Anna Sui isn’t a fashion designer who does things by half-measures. Her trippy, psychedelia-inspired world, which fuses fashion with the music-saturated culture of the ’60s, has been unfurling on New York’s runways since her first wildly colorful show in 1991 — staged with the encouragement of her friends, photographer Steven Meisel and supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. Sui’s free-spirited clothes still serve as a riposte to anyone who claims American fashion is fixated on cold, clean minimalism.
This month, Sui is staging an exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum that is as much about her work as her world. “My brand evolved out of my lifestyle; the way I lived and the way I decorated my apartments,” she says.
Those New York City spaces, F.Y.I., are not for the faint of heart, with black walls, red floors and lacquered furniture. Sui’s boutique on Broome Street replicates the effect, with an added jolt of purple, her signature shade. It’s the same violet as Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes, another Sui obsession.
In an era when designers’ aesthetic loyalties volte-face season by season, Sui is remarkable for sticking close to her distinct design style, which is inextricably linked to her personal desires. “I wish I could have worn Ossie Clark and I wish I could have worn Zandra [Rhodes],” says Sui, whose fall 2017 collection invokes those ’60s fashion greats. “Designing is like wish fulfillment.”