Step inside the whimsical paradise of Anna Sui. Hear from the iconic designer herself about the inspiration for our new collaboration and why it pays off to dream big.
Every Anna Sui collection feels like entering the most interesting and fun party you’ve ever been to. The iconic designer is known for crafting rockstar-beloved staples that combine vintage inspiration, exquisite craftsmanship, and whimsy with unexpected brilliance. From Polynesian prints to French Riviera romance, her most recent “Wanderlust” collection inspires just that—an escape to an artisan bazaar in paradise.
Anna’s magnetic personality attracts muses and devotees that hail from an eclectic range of stylish backgrounds and cool subcultures—Madonna was an early adopter and most recently, Bella Hadid to name a few—making for a soiree to remember at each season’s runway show.
We caught up with the influential designer to hear more about how she followed her dreams to become a designer, her signature touches on our latest Teva x Anna Sui collaboration, and what advice she has for young creatives.
The inimitable designer, Anna Sui. Photo by Jerry Schatzberg.
Tell us more about your Spring 2019 collection and runway show.
My Spring 2019 Fashion Show was about travel, exploration, adventure, freedom, discovery… I called the collection, “Wanderlust.” I wanted to be transported to another time and place. You wouldn’t be able to exactly put your finger on it; it’s not about any one place in particular. It’s a dream of an idyllic Shangri-La, an unspoiled paradise, a bucolic Arcadia, a total escapist fantasy!
I always feel a romance for the past. I make it a point to visit flea markets wherever I travel. Whether it’s Portobello Road in London or the Ghost Market in Beijing, shopping there is like taking a trip on a magic carpet to exotic places and times! For my show, I staged a fantastical interactive Grand Bazaar, in the style of the extraordinary interior designer, Tony Duquette (1914-1999). I invited a few of my favorite artisan friends and vintage vendors to exhibit and sell their wares down the runway, populated with shimmering pagodas, antique push carts, tasseled parasols, and gold-trimmed folding screens—like a scene out of the 1955 movie “Kismet.”
Pictured: The Teva x Anna Sui Collection.
How did Teva fit in with your vision? What drew you to work with Teva and why was this collaboration special?
My Spring Collection was full of sporty shapes done-up in luxe metallic brocades and glittery party dresses worn with anklets and sneakers. There were jacquard fisherman vests, pin-up girl bathing suits, starfish sequins short poof dresses, metallic mesh scuba tops, Polynesian jumpsuits, rainbow Baja hoodies, and discharge-print seashell bodysuits—everything trimmed in dreamy fish scale paillettes, slinky ombre fringe, and iridescent cellophane marabou. The ultimate beach holiday wardrobe!
I styled the show with jeweled shell necklaces, patterned aviator sunglasses, matching fanny packs, jaunty bucket caps, and glamour-girl floppy turbans. Teva sandals fit right into the look. They were always my favorite warm-weather vacation shoe, great for walking on the beach or visiting local artisan bazaars. I loved having the freedom of adding signature Anna Sui flourishes to their classic sandals and platforms!
How did you add your signature style to the Teva flatforms?
I think the use of color blocking took them to another level. I customized them with a whimsical bird and snake pattern from the collection, and styled them with adorable matching anklet socks!
At what age did you start designing and how did you overcome any fears that came with that dream?
When I was four years old, I was already talking about becoming a designer. I’m not exactly sure where I got that notion. It was probably something on television. I always had it in my mind that a designer had lots of beautiful fabrics around her, a big sketchbook, would drape cloth around a mannequin, and go out to lunch. It seemed like a very glamorous life!
As a child, I remember reading an article in Life Magazine about two girls who graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York and then moved to Paris, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton opened a boutique for them. As a kid, you think “Wow, you’ve found the magic ticket. All you need to do was move to New York and go to Parsons.”
Years later when I went back and re-read that article, I realized that one of the girl’s father was the legendary photographer, Irving Penn, which might have given them certain advantages! The point of this story is that dreams can carry a person farther than anything else.
You’ve seen fashion and culture change through many years as a designer. What’s most exciting to you about fashion and how girls are expressing themselves today?
One thing for sure about fashion is that it always changes, and what looked wrong yesterday can suddenly seem so right today. I’ve noticed that girls nowadays, in particular, express themselves through their hair and their shoes!
Rock stars and music have always been influential in your designs. Who are your current muses?
I was so excited to see that Stevie Nicks was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She had once invited me to go backstage at one of her concerts. My favorite part was when she showed me her racks of costumes! I fell in love with all the handkerchief hem chiffons, piano-shawl fringes, tall velvet boots, and gypsy jewelry. I was in heaven!
One of my current favorite bands is Sunflower Bean. Their lead singer, Julia Cumming has modeled in my shows a couple of times. She has incredible personal style.
Which concert or music festival was your all-time favorite show and why?
I can only imagine how incredible the Monterey Pop Festival (1967) was… with Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas & The Papas and Brian Jones in attendance!
What’s the greatest compliment you’ve gotten as a designer?
The biggest compliment is when someone says to me, “I have a dress I bought from you 10 years ago, and every time I wear it my husband tells me I look beautiful.” You can’t ask for more than that.
What advice do you have for young creatives?
There’s only one Marc Jacobs, there’s only one Tom Ford. You have to figure out your own niche. Competition and circumstances are tough. Be true to yourself—that is the key. Do what you are best at, and learn your craft. It’s better when you’re young to decide for yourself what your main interests are (couture, ready-to-wear, junior, active sportswear, menswear) and only take steps (schools, internships, jobs) that move you in the right direction.
My father always told me that if I want to have my own company, I should be in the office every day before the rest of my staff and stay later than anyone else. That philosophy of hard work and dedication has always inspired me.