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2008.041.010 Oral History Interview with Anna Sui

Anna Sui is an internationally acclaimed fashion designer. Her hip, exuberant, original designs take you on a creative journey and mixes vintage styles with her current cultural obsessions. Whether inspired by Victorian cowboys, Warhol superstars or Finnish textile prints, her depth of cultural knowledge is always apparent. “When I am interested in something, I want to know everything about it,” she says. Sui shares the memory of her first trip to visit her grandparents in China, where she became interested in mixing beautiful Chinese textiles into her everyday fashion. Her parents came from Europe and settled in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, where grew up in a typical suburban environment. Her mother studied painting at the Sorbonne, and her father studied architecture. Through them, she was exposed to a very international influence of culture when she was growing up. Through natural inclination, Sui began collecting images that she liked of movie stars, dresses, interiors, and hairstyles and began organizing them into folders and envelopes. She feels that she was meant to become a fashion designer. Everything in her personality, her accumulation of thoughts and inspirations, allowed for that. Sui recalls the inspiration and thought behind two of her collections. The collection she did as a tribute to her Aunt Juliana drew what she remembered of her aunt’s tastes in textiles and her memories of her aunt and uncle’s wedding, in which her aunt wore dazzling qipaos with matching jewelry, shoes, and bags. Her Tibetan Surfer Collection was inspired observing the mix of styles of the audience backstage at the first Tibetan Freedom concert. Regarding fashion and appropriation, Sui believes that everything is influenced by something else and is always being reinterpreted.