Since her first catwalk show in 1991, Anna Sui has become known for creating fabulously original clothing inspired by intensive research into vintage fashion and popular culture.
The exhibition ranges from early looks such as the exuberant Carnaby Street schoolgirl outfits worn by supermodels Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell in Sui’s first runway show in 1991 to the cowgirl and cheerleader modeled by Gigi and Bella Hadid in her Spring/Summer 2017 Americana-themed collection.
“In reciting a quote from the movie Almost Famous where Penny Lane says “If you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends, like for so many of us who adorn Anna Sui’s garb, wearing one of her pieces is like visiting with a dear friend in the vein that we’ve become co-participants of the world she’s manifested. Her reference of textiles and color creates a universal language that takes on its own identity by the wearer. Sui’s collections remain the soundtrack of our lives.”
“In a word, simply rockadelic.” – Celebrity stylist Rosy Muto
Born in the suburbs of Detroit, Sui joined New York’s cultural underground at an intensely creative time in the 1970s, forming important relationships in the worlds of fashion, photography, art, music and design. The exhibition looks at Sui’s artistic journey through her creative process, collections, interiors, and collaborations.
Thematically arranged, the exhibition explores Sui’s lifelong engagement with an array of ‘archetypes’ including Americana, rock star, the schoolgirl, the punk, nomads, and surfers — motifs featured throughout her work. From fairy tales and fables to Victoriana, Sui researches her current cultural obsessions in minute detail to create a different story with each collection.
Hallmark outfits include Sui’s “Silver Peruvian Ensemble” and iconic sequined silk organza “Babydoll Dress” from Spring 1994. In conjunction, featured looks are displayed in context with their original backdrops used in Sui’s arresting fashion shows. Items also include fashions worn by Sui’s style icons Anita Pallenberg and Jane Holzer.
Sui is known for the richness of her printed textiles, combining a complex layering and mixing of patterns, texture and colors. The show highlights Sui’s own distinctively graphic materials as well as those created with high-profile partners such as Ascher Studio, Zandra Rhodes, Jeffrey Fulvimari and Barbara Hulanicki. In addition, the exhibition explores her design processes through mood boards, photographs, sketches, runway shots, and cultural ephemera. A section on collaborations documents her long-term creative partnerships with models such as Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, as well as with make-up artists Pat McGrath and Francois Nars, jeweler Erickson Beamon, knitwear designer and milliner James Coviello and hairstylist Garren.
The influence of music is seen throughout the exhibition, from Sui’s continuing love of Bohemian chic to her seminal 1993 grunge collections. The range of different styles on display emphasizes Anna Sui’s consistent design approach as she incorporates her current passions into every garment. As it celebrates American fashion, the exhibition also provides a fascinating guide to the history of American pop culture and an inside look into the creative process and unique world view of this iconic designer whose daring and experimental approach to design has become a mainstay of the international fashion scene.
“Originally displayed at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London in 2017, The World of Anna Sui continues to highlight a fresh and engaging cultural perspective. The exhibition showcases a fashion designer who is not only highly creative and entrepreneurial but also playful and positive,” said Dennis Nothdruft.
“The NSU Museum did a fantastic job of showing all the elements that truly make something “Anna Sui.” From the signature lavender color of the walls to the storefront that greets you before you turn into the first room, each element helps share a bit of my world. Even the songs playing throughout the exhibit are from some of my favorite bands. My dream was always to become a designer and dress the rock stars I listened to like Kurt Cobain or Madonna. In addition to music, my collections are often inspired by a recent trip, a movie I just saw, or the latest exhibition at one of my favorite museums. My hope is that anyone who visits The World of Anna Sui leaves with a little piece of my world that inspires them.” – Anna Sui ☐