At Bath In Fashion‘s 2015 event, an audience of industry enthusiasts eagerly looked on to fashion journalist, Hywel Davies in conversation with designer, Anna Sui. Now 52, Anna has spent a lifetime perfecting and developing her craft after deciding at the age of four that her dream was to become a fashion designer. Anna’s work is solely unique and nothing can compare to her wacky, fun-loving collections season after season. She spoke personally to us about her life, striving towards and being totally submerged by the fashion industry.
Growing up in Detroit, the first time Anna visited New York was for her uncle’s wedding. Instantly stunned by the atmosphere – thriving with daring fashion inhabitants – Anna knew New York would become her city when she was old enough. Whilst in her teen years, Anna collected fashion magazines and saved cuttings, which she would organise into her now called ‘genius files’. These files she repeatedly referred to are a huge part of her research when she’s designing a collection, as she often uses them as starting points, increasing inspiration.
Following her ambitions to move to New York, Anna was accepted into Parsons School of Design to study fashion. She mentioned that being a student at such a prestigious institute meant that every day was a fashion show. Anna described to us that her and her friends would often mimic what they had seen on the runway with items from thrift shops – assembling them together to create something fashionable, yet out of the ordinary. Anna confirmed that these outfits went down best whilst exploring the underground club scene of the seventies. For Anna, going out was a part of her research method, along with her ‘genius files’, admitting that she spent more of her time out on the town than doing schoolwork.
Anna moved to London after her studies at Parsons, where the punk and grunge scene was considerably different to that of New York. She commented that London had a much more daring approach to punk, with every individual transforming into exhibitionists, whereas the style in New York seemed a lot more streamlined and tame. Opening her first boutique in Soho, it’s fantastic to think that she now has fifty successful boutiques worldwide. Anna stressed heavily that the friends she’s met along the way are a big influence on her career, particularly fashion photographer and fellow peer at Parsons, Stephen Meisel. Anna also mentioned the ‘supers’ frequently, talking of Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, and how they often supported Anna in some of her first debut runway shows for free.
Anna describes herself as a ‘total fashion freak’, living and breathing fashion in all its entirety. She explains that the ambiguity created from the Anna Sui label leaves people wondering whether it’s a good or a bad girl essence, which she finds exciting. Anna is one for always bringing influences from the past, such as the vintage rock and roll style of the sixties and seventies, and infusing them with modern aspects. She ended on a few wise words that she’s always carried with her: keep a positive mindset, always keep moving forward, trust in yourself, and ‘live your dream’.