This stylish entrepreneur is one of a kind. This evening, she’s dressed casually but edgily in black shorts (that she designed herself), a striped top under a funky baseball shirt, and black sliders.
After a quick drink in the dining room of the big apartment that Angie shares with her son Danon (her daughter, Crystal, lives in New York), she takes me through to her private area – what she aptly describes as an “apartment within an apartment”. It’s a lovely space: four of the original six bedrooms converted into a plush sanctuary that comprises bedroom, study, expansive bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe that’s to die for.
Who is Angie?
Regular readers of Expat Living tend to have definite opinions about Framing Angie’s striking double-page advertisements, a brand new and different one every single month. Whether or not you love them, as most of us do, they’re impossible to ignore – and their individualistic chutzpah is a legacy from her previous careers in advertising and fashion.
“My customers say they look forward each month to seeing my new ad, and their enthusiasm encourages me to continue doing them. Even when I fear that a particular ad may be too ‘out there’, they encourage me to go ahead.”
Interestingly, her Framing Angie advertisements reveal very little about the real Angie Mui, who says that she is nothing like the social butterfly they project.
“My ads are totally misleading: In reality, I’m quite a shy and private person. For example, I never, ever paint the town red. Rather than large crowds, I prefer an intimate, personal dinner.”
She’s deeply family-oriented, too. “I always have dinner with my dad and my siblings on alternate Sundays; and on the other Sundays, it’s a rule that my son and I have dinner together, just the two of us. If you don’t set rules like that with your children, it’s too easy to drift apart.”
Now she’s cooking! My lovely dinner has come from a large, semi-professional-looking kitchen boasting serried ranks of equipment; I spot two of those pricey Kitchen Aid mixers standing side by side. “I’m a systems person,” explains Angie, “so I run my kitchen like a military operation. I even use spreadsheets to record the shopping ingredients that come in and the meals that the kitchen produces.”
She confesses to having baked around 2,000 macarons before feeling that she’d perfected the art. “But I hardly eat what I bake,” she says. “I gave them away, to the security guards, to parking attendants and to the old folks’ home nearby. They had to ask me to stop, because I was causing diabetes in the community.” Though she has been a keen baker for a long time, Angie’s passion for cooking – mainly Western food – is only a few years old. It was born mainly out of necessity, she says: her previous helpers had been very good cooks, but her new one didn’t cook well at all. And when her son started losing weight, she decided it was time for her to learn to cook for the two of them.
She took it on as a challenge: “They say that those who can cook, can’t bake; and good bakers never make good cooks. I was determined to prove them wrong.”
Never one to do things by halves, she recalls diving in at the deep end: “Instead of first learning to do a fried egg well, I did lobster thermidor!”
Down to business
With her Holland Village shop to run, I’m right in suspecting that she doesn’t often have a guest around for dinner. What would be an average day in the life of Angie Mui?
“I love my day to have a routine structure – I wake up at 7.30am, go to my computer to respond to emails from my customers, have breakfast and then get to the gallery at the same time every day. Yet each day is so different, bringing different customers with different paintings for framing. Because I love what I do and I work on my own terms, I still look forward to every new day as much as I did when I started this business 19 years ago.”
That’s remarkable, especially in light of the fact that Angie works an average 16-hour day, staying up till about 12.30am to deal with frame order worksheets and accounting work.
“For me, it’s so important to keep my finger on the pulse of every job that we do. I personally check each frame as it comes back from the workshop. I used to have an assistant designer, but I scrapped that because I feel it’s important for my customers to have my personal attention.”
Has she never thought of expanding? No, says Angie firmly. “I’ve considered various offers, some of them interesting, but have always turned them down. What I really enjoy is being focused on the customer, and that’s why I will never open a second shop. The way I work simply does not allow for that.”
Angie says she is driven by the creativity and intimacy that takes place when customers come into the gallery to discuss their ideas and needs with her. “I truly enjoy seeing their joy and absolute wonder when they see the finished product.”
As you might expect, the walls of Angie’s condo are a showcase for frames of all types and description. “Some of them are not necessarily my taste, however,” she confides. Instead, they’ve been chosen in accordance with feng shui principles – for their colour, say red, or for their reflective or other metallic qualities. Her expansive bedroom is richly warm and cosy; every surface features texture such as leather, wood or velvet, and the interior gleams with elements such as gold frames.
In fact, the art of feng shui imbues every aspect of her home. Each home comes with a “success corner” or “prosperity corner”, she explains. For success in life, it’s vitally important to identify that spot so that you furnish it with something auspicious, like a horseshoe – and not with something banal like a shoe rack. I wonder aloud: how do you pinpoint the location of your own home’s lucky corner? Only a feng shui master can do that for you, says Angie. She herself uses the services of a Taiwanese feng shui expert called Master Chen, and has been doing so for many years.
Angie’s own money corner is where her dressing table is placed, together with a lovely old barber’s chair. This is no mere ornament; not having time to visit the hairdresser, she gets her hairdresser to come to her.
Angie genuinely does not look a day older than when I first brought a picture to her for framing, around 14 years ago. If anything, she looks more youthful and even more petite. What’s her secret?
“Sleep less and enjoy life more,” she says. “I’ve never had time for a beauty regime. I don’t get much sleep, and I don’t go for beauty treatments, because I’m far too impatient to lie down for an hour doing nothing. I just do not know how to relax! So, I can only put it down to good genes.”
She walks a lot, however, often going out for an hour and a half’s stroll with her son to Orchard Road for dinner and back. “I call it our WEW sessions – Walk, Eat, Walk.”
What lies ahead?
Custom-framing is what Framing Angie is known for – she can and will frame almost anything: “If I can’t frame it, no one can. Over the years, other framing shops have tried to do similar work, with varying degrees of success. I like to say that I may not be the best framer, but I’m definitely the most hardworking!”
Angie started off in advertising, handling major international accounts such as PanAm that required her to fly to and from New York; then she worked in fashion, becoming the major licensee for Disney fashion in Asia. It amuses her now to look back to 19 years ago, when she first started her framing business as “a semi-relaxed third career”. Ironically, she says, she’s never worked so hard in her life.
So, does she plan to work forever? “I’m still enjoying it too much to stop,” says Angie. “The truth is that I do it more for the love of it than for the money.”
Cooking and baking
- Cold Storage, Holland Village, for cooking ingredients
- Phoon Huat, #01-48 Chip Bee Gardens, Block 44 Jalan Merah Saga, for baking supplies
- Huber’s Butchery, 22 Dempsey Road, for meat
- Meat The Butcher (Sunny Foo), 9388 2061, for home deliveries
- Binomio, 20 Craig Road, for Spanish
- Blu Kouzina, 10 Dempsey Road, for Greek
- Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, for modern Australian
- Creatures, 120 Desker Road, for Asian fusion
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