It's not often you leave a New York fashion show more energized than you were when you entered, but Anna Sui's runway-cum-rock shows never fail to wake up even the most harried editor. Famous for culling from a bottomless treasure chest of retro references, Sui has called on a crazy quilt of inspirations over the years: the New York Dolls, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Uzbekistan, the American West, etc. Despite all the noise, Sui manages to hit the key trends season after season.
Sui was born in Detroit to French-educated Chinese emigrants in 1964. A flea-market junkie, she cherished youthful dreams of stitching clothes for rock royalty (Anita Pallenberg, for instance, whom she later befriended and did indeed dress), and landed in New York with a scholarship to Parsons. After only two years, though, she ditched class and dove headfirst into the industry, learning the ropes designing for sportswear labels and styling for the photographer Steven Meisel, a friend, on shoots. In 1980 she brought her collection of six pieces to the Boutique Show, a New York trade fair, and caught the eye of a Macy's buyer; a Christmas window and an ad in The New York Times followed. For the next decade, Sui produced and ran her business out of her apartment, until pals (among them the supermodel Linda Evangelista, who'd been wearing Sui's dresses around Paris) convinced her to step up to the real runway in 1991. A year later she opened a boutique in Soho, crammed to the rafters with Victorian punk. Today Sui has more than 30 boutiques worldwide.
Fall 2013 Ready-to-Wear: Anna Sui
Runway, backstage, and front-row footage from the New York show.