Given that she's a designer who has always loved decoration and embellishment, it's odd that Anna Sui has never checked China as an inspiration. Maybe she was waiting till she found an appropriately arcane reference point. Which, for Fall 2014, she did. Anna May Wong was the first Chinese-American movie star, a queen of the silent movie era who managed the transition to talkies. She was a figurehead of fiercely fashionable chinoiserie in the 1920s. And there are at least three elements in that statement that meant Wong was catnip to Sui.
First, chinoiserie: the color scheme, the prints, the languid lines. Next, the twenties, Art Deco and all, an era whose glamour and geometry Sui has been hot-wired into since she launched her career. Finally, fierceness: the bold conviction that has always driven Sui forward, irrespective of trend and taste in the broader fashion market. All power to her for that. But this particular collection demanded particular recognition.
There's always a central story with Sui, but it's never the only thing going on. Here, for instance, Anna May Wong was the fulcrum, but Sui had also been reading Anjelica Huston's autobio, and, taking on board the anecdote about Huston's mom sending Irish tweeds to Coco Chanel to be run up into outfits, Sui made her own tweed pieces à la Coco. She was also fascinated by the regional American design movement called Pueblo Deco, which mixed highly compatible Navajo and Art Deco elements. That made its graphic way into the collection. In other words, layer upon layer of inspirations shaped Sui's Fall, and the innate compatibility of notions that were separated by place and time helped to make this presentation one of her strongest in recent memory.