The Ballets Russes exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London was so seductive, it was merely a matter of minutes before it reconfigured itself as a designer influence. The fact that Anna Sui was the first to surrender only consolidates her situation as a cultural weather vane. But, being Anna, she was also mesmerized by London's proto-It girls the Ormsby-Gore sisters, who, in the late sixties, bought Ballets Russes costumes at a Sotheby's auction and wore them day and night. This confluence of folklore, fantasy, social history, and nonconformist glamour gave Sui's collection the kind of depth that clearly makes her work so impenetrable to the rest of the New York fashion world that she thrives in her own unique bubble. And this collection was exactly that—a beautiful bubble.

Sui said she'd been craving a different kind of energy from fashion, so she massed her models on the catwalk, just like Gianni Versace did when he wanted to make a supermodel statement. Sui didn't have that caliber of model today, but she did make a persuasively strong fashion statement. Her colors and prints were bold enough to be subversive in an environment that favors the safe monochrome. For instance, there was the absinthe green, which Sui lifted from Ballets Russes designer Léon Bakst and matched with an Art Deco purple in a butterfly-winged jacquard on a cape. Bakst was also the inspiration for the gilding on Coco Rocha's camouflage parka.

For Sui, the Ormsby-Gores stood for one of fashion's key transitional moments—when London's precise mod chic rolled into luxe hippie glamour. That glistening, camo mod-to-glam parka encapsulated the transition. The rest of the collection swung backward and forward between the two poles: a neat little navy shorts suit versus a floating, poppy-printed smock dress. A shift decked with white camellias was Sui's way of reminding us that Chanel designed for the Ballets Russes. Where would we be without that?