A catalyst for the rock ’n’ roll, bohemian aesthetic, Anna Sui’s work is the focus of the first ever retrospective exhibition of an American designer in the UK at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Entitled ‘The World of Anna Sui’, the exhibition offers an immersive experience, covering Anna Sui the designer, and the globalised brand she has become.
A recipient of the CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award and countless collaborations with brands, such as COACH, Victoria’s Secret, Anthropologie and Opening Ceremony, Sui an exemplary figure to follow the journey of. Based in New York City, Sui studied at Parsons School of Design and later went on to work with legendary photographer, Steven Meisel. During her time working in the fashion industry as a stylist, Sui started designing and making clothes on a $300 budget, shortly after being fired. At present, Anna Sui is a brand with great reach in fields associated with fashion, specifically fragrances and cosmetics.
What defines the Anna Sui aesthetic is the use of vibrant prints and patterns, however within this look, is a rougher, grungier feel. This idea of rock ’n’ roll romanticism, and perhaps, rebellion, engendered Sui’s designs. With reference to Sui’s 1994 collection, she stated her desire to be the alternative – “It was my moment. If grunge music was an alternative to stadium rock, the kind of clothes I designed were my alternative to power dressing”.
The exhibition’s take on Sui’s work is designed to give insight into the creative process, both before the completion of clothing, and after. We are taken through Sui’s artistic journey through mood boards, sketches, collections, interiors and collaborations with brands and other textile designers. To give an intimate portrayal of Sui’s world, the designer’s first retail outlet in New York is recreated. With the aesthetics of a punky thrift store, a sense of Sui’s true identity is showcased. It is very much so, Anna Sui’s world.
Sui’s clothing is presented thematically, in accordance with specific archetypes. To name a few, looks such as the Americana, Fairytale, Hippie Rockstar, Androgyny, Grunge and Mod are represented. In this light, Sui’s work is cleverly crafted to play on certain looks each season. Most of all, Anna Sui represents juxtaposing ideas of vintage mixed with contemporary, rebellion with freedom. Through contrasting ideas, Sui has created a world of versatility which ties together as a whole.
‘The World of Anna Sui’ is now on at the Fashion and Textile Museum from 26th May – 1st October 2017. Ticket prices are £9.90 for adults and £6 for students.