It's hard to believe that Anna Sui has been in business for more than 30 years, given the exuberant youthfulness of her work—and the woman herself. But that she has, having launched her first collection in 1980 after graduating from Parsons.
She didn't show on the runway until 1991, but Sui's shows have since become New York Fashion Week legend, what with the models (Naomi! Gisele! Coco! Agyness!), the music (The Beatles! The Cure! The Stones! Bow Wow Wow!), the celebs (Liza! Sofia! Mischa! Fergie!) and the designer's wonderfully idiosyncratic inspirations (Gustav Klimt! The New York Dolls! Busby Berkeley! Dr. Doolittle!), all of which come together twice yearly to make for a fun and fantastical fashion spectacle. Anna Sui is, in fact, one designer who really does deserve to show under a tent—so entertainingly over-the-top are her Fashion Week outings—and you can literally feel the love in the air when seated in the audience of her feel-good style circus.
"I've got the best job in the world, because I'm allowed to get inspired by what I like," says Sui, whose enthusiasm is contagious.
So it's no wonder that the designer has translated her passion into a multi-million dollar business, complete with clothing, accessories, fragrance, eyewear, cosmetics, skincare, lingerie, watches, mobile phones and Barbie dolls (whew!), the lot of which is sold in more than 300 stores in 30 countries, including Sui's 50 stand-alone boutiques (and that's not counting her accessory, beauty and Dolly Girl shops worldwide).
"My friends tell me since I was four years old I was talking about becoming a designer," says Sui, who was honored with the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 (she won the CFDA Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent back in 1992). And the Michigan-bred, New York-based designer shows no sign of slowing down: she launched her twelfth fragrance last year, published her first book (which chronicles the past 20 years of her career), and is gearing up for collaborations with Hanky Panky (to celebrate their 25th anniversary) and Hush Puppies, for whom she designed a capsule footwear collection for fall 2011.
The Fashion Informer's Lauren David Peden managed to squeeze in a brief chat with Sui to discuss music (natch!), flea markets and her favorite dessert.
What's the first concert you ever went to?
Iggy and the Stooges in Hines Park, Michigan.
What's the last concert you went to?
Phoenix at Madison Square Garden.
What's your favorite smell in the world?
My Mom's cooking!
Coffee or tea?
What's your earliest memory?
Trying to see what was on the other side of the wall on the balcony of our apartment.
What's your favorite street in the world?
Portobello Road; I'll always love the antique market there.
What's the biggest/most important lesson your parents taught you?
Discipline and hard work pay off.
When was the last time you rode the subway?
I went to The Hispanic Society and to a friend's for lunch uptown on 155th Street.
What's your idea of a perfect spring day?
A great outdoor flea market.
Lady M Mille Crêpes cake.
What makes you nervous?
Anticipating another fashion show season.
When are you happiest?
Spending time with my family and friends.
runway images courtesy Anna Sui