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Cheryl Tiu's doll life

Going to an event: Black lace dress by Topshop, vintage Chanel belt worn as necklace, shoes from CMG and clutch by Chanel

MANILA, Philippines - At 6 a.m., when the world is still getting its weary face together to prepare for another day at the grind, Cheryl Tiu is tying her shoelaces before heading out for a regular three-kilometer run around her village. The Lifestyle Asia associate editor sometimes stops for a 7:30 a.m. Mass, accompanied by her mother, then jets off to the company headquarters for a day of editing, proofreading and circulating (she attends events on a regular basis). Cher’s hardworking sensibilities were clearly inherited from her family — a veritable mix of captains of industries (her family owns numerous companies, including the Discovery Hotel chain, which Cher refers to as “a second home”), sports heroes (her brother is basketball star Chris Tiu) and creative types (who helm magazines at Mega Publishing).

The Ateneo grad (with a degree in communications technology management and some post-graduate business courses from the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers in Angers, France, in her pocket) woke up one day — at the age of 17 — suffering from an early quarter-life crisis.

“I made a list of things I wanted to do,” Cher says. “Write for a newspaper, play in a band, get work experience in television, study abroad … all before I turned 20.” Since generating her post-pubescent Bucket List, Cher’s accomplished everything — and more. While taking up a short course, an intensive, six-week course in book and magazine publishing, at Columbia University’s School of Journalism this year, she produced a beauty editorial, which came out in last month’s issue of Lifestyle Asia.

“I spontaneously put together the shoot with a New York-based team during my last 72 hours in the city — my first ‘unplanned’ shoot overseas,” she says.

Just one more thing she can cross off her to-do list.

What’s on your bedside table?

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Alarm clock, my wooden dolls, medicine, Holy Water, Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis (I read a passage every night before I go to bed) and the current book I’m reading, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.

Your favorite places to travel?

Europe — from Paris to Brussels to Munich to Prague to Budapest. I love the continent’s vast culture and history. I’m also partial to Eastern Europe, and I plan to visit my dream cities, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Bucharest, within the next year or two. 

New York City. It’s so different from the rest of America. The hustle and bustle of rush hour versus the quiet times in between, the crazy yet efficient subway system, the shopping, the food, the museums, the different neighborhoods, the parks, the brownstones, the walking. It’s a city for the productive dreamer, not the one that dreams his life away but one who works to turn his dreams into reality. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind puts it best into perspective.

In Asia, I don’t mind returning to Hong Kong or Singapore over and over again.

There’s a collection of travel souvenirs and dolls sitting in your room. That’s kind of a strange mix. What drew you to collect both?

When I travel, I don’t shop much but I like bringing home something native to that country as a keepsake. I’ve always loved matryoshka dolls. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Russia, so mine are from Prague. I saw some of those wooden dolls in Tokyo and thought they were adorable, so I decided to get them as well. Interestingly enough, they say that matryoshka dolls, which date from 1890, are said to have been inspired by souvenir dolls from Japan.

Do your dolls look scary at night?

Nope, they’re too cute!

What do you feel best wearing?

Short dresses with black tights and high heels. Leggings during the day; it’s so easy to move around in them.

How would you define your personal style?

I’m a mood dresser. Sometimes I’m put together, other times I’m undone or look like I just “threw it on.” My wardrobe is mostly black, usually with a hint of rock ’n’ roll.

Whose closet would you most like to raid?

Taylor Momsen’s and Kate Moss’. Katy Perry for quirky, fun fashion. I also want all of Serena van der Woodsen’s clothes on Gossip Girl. Sometimes, I also think it would be fun to dress like Betty Draper from Mad Men for a day.

Your fave places to shop?

Mango, Topshop, Zara, Religioso, Tyler, Myth, Adora and CMG. Abroad I like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, and Mu at The Heeren in Singapore. I’m not a big fan of tiangges and markets because I’m so bad at haggling; I usually give in at the first price. Plus, the crowds are maddening!

What’s your most recent purchase?

Four-inch snakeskin and suede leather lace-up heels from Gaupo. Actually, I’m still on my second fitting!

Your best shopping secret?

In Manila, Religioso is an investment because you can wear almost every top at least two ways. They also have outstanding details like two-toned or oversized collars and the like. CMG carries pretty, reasonably priced shoes. My favorite lines they carry are Matthews, Staccato and Lewre.

Abroad, Forever 21 is cheap yet of surprisingly good quality. Embroidery is intricate and go all the way from front to back. In New York City, Loehmann’s is an off-price department store with designer items lower than in department or specialty stores. There’s a lot of BCBG, Marc Jacobs, Elie Tahari, Helmut Lang, etc., there. I also love the Marc by Marc Jacobs store in the West Village. The bags, T-shirts, boots, clothes, accessories, are all super-cute and relatively inexpensive! There is usually a long queue of Japanese tourists on weekends.

Most unforgettable present you’ve received?

Jewelry, roses, electronics and well-thought-out dinners. Not just because they are beautiful and romantic but because they are from people who mean something to me.

Most outrageous purchase?

Spotted neon-pink leggings with printed shapes of triangles and circles during the ’90s grunge era. Ewww, what was I thinking?

Priciest bauble you’ve acquired?

Nothing off the top of my head right now. I’m pretty sensible when I shop.

What three pieces define your everyday style?

Leggings, black patent wedges or heels, either a large neckpiece or a bangle.

Local designers you admire?

Cary Santiago, Puey Quiñones, Ivarluski Aseron, Jun Escario, Rajo Laurel. I’m also a big accessories person and I really enjoy Chris Diaz’s and my good friend Happy David’s pieces.


Marc Jacobs, Miuccia Prada, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood.

Bags or shoes?


Best sartorial advice from your parents?

Spend wisely. Invest in classic pieces.

Do you have any fundamental rules of dressing?

None. Just go with your gut feel.

Is there an item in your closet you cherish the most?

My red halter jersey dress from House of Laurel. I love the design and cut, and since it’s made of jersey, it travels well with me, and I don’t need to iron when I’m abroad. It can go from a great night of partying to a fancy cocktail party. I’ve worn it so many times but it’s still my favorite dress!

What would you never be caught dead in?

Florals, pastels and preppy polo shirts.

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