I remember my first trip to visiting my grandparents, my grandmother took me toa textile store and we bought all these beautiful Chinese check cards and I had all these tops made and things so that I can wear them with jeans 'cause I thought that was so cool to have beautiful Chinese blouses to mix with my jeans. When my grandfather saw them, he's like, "That's like Chinese opera, like, are you going to go outside like that?"
My parents came via Europe. They settled in Michigan and had a house in downtownDetroit when I was born. But we soon moved up to the suburbs, to Dearborn Heights. I think I had a very typical suburban pop culture, sort of, up-bringing, but there were always influences of family and a lot of influence of European cultures that my parents experienced. My mother studied painting at the Sorbonne and I think that she surrounded herself with so many beautiful art books and we'd talk about them and so my whole life I remember hearing about her favorite artists. My father studied architecture so I would hear about Saarinen and different architects that he admired, so I think that we had this very international influence of culture in my family.
Along the way, and probably my natural way of inclination, I started collectingphotographs of movie stars that I liked, dresses that I liked, hairstyles that I liked, interiors that I liked and I would keep them in this box under my bed. It was just a natural thing. I would see the T.V guide arrive and I would tear the cover off because I love the make up on the actress and slowly I had to start organizing them into folders and manila envelopes, and till this day, I still maintain that same system. I think that I was meant to be a fashion designer and I think that everything in my personality kind of allowed for that; this accumulation of thoughts and inspirations.
When I was a flower girl at my aunt and uncle's wedding, there was this wholeritual of getting ready. In a Chinese wedding, you change clothes a few times. My Aunt Juliana had the most dazzling Qipaos with matching jewelry and shoes and bags. And, I will just never forget, she used to always come to the garment center and look for textiles and one of her favorites were one of these burnt out velvets. So when I did my collection as a tribute to her, that was one of the fabrics that kind of like, sparked that thought.
One of my big theories in fashion is that, you can't be, like, the lone wolf insomething, it has to be a trend, it has to be a feeling in the air, and I was out at a concert, the Tibetan Freedom concert, the first one, and I was backstage and looking out to the audience and I saw this sea of people with a mixture of army surplus and trinkets and things picked up from Asia, like from India or Thailand mixed with sports clothes, like bathing suits or surfer trunks or football jerseys. To me, like, that's what was in the air, that was what was happening and I tried to take all things and mix them together and it became my Tibetan Surfer Collection.
I think appropriation is something that we talk about a lot these days because Ithink everything is influenced by something else. No matter what anybody says, they didn't invite it, they're not the first person to do it. But it's always re-interpreted.
I'm Anna Sui and I'm a fashion designer.