• Press

Yue-Sai will be featured in the Spring Issue of "Paralelles"

2008-04-02



Yue-Sai will be featured in the Spring Issue of "Paralelles". Here is a sneak preview of its cover and an excerpt.


JR: I know that you have lived around the world, what has driven each of your moves?


Yue-Sai: I was born in China, brought up in Hong Kong, and moved to the US when I was 16. I first moved to Hawaii, where I went to college, and then I decided that every girl should go to New York, so in 1972, I did. It was supposed to be a two-week vacation, but I never left. I just love New York. Its such a special place. I ended up living there until this year [2007] when I moved to China. I still have a home in New York, but in 2008, New York will be my secondary home. In my head, this is the first time that I am saying that I am here. Life requires you to make changes.


JR: How often do you go back to New York?


Yue-Sai: I won't be back until June. I'm building a penthouse on my town house in Sutton Place so it's a real mess right now.


JR: So you like to build?


Yue-Sai: I love to build, in the last 6-8 months, I have built two warehouses, two offices, an apartment, two rental apartments, and right, now a penthouse. Bit crazy, no? So the store is still in renovation, I have to add that in as well. However, by December 10 [2007] the store will be finished, by next June [2008] my penthouse will be finished. If you don't build, you aren't going to complete  it's a process  if you want something, you have to build it. This place was a piece of garbage, where you are sitting  but we made it into something beautiful.


JR: When did you start your first venture?


Yue-Sai: When I first started my television show that really is entrepreneurial you invest, you produce programs and sell programs as products, so in that sense, I have been doing that a long time.


JR: Tell me about House of Yue-Sai.


Yue-Sai: My latest business, opens on December 10, 2007. It's an East-meets-West lifestyle concept store with an array of products from more than 100 suppliers in 10 countries  ranging from furniture to accessories, bedding, lighting, fabric, paints, and a gourmet corner. We purchase 30% of our products, but 70% we actually make ourselves. We are building a brand name.


JR: What made you want to launch this type of business?


Yue-Sai: My homes are very famous. My New York, Beijing and Shanghai homes have been featured all over the place. My life is so hectic. I love being home and try to stay home as much as I can. I like to entertain at home [true, her guests have included countless celebrities from Tony Bennett to Denzel Washington].


JR: In 1992 you launched a range of beauty and skincare products for Asian women. In 2004, L'Oreal made you an offer you have said you could not refuse! What motivated you to launch that business?


Yue-Sai: I was frustrated by years of having to look my best on television, but not being able to find appropriate cosmetics for my skin tones, coloring and facial features. I wanted Asian women to feel beautiful, to celebrate their beauty.


JR: In 2004, L'Oreal purchased Yue-Sai Kan Cosmetics Ltd. Are you still involved in this business?

Yue-Sai: I have a title, Honorary Vice Chairman of L'Oreal China, but I'm not really that involved. L'Oreal is a very capable company.


JR: All the businesses you've created etiquette books, this lifestyle company, television shows that bridge East and West, seem to change the way people live their lives, it sounds like you constantly do that yourself.


Yue-Sai: I just think that I'm very lucky that I'm able to change all the time. There is a joy in changing. So I think that its a good idea to impart this kind of a spirit, it permissions the change, permission to do better. It is interesting, here in China I'm building this new business. I don't know what people will call me. When I first started TV a long time ago, they said Yue-Sai is the Chinese Barbara Walters. When I started cosmetics, people said I was the Estee Lauder of China. When I wrote books about etiquette, they called me the Emily Post of China. Now with this business, I don't know what they'll call me next.


JR: I guess those are all Westerners, but for China, those are firsts - was it the Chinese press that makes those names?


Yue-Sai: Not at all, they call me Yue-Sai! It's only the Western press that needs the comparisons...I am the most famous woman in a country with 1.4 billion people. If people don't know Yue-Sai, they are not Chinese. Ask anyone here they wouldn't know Queen Latifah, her movies, her music are not here. Oprah? Nobody knows Oprah...it's not aired here. Heres the most interesting thing nobody would know me in America, but by the same token, nobody would know Oprah here. I don't mind being compared but what's interesting is that I'm all of it!


JR: Do you see things about your childhood that made you such a builder?


Yue-Sai: Our parents always encouraged us to be very curious, to be creative. Every week, our parents would take us to a different restaurant for dinner, different provincial foods, just so we would get culturally attuned to things with my father being a painter/artist, I grew up living with art and culture. You feel art is part of your life, not something somebody introduced to you. You look at your father painting, finishing something, every bit of that is a transferring experience.  

JR: Are you married, have any children, a pet?


Yue-Sai: I was married once to an American Irishman for five years, but now I am really single  no husband, no children. I am my own pet, I feel very spoiled.  I get to do whatever I want to do. I just feel that I'm very lucky in the sense that I live a very indulgent life  I do what I want to do. I do not need to make any form of compromise. If I want to move to Shanghai, I move to Shanghai, I don't have to worry about anyone. I am totally, totally free. In that way I feel very indulgent. I am left to my own devices, if I fail, I fail because I made that decision to fail. I can't blame it on anyone, and if I succeed, I take the credit because only I can make the decisions. I have no husband, no children, it allows me freedom. I call it singlehood aristocracy. I truly feel spoiled. If you have children you are definitely focusing on too many things. My business is very complicated, I don't give it to anyone else to run. I do much of it myself. I know practically everything about every product that we are putting into this store. We literally shopped in 10 countries  in the last two years, I have gone around the world probably four times.


JR: Can you maintain that level of oversight as the company grows?


Yue-Sai: I hope I don't. It's not good to delegate at the beginning, you really have to know everything, every person you hire is a new employee. You have to try them, to really get to know them, and they you. But of course you have to delegate certain things to others as the business grows. This is a very difficult business. It's not like cosmetics. In a shop like this, we have over 1,000 products. In cosmetics, you have one factory that can produce gels, creams, etc, but this particular business involves different types of materials, plastics, crystal, paper, leather, wood, everything, sourced from Italy, Vietnam, India, Mexico, etc. so there are many disciplines, all kinds of materials, you are forced to learn a lot and it's all exciting. 


JR: How long has it taken to get to launch? Did you have any outside investment?


Yue-Sai: It has taken two years. No, no investors. 


JR: Is there anything in China at all similar?


Yue-Sai: No. We are beginning to have lifestyle stores, but not as extensive as this. Ikea is huge here. Ikea is doing very well in China because it's catering to a huge population that is just beginning to have their first apartments, it's amazing.


JR: Do you have ideas for your next venture yet?


Yue-Sai : This one will be it for the next three to four years. Come see my office&I'm almost never finished&like my home, like a human being, when is anyone finished? Customers are key to finding out if you are on target or off target. I don't know if China is ready yet for House of Yue-Sai!