Anna Sui was glowing before, during, and after her show. Whatever anyone else might think about what she'd done, she'd made one of her own fantasies come true. The spirit of fashion is reinvention, and Sui built her collection around an unsung but powerfully transformative moment in fashion's history: that time in the early seventies when illustrator Antonio Lopez moved from New York to Paris with a coterie of gorgeous young things—Donna Jordan, Jane Forth, a 16-year-old Jerry Hall, baby Grace Jones—whose suitcases of vintage clothing and taste in dance music turned the heads of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, among the many Parisians who were seduced by the new arrivals. Their HQ was a nightspot called Club Sept, which impressionable Anna got to visit on her first trip to Paris, and it was the club's atmosphere that she set out to evoke.
From the second Karen Elson hit the catwalk—turbaned torrent of curls, fitted forties-style dress wrapped in a marabou chubby, glittery spectator pumps, lips as lacquered as a Chinese cabinet—we were transported to a playful, optimistic era when the pursuit of pleasure was a career opportunity for girls like Hall, who was discovered dancing at Club Sept with feathers glued to her forehead. In that anything-goes spirit, Sui offered a playsuit with an Art Deco toothbrush print and a cap-sleeve, peplumed, flared-pant outfit in a print that looked like Liberty, but was actually tiny frolicking fairies. In the audience was modeling superagent Marilyn Gauthier, who remembered wearing nothing but lacy lingerie to Club Sept.
Here, the look was duplicated in Sui's black tulle kimono floating over silken tap shorts, as appropriate for a twenty-first-century Black Dahlia as it was for glamorous club kids in Paris 40 years ago. And that's the secret of Sui's success. Yes, the looks ring retro, but they are cut and colored for a modern woman whose yen for the beauty and fantasy of fashion transcends mere trend.
"I'm not trying to fit in with what's going on," Sui said before her show. "I had to do what I wanted." Fact is, she may be ahead of the curve on this one. There are a slew of Antonio books on the horizon. Can a film be far behind? Here, at least, is the wardrobe.