Tag Archives: anna sui

A Journey into the World of Anna Sui

Somewhere in the midst of the holiday craziness my very lovely friend Annie (thanks Annie!) sent me the amazing Anna Sui book which was just released in November. I meant to post about it a while ago, but I didn’t, so here for you today is a look at some beautiful Anna Sui magic.

Inside the pages of this book are images that span Anna’s career from her first runway show in 1991 to her 2009 Autumn/Winter collection. The book is loaded with gorgeous pictures that endlessly entertain as you flip your way through two decades of Sui’s unique fashions. Check out this spread from her first collection which was inspired by the teen magazines she read in her youth. These must have influenced the costumes in the film Clueless right?

(click any image to enlarge)

It’s even fun to look at her less successful pieces, like these 1993 grunge-era gems which were relevant in their time, but now seem very dated (but still in a good way).  I especially like the look on the inside lower right, parachute pants and cropped vest over a striped bodysuit? Totally 90s Awesome.

There are also pages and pages of Sui’s fantastical, feminine, timeless looks which have become her signature. She isn’t a designer who has to be “of-the-moment” rather, she creates her own world and takes inspiration from many different times and places.

While a majority of the book is filled with runway shots, there’s also a number of posed images in which the surroundings are as inviting and interesting as the clothes.

In addition to Sui’s fashions, the book features many of her stunning cosmetics ads as well. These are so pretty, and so different from any other beauty ads out there.

My favorite part of the whole book though, has got to be the inclusion of some of Sui’s inspiration boards. It’s fascinating to see all the different things she pulls from to create the ideas for her collections. Interior design, textile swatches, art, graphic design, vintage scarves, all sorts of diverse pieces that add up to a whole idea—it’s amazing to see her process.

There is also a great preface by Jack White (whose wife Karen Elson has long been one of Sui’s favorite models), an intro by photographer Steven Meisel, and a forward by Sui herself.

If you love Anna Sui, or just fashion in general, this book is a must-have. I could look through it over and over and keep finding new inspiration in the pages of stunning patterns, unusual combinations and whimsical characters that make up Sui’s dream-like, fantastical world.

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I Heart Anna Sui

Right after I graduated from college and was struggling to find a job, I ended up working at this children’s clothing boutique a few blocks from Washington Square Park in Manhattan. I pretty much hated working there, it was typical crappy retail—no breaks unless you smoke, no sitting, limited bathroom and lunch breaks, and lots of dealing with obnoxious wealthy customers. But one day, while I was standing there at the counter, staring at the kids clothes that cost twice as much as my own, in walked one of my favorite people—Anna Sui.

She came in with two little girls in tow, they were ridiculously cute, I don’t now if they were her own kids but they looked like she let them get dressed in her closet. They had on beads and adorable frilly outfits and were having tons of fun running around the store. I just stood there starstruck. I’ve seen my fair share of celebrities, but Anna Sui was the first who made me stop in my tracks. I had discovered her fashions in high school and used to cut out her ads and obsess over her patterns and makeup packaging, so I was kind of in shock as I stood there in the tiny shop on University Place. So in she walked, and in a flash she was out again. It took me a moment to convince myself it had happened, and then a second to kick myself for not saying anything. But really, what do you say? “I think you’re amazing! You’re my favorite designer! I love purple!” All those things come off as lame, and also, when a celebrity is with kids, courtesy dictates you should leave them alone.

Whether I had the courage to speak to her or not, Anna Sui remains one of my favorite people. If I had a bad day at work, or if I was just bored, I would go to her store on Greene St. and look at all the pretty clothes I could never afford, and play with the beautiful perfume bottles and cute accessories until I felt better.

So it was pretty exciting when my friend Jessica called yesterday to say she was at the Coterie trade show sitting across from the Anna Sui booth. I demanded pictures and she quickly provided them for me to share with you.

I keep looking at this dress, it just makes me happy. It’s sort of gypsy ballerina, and who wouldn’t want that?

Her classic cute signage and doll heads.

I’ll take any one of those dresses please.


Roses, hydrangeas, and Lavender M & Ms (I’m ordering those for my wedding!)—I hope Jessica grabbed one of those pencils!

Cute boots! I’ll take that folder too.

If you want to be super jealous check out Anna Sui’s home, which was featured in Elle decor, I especially love the latticed windows and her signature black lacquered furniture.

And the woman herself in her domain, I love that wallpaper too.

What I love about Anna Sui is that she’s a rare designer who makes what she loves whether it’s “in” that season or not. She doesn’t blindly follow trends, she makes clothes that are beautiful and interesting and she has a very distinctive style that always sets her clothes apart. She makes clothes that are overtly feminine and girly, but with a hard edge. All her products manage to seem fun, bad-ass, magical, and elegant all at the same time.

Sui is also a great example of someone who struggled to achieve her dreams. She came to New York from Detroit in the 1980s and built a name for herself designing clothes out of her small apartment living off nothing, and now her empire is worth over $400 million—now that’s pretty damn inspiring.

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Perfect Scents

Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. Catch a whiff of fresh-baked pie, or the shampoo a friend used in high school, and suddenly you’re transplanted back in time. You could see a picture taken at a specific moment, or hear a song that reminds you of a guy you used to date, but when you smell something—good or bad, it causes a visceral reaction unlike any other.

I have a sweatshirt that belonged to my grandfather, it smelled like him for years after he passed away. When I’d wear it, the scent would bring me back to the happy memories of planting snapdragons with him in his garden, or making gingerbread houses every December with my cousins in my grandma’s kitchen. I didn’t want to lose that connection to the past, and I feared that when the scent faded, the memories would fade as well. I can still remember those moments, but they aren’t as vivid, in some ways the lingering scent is like a crutch that eases you slowly out of grief. If by chance, we re-discover the unique fragrance of someone we loved, either from the perfume of a stranger, or from opening a box in the attic where the scent has been preserved, we experience that life all over again, it’s a bittersweet experience, and it’s why smell can be so meaningful.

I’ve had awful allergies all my life, it was a running joke that I couldn’t breathe through my nose for most of my childhood. I still feel like scent is the weakest of my senses, maybe that’s why I’ve always been so fond of perfume. When I was in Junior High I was all about body splash, specifically the Plumeria or Vanilla Bean scents from Bath & Body Works. To me, body splash is what teenage girls are supposed to smell like. The spray comes in plastic bottles, it’s icky sweet, and once the odor starts to fade what’s left is a not so pleasant chemical undertone—and that’s when you know it’s time to spray on some more!

If I smell Chanel Allure I am instantly seven years old, sitting on my mom’s bed watching her get ready as I wait for my favorite babysitter Tatiana to arrive with taped episodes of Kids Incorporated (she was the best). When I walk past someone wearing Navy perfume by Dana, I’m stuck in the nauseous heat of Miami in August, the smell mingles with the scent of dinner being served in the old age home where we’re visiting my grandmother. The smell still makes me sick — all I smell is nursing home food, it’s just part of the memory. There are hundreds of memories linked to scent in each of us, and when we choose a perfume it’s not just the pleasure of the smell, but it’s how each note makes a different impression on your brain based on experiences in your life.

Once I hit high school I started looking for a more mature scent, something in a pretty glass bottle. I went a little overboard when I discovered Poison by Christian Dior. It’s an incredibly strong scent and I layered it on, feeling mature, and mysterious, and dark. I still have a bottle of it, and sometimes I can’t help but spray some on just to feel the rush of memories it brings.

I think there are women who love perfume and women who hate it, I guess there are a lot of in-betweens too, but people usually have strong feelings about it in one way or another. On a job interview I was once asked by the woman I would be sharing an office with, if I would mind not wearing perfume, she was snapped at by her superior, but obviously she felt very strongly about it. I don’t think she could smell perfume on me, I usually don’t wear perfume to interviews, but I’m not sure what exactly constitutes perfume either. Do essential oils count? Some deodorants are really strong, even some hair products give off incredibly strong scents. Often when people hate perfume it’s due to an allergy, and I myself have had allergic reactions to perfume too. But humans have been dousing themselves with all sorts of aromas for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Perfume is such an intimate thing, there is a sensuality about it. The bottles, the way you mist it on, the gesture itself is romantic. There is a reason that a gift of perfume is meaningful. I’ve heard of lots of men who buy women perfume, but not too many who buy them moisturizer or eyeshadow. Scent in itself is sexy, pheromones, those chemicals in our sweat that another person may find alluring without even realizing, they’re scientific proof that humans are driven by their noses equally, if not more than, their eyes.

By college I was actively seeking out perfumes. I would go to Sephora, or Macy’s and spritz them on my wrists, my forearm, my neck, or any other accessible skin— because you have to try it on your own skin. The same perfume can smell different on every woman. Part of the beauty of perfume is that it mixes with your personal scent and they settle together, to work in harmony. I’ve tried on perfumes that I thought I would love based on the scent in the bottle, but on my skin they smelled awful. One of my favorite perfumes, La Dolce Vida by Dior, isn’t very pleasing sprayed from the bottle, but I love the way it smells on me at the end of the day.

Currently I alternate between two perfumes, Anna Sui’s Sui Dreams, and Lolita Lempicka’s signature scent. I also change things up with essential oils from C.O. Bigelow’s in Manhattan, and various other samples that I’ve collected along the way. I’ll never stop looking for new scents, you never know where you’re going to find them, but when you do, it can be like finding a whole new aspect of your personality.

What’s your signature scent? Do you hate perfume? Love it? How does it make you feel when you spray it on?

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