The Sandee Saunders Project

December 05, 2011 | by —eleni gage | Talk of the Town

Sometimes being stylish is not about what you wear, but who you know. For a growing list of Miami fashionistas, Sandee Saunders is one very important contact. A makeup artist-cum-stylist who first visited the city in the early ’90s, she started wintering here and moved permanently in 2000 for the love of a man—at the time, a very little man. “I became a mom, and showing up on shoots with a young son just didn’t work with makeup jobs,” Saunders recalls.

So she expanded into fashion, working as a sales specialist at Valentino before joining the team that opened The Webster boutique in 2007. But the bond between a woman and her trusted makeup artist is almost as sacred as the one between mother and son, Saunders says. “I continued doing makeup for private clients who would not give it up—socialites in the charity circuit, Europeans with homes in Miami, celebrities when they’re in town.” These same women now also trust Saunders and her sensibility for wardrobe styling.

Ready to branch out on her own after a successful run at Miami’s chicest shops, Saunders launched The Sandee Saunders Project last year. Among other services, her company offers personal shopping and dressing, which can mean “someone wanting me to style a video, or my team and me going into someone’s home, editing and rebuilding their closet.” But the most exciting aspect of the business is its online showroom, thessproject.com, which Saunders uses to highlight six up-and-coming designers. “I wanted to focus on emerging talents, to introduce stylish women and men to the finer things they haven’t seen yet.”

Think of Saunders as a fashion matchmaker, joining style setters with something they’ll love. “It’s always all about the relationships,” she explains, from her days as a New York makeup artist glossing the lips of her childhood icon Diana Ross, to a retail maven helping Gianni Versace try on wigs at the much-loved Washington Avenue boutique Meet Me In Miami, to shopping for Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner when they’re in town. As for her current passions, Saunders’s favorite fall looks are square body bags and ’70s styles that mix retro fashion with vintage jewelry. “A lot of the fads from the past are back, so people are pulling out their old pieces,” she reports.

Just don’t expect her to revive her old New York wardrobe. “When I first arrived, the way I dressed was totally ‘New York,’” admits Saunders, who added an office in Manhattan recently. “But Miami has such festive flavor—you can play a lot more with color, and people aren’t afraid to be sensual. Even if you thought you didn’t have that side to you, when you get to Miami, you find it.” Or, best-case scenario: Saunders finds it for you.

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