Lee Sze Suen
Managing Director of SUEN Jewellers
EZ catches up with the reclusive entrepreneur who has been creating subtle waves within the fashion industry with her diamond jewellery boutique in Bangsar.
There are times in one’s life when the path set is often not the path taken. Likewise for Lee Sze Suen who practiced law for a year before fate introduced her to the diamond business. “I actually think that education is all about the development of the mind, development of analytical skills,” she muses during a quick chat at her boutique. “I think studying law has helped me with the business – being able to spot real issues and attack it and find the best solutions.”
Starting out as partner in the upmarket The Carat Club in 1997, Lee decided to venture on her own after the business unravelled three years later. SUEN Jewellers was founded in 2010 and officially opened its doors to the eager public in early 2011. Located in the prestigious neighbourhood of Bangsar, the SUEN brand, which is an evolution from The Carat Club, now caters to the astute taste and lifestyle of the contemporary consumer.
“When I launched SUEN, it was actually built on the corner stone of style and quality. I’m always trying to find new, interesting styles and quality. Basically that’s the benchmark that we set,” says Lee who makes personalised service a priority in dealing with customers. “We are a lot more customer-centric and aim to be recognised for creating exceptional and remarkable pieces of jewellery.”
Although Lee doesn’t design the pieces herself, she is constantly inspired by new ideas and keeps tabs with the creative views and works of some of the most creative minds in fashion, furniture and forms. “I can’t cut off sketch reasonably well, but I give a lot of input in terms of influences and design direction.”
Taking a stroll through the bright and spacious showroom, it’s clear that her taste for modern elegance is not confined to craftsmanship. The space which occupies three bungalow lots houses different galleries within which the sparkling gems take centre stage in polished glass cabinets.
The Love Diamond boutique is a particular favourite for couples looking to acquire a bespoke piece for their special day. Here wedding bands are customised to the customer’s preferences without compromising the brilliance of the diamonds.
“In diamond cutting, it is always yield versus profits. To get a better cut obviously you discard a bit more but then the brilliance is different, the brilliance speaks for itself,” explains Lee who admits that her choice of diamond cut makes the stones slightly more expensive. “It is very interesting because when we first started, some people who understood diamonds didn’t think we could survive. Because obviously, when we offer better quality we are slightly more expensive than others. But I think we have carved a niche for ourselves and people can see the differences in quality for themselves.”
Four years later, the SUEN brand is slowly but surely making a name for itself within the local and international scene. “We find a lot of jewellers knocking at our door – French jewellers, Italian jewellers – but we are fairly picky about whom we select,” says Lee who currently carries the Lalique, Daum and Hodel brands in her boutique. Lee’s vision for fine craftsmanship has also led to the commissioning of New York based Malaysian artist Eng Tay to create a signature design for the brand, which was later turned into a limited edition jewellery piece.
With its emphasis on simple, classic jewellery SUEN offers a wide range that encompasses diamond solitaire rings, eternity rings, varying styles of diamond earrings, tennis bracelets and Riviera necklaces. The gallery also houses the full works of more elaborate ready-made jewellery in diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires, coloured gemstones and jade.
The pearl collections by Hodel are a particular draw as SUEN is one of the very few dealers who carry the exclusive brand. The signature line features Baroque necklaces, gold-dyed pearls and pearl rings in diamond encrusted settings.
Needless to say the boutique keeps Lee very busy and any reason to travel whether it’s for work or leisure is a welcome respite from the demands of the store. “I enjoy long distance travelling. I find that in that quite space, I’m able to actually reflect on work a lot.” And as a mother of three, the juggling of work and home life does not come without its claims. “I think my challenge is always trying to find that balance between work and children. But I always put my children first. For example, I can be serving customers and I may not take calls from other people but whenever it’s my children I will pick up the phone.”
The self-confessed workaholic admits that she hardly has time for other pursuits and this could account for the low profile and minimal publicity. “I generally avoid frivolous talk and I just think don’t think it is necessary to have too much publicity. I like my privacy,” she muses before continuing with a laugh. “Actually I spend a lot of time working, in the evening sometimes I’ll be online with suppliers from New York and friends. Otherwise I play some tennis, go to the gym or start planning my next holiday destination.”