PR powerhouse Sydney Dao was once best known as the sister of designer Chloe, but her growing business, edgy aesthetic and major projects—like collaborating with Houston First to create LAUNCH, a retail space featuring a rotating collection of local designers—have made her a major Houston player. Dao talked to Houstonia about how to mix comfort with style, where she gets her custom lipstick and her favorite local finds.
How would you describe your style?
As a mom and a businesswoman, I’m super busy. I have to run back and forth all the time, and for that reason I’m all about feeling comfortable and looking good. I love chic clothes and more often than not you will find me in a loose, flowy dress—nothing super girly, though. Also, FitFlops are my savior right now. I came across these shoes after I hurt my ankle last April and they are the most comfortable shoes ever. They have a lot of cushion which makes them great for walking.
Who is your biggest style inspiration?
My mom for sure. She is the most stylish woman and has this regal presence. Recently we were at the opening party for LAUNCH and she arrived late. When she walked in looking super stylish, wearing this beautiful jacket my sister Chloe purchased for her. Everyone was screaming “Mama Dao! Mama Dao!” Everyone knows our mother because all of my siblings and I talk about how she influenced all eight of us girls. My sisters and I are definitely strong, confident women because of our mother.
What experiences have helped to mold your look?
My experience in New York was amazing and it definitely influenced me and gave me a lot of confidence. I would not have gotten into fashion if it weren’t for my sister Chloe. I was originally studying to be an English professor and had just finished school. I wasn’t quite ready to start graduate school. Chloe convinced me to move to New York for a year to figure things out.
I took a position as a receptionist with a public relations company that also had a showroom for designers and ended up staying for six and a half years. During that time, I worked my way up in the company and essentially worked in every role there is within the fashion industry. I then worked with Chloe for 12 years and did all the PR and marketing for her brand, which eventually led me to starting my own business.
Where do you like to shop?
I like to shop on Asian international websites as you will typically find clothes that are bit edgier. I also like to shop at the LAUNCH pop-up boutique as it’s a great way to support our local designers.
Tell me how you started LAUNCH.
Last year, Houston First approached me and asked if I could do a pop-up boutique in this empty space. The space needed to be occupied for the Super Bowl because there is a train stop right in front of it and it was one of the entrances to the Super Bowl experience. The store had to be Houston-centric and was originally only meant to run for six weeks. Through this pop-up boutique, we’ve really been able to showcase our local talent and we were able to do so on this international platform during the Super Bowl.
Since we’ve opened we have introduced 35 designers. The main idea behind LAUNCH is to give these designers a voice and a stepping stone for them to be able to get to the next level. Part of our program requires the designers to work five days out of the month they are here—that’s part of the lure to getting customers in is as you have the opportunity to hear one of the designers share their story. My hope through LAUNCH is to elevate the designers and educate them.
What are some of your go-to beauty products?
When it comes to lipstick, eyeliner, and eye lashes, Aubrie Layne's Lucky Cat Beauty is my go-to line of makeup. My favorite lipstick is actually one from Aubrie’s line that was custom created for me. It’s called Sydney and it is this beautiful, vibrant pink. The formula is great and it doesn’t dry my lips either. I also use Ellis Faas foundation and the Bare Minerals matte powder. These products combined ensure that I have a flawless face all day long, no touch-ups required.
I also always carry chapstick with me. Lately I’ve been using one from Deep Eddy vodka. This particular vodka offers promotional chapstick, which is great because they offer a lot of delicious fruit-flavored vodkas.
What’s the best advice you can give to readers about style?
When it comes to fashion, try different things! These days I see bloggers or Instagrammers all wearing the same pair of torn jeans with a slouchy shirt, looking down at their cute tote bag—I’m not that inspired by them. Be yourself and don’t follow trends. Fashion is so accessible now and I think it’s important to just try different things and be comfortable. Also, make sure that you wear the outfit and never let the outfit wear you.