Anna Sui is a fashion lifer, with a 20-year career in the industry and, now, a 300-page retrospective coffee-table book to show for it. “As a designer, you never have time to look back because you’re always looking six months forward to next season,” Sui said at a signing of the book in New York last night. “To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about so much of the good stuff.”
Anna Sui, penned by the designer’s close friend Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Met’s Costume Institute, goes collection by collection through Sui’s label, interspersed with the many fashion editorials and boldfaced friends who’ve made her a force to be reckoned with from the start. After all, before she ever sent her first collection down the runway for Fall 1991, the Biba-wearing club kid was already dressing Madonna up in baby dolls. (A few of those boldfacers also contributed to the text: Jack White of the White Stripes—husband of Sui’s longtime muse Karen Elson—contributed a preface, where he notes that his favorite of his wife’s dresses always turn out to be Sui’s; Steven Meisel wrote the introduction)
Bolton wades through Sui’s wide-ranging fonts of inspiration, which include everything from Marie Antoinette to rococo pirates to Andy Warhol’s Factory parties—not to mention Sui’s greatest inspiration, music. “Watching one of Anna’s collections is like watching MTV,” Meisel writes. “You see the Clash, Nirvana, the Sex Pistols, the Smashing Pumpkins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” You also see, in Anna Sui, the procession of fashion greats from the nineties, as in the iconic finale of Sui’s 1994 grunge collection: the supe trifecta of Christy, Naomi, and Linda, strutting down the catwalk in feathered headpieces.