Friends, relatives, designers and admirers crowded the Museum of Arts and Design for Tuesday night’s party celebrating “The World of Anna Sui.”
Clusters of people surrounded Sui like magnets — albeit ones that wanted hugs and selfies — as she navigated the fourth floor of the exhibition. The designer’s past and present was on full view with a video of Gigi Hadid and other runway models parading her designs, opposite an assortment of her “Americana” and “schoolgirl” looks. The Detroit-born designer celebrated her staying power and international reach with 60 family members and scores of long-term staffers. Francisco Costa, Stuart Vevers, Andrew Bolton, Zandra Rhodes, Garren, Bob Grien, Jane Holzer and Michele Hicks were among the many well-wishers.
Sui was understandably moved by the turnout. “It’s really emotional because this is where I have lived for most of my life and where my whole career happened. It’s really meaningful not just to me but to all of the people who I have worked with for all these years. I have so many people who have been on staff for 20 or 30 years. One of the sewing ladies just said, ‘I’ve been with you for 15,’” she said. “They get to see the exhibit and the fruits of their work. They are so happy because they can share in it. They only heard about it and saw pictures when it was in London. And now they are are here.”
Walking through the exhibitions, several guests mentioned to Sui how “you can wear these clothes now,” she said. “I think that is such a big compliment because they didn’t age. They really have a relevance now. Maybe this fashion has come full circle.” The public can check out the two-floor show as of Thursday.
Regarding her longevity, Sui chalked that up to “very fortunate business associates. I have an incredible partnership in Japan. I have a perfume license and a cosmetics license. I really built my business solidly. I didn’t start doing fashion shows until I really had a business. Things are changing now — the playground is kind of shaken up, so we have to see what’s going to happen.”
Another strength Sui said was having a “very recognizable brand.” Looking around a gallery with an assortments of shoes, cosmetics and unexpected finds like lunchboxes, Sui said, “That’s my initial cosmetics line that launched 27 years ago. It looks just as fresh today as it did back then. It was kind of revolutionizing and startling, because nobody did black packaging then or intricate carved roses on the compacts. People were really attracted to them and wanted to collect them just to put them on their vanity.”
Francisco Costa gave the exhibition high marks. “When you visit her world, you get — what she believes in and inspires her is spelled out. I don’t think people think like this any more. I don’t find that people are actually inspired at all,” he said.
From his standpoint, “authenticity and digging into something that enlightens their minds and really makes them dream” is lacking with many designers. That is not the case with Sui, Costa said, “It’s all there. It’s beautiful to see. I was inspired.”
Zandra Rhodes made a whistlestop trip to New York for the party, since Sui’s first exhibition was first staged two years ago at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, which she founded. Rhodes’ swift return to the U.K. was due partially to the opening of her own exhibition “Zandra Rhodes: Fifty Years of Fabulous” later this month and the final photo session for her upcoming London Fashion Week show.
Passing through MAD’s “Vera Paints a Scarf” exhibition on her way out, the British designer said. “I love this museum. I think this museum has really turned itself around. I love the crafts and I have been here for their jewelry shoes and everything. Anna’s is a very exciting exhibition — if you fight your way through it,” Rhodes said, referring to the crowds.