2013.021.001 Oral History with Anna Sui
Anna Sui, a Chinese woman who grew up around Chinese garments when visiting her grandmother. Having a mother who painted and a father who was an architect, thus leading to her many influences of art and style. For example, she collected inspiring things into a box which helped her develop her own style as a fashion designer. By incorporating them into her style, she was able to create an inspired collection of Chinese fabrics. What became her Tibetan Surfer Collection started from the outfits people wore at the Tibetan freedom concert.


ANNA SUI: I remember my first trip to visit my grandparents. My grandmother took me to a textile store and we bought all these beautiful Chinese jacquards. And I had all these tops and things made so that I could wear them with jeans cause I thought that that could be so cool to have beautiful Chinese blouses to mix with my jeans. And when my grandfather saw them, he's like "That's like Chinese opera, like are you going to go outside like that?"

ANNA SUI: I think I had a very typical suburban pop culture sort of upbringing but there were always influences of family and a lot of influence of European culture 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 would 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 just my natural inclination, I started collecting photographs 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 like the TV guide arrive and I would tear the cover off because it was like, I loved like the makeup on the actress, and slowly I had to start organizing them into folders and manila envelopes and to 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.

ANNA SUI: My Aunt Juliana had the most dazzling qipaos with matching jewelry, and shoes, and bags, and I'll just never forget, she used to always come to the
garment center and look for textiles and one of her favorites were these kind of
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.

ANNA SUI: One of my big theories in fashion is that you cannot be like the lone wolf in something, 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 back stage and looking out to the audience, and I saw this sea of people with a mixture of like army surplus and um 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, and that is what was happening and I try take all those things and mix them together.


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