fashion week, some of it is made by her, because she used to be a designer, and she loves creating new designs or playing with fabrics. I absolutely love wearing her designs and creation, it’s meaningful and beautiful.

My dad has the same approach to life. He's quite a happy-go-lucky character, doesn't take anything too seriously but he's got great passion - for wine, for life, for travelling and that's filtered down to us all. He used to be with Singapore Airlines, and got us to try new things, try new foods. I love food, trying new things to eat. So there's no fear of trying something new - except maybe heights. So I would not go bungee jumping and skydiving - anything with heights is a bit iffy for me.

If you have to try skydiving for Esquire, would you do it?

Janie: I would send my writer for it, that's what’s (great about) being the managing editor - I get to choose the best person for the job [suggests Wayne from Esquire]. “Wayne, you're going skydiving!”


Photography by Lucas Milone & Elvina Farkas @ Anue Management 
Words by Jerome Lee @ Anue Management 
Makeup by Larry Yeo [website


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