By: Olcay Morreale
Anna Sui is the classic American fashion designer. From Detroit to New York, her signature rock-n-roll romanticism reinvents pop culture for every new generation. Since her first catwalk show in 1991, Sui has shaped the garments, textiles, accessories, beauty and interiors which comprise her design universe, but also the course of fashion history. The World of Anna Sui features over 100 looks from the designer’s archive, presenting a roll call of archetypes from Surfers and School Girls to Hippies, Mods and Punks. This is the first time an American designer has been the focus of a retrospective exhibition in the UK.
‘Even if people haven’t heard them for a while, I feel I’m telling stories that never go out of style.’
Anna Sui is one of New York City’s fashion legends. Since establishing her eponymous label in 1981, and from her first catwalk show in 191 to her rock-star status in the Far East, Sui has maintained an independent vision and independent company. Reflected in the fashion that she produces are her own passions. Unlike many American designers, Sui has forged a distinctly narrative-based design identity. Her storytelling weaves detailed research stemming from her inspirations with obsessions that have stayed with her from childhood onwards to create a look that could only be Anna Sui.
Together with Mark Jacobs, Isaac Mizrahi, and Todd Oldham, Sui helped to define the American looking the 1990s. A youthful spirit infused the fashion of era: it was a rejection of the head-to-toe, high-end designer styles that had dominated the 1980s. This fresh wave of design would come to represent a new, dynamic approach to fashion in the United States.
A rock and roll sensibility fused with gothic-tinged Bohemia has become the leitmotif of Sui’s collections. Her long-standing fascination with music, art, history, the decorative arts and popular culture has provided the designer with a lexicon of elements that she is able to shape and combine in seemingly endless permutations. This is a key to Sui’s style. It is never a copy, but rather a distillation of references and research, culture and creativity.
Fashion and Textile Museum
Exhibition Dates: 26 May – 1 October 2017
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm
Thursdays until 8pm
Last admission 45 minutes before closing
£9.90 adults / £7.70 concessions / £6 students
Children under 12 are free
83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF
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Fashion and Textile Museum is part of Newham College London