Style Profile: Caliann Lum

Caliann Lum’s ensembles reach operatic heights

THE LOOK A longtime arts patron, Caliann Lum’s style is appropriately colorful and dramatic. She is wearing:

  • A Milly dress, $375, Kate Spade scarf, $98, and Kate Spade floral pumps, $328, all @ Nordstrom, Mall of America, 952-883-2121,
  • Henri Bendel bag, $298 @ Henri Bendel, Mall of America, 952-854-9206,
  • Rox charm bracelet, $85 @




“This is art!” Caliann Lum exclaims as she pulls a favorite evening bag out of her closet: a floral-patterned, crystal-encrusted Caché minaudière with a silver leather lining. It’s one of many delights among a collection of colorful Henri Bendels and leather-and-satin Judith Leibers.


After show-and-tell is over, Lum poses in front of her treasure chest, a long white closet that takes up an entire wall of her cozy Old St. Anthony Minneapolis condo. It’s stuffed with an eclectic assortment of handbags, shoes, and accessories. “I feel like an executive standing in front of a bookcase!” she jokes.

Lum’s personality is as vibrant as her red, razor-sharp bob and colorful outfits. She’s a fixture of benefits at local arts institutions (including the Walker Art Center, the Ritz Theater and Ballet of the Dolls, the Ordway, and Orchestra Hall) who is quick to point out the connection between art and style. “When someone shows me an interesting painting, the first thing I think is, That’d make a great scarf,” she says.

Lum’s dramatic style and passion for the arts aren’t what most would expect from someone with a long, storied career in the medical field, including working as a transplant surgeon before becoming a consultant and medical content developer for a health information-technology company.

Her creative outlet is writing screenplays—this year, a major film star attached herself to one as an actor and producer—as well as producing, directing, writing, shooting, and editing a documentary about Kenya’s famous fashion event, the African Heritage Festival. Most recently, she’s been tackling a new project: an opera libretto.

THE LOOK Vince dress, $325 @ Nordstrom; Rox coral necklace, $400
Photo by Taylor Tupy

After setting up several prestigious transplant programs around the country, Lum decided to retire from her medical practice. “I just thought to myself, What else can I do before I get too old?” she notes.

The obvious answer? Stage an opera. “I’m so involved with the opera here,” Lum explains. “It’s the logical thing to do. Can you imagine the gowns?” The opera’s main character is, lo and behold, a Chinese woman who is transported to a mythical kingdom where she “gets sucked into this wormhole.”

Born in Hawaii to Chinese- and Korean-American parents, Lum’s love of fashion was instilled in her at an early age by her mother. “I can still remember a white satin dress with rhinestone buttons my mother bought for me as a child,” she says. “That must have been where it started.”

But it wasn’t until midway through her medical residency that she truly discovered her sense of style. “I was giving talks in international meetings. I realized I was one of the few women, and I thought, ‘I could be cute!’ So I wore things that were proper but a little amusing,” she says, recalling a “very disco” ’70s striped Indian cotton shirt with metallic thread that enlivened a presentation in Rome.

From that time on, Lum made dressing up a priority—thus her custom-built closet. “I keep my clothes forever, so I recycle them. That black dress is literally from the ’80s. It’s vintage out of my own closet. You can never have enough closet space.”




Caliann Lum’s Style Crib Sheet


Favorite Brands: A|X Armani Exchange, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Aidan Mattox, Henri Bendel, Caché, Kate Spade, and Rox Minneapolis jewelry.

Distinctive Hairstyle: “About 12 years ago, an Aveda color consultant said my best colors for clothes were brick, peach, and coral. I got bored with my dark-brown hair, so I bought a box of Clairol, going for the shade of ‘brick,’ and tried it. People seemed to like it.”

Beauty Routine: “I swear by over-the-counter Perricone products.”

Personal Style: “I’m an optimist, and there’s a little theater in me, so I tend to pick things that are challenging and exciting.”




EXCLUSIVE: Web Extra Photos


Photo by Taylor Tupy

Photo by Taylor Tupy