Vogue CS in English

Checking in with Anna Sui

In the inaugural column of this new #stayhome interview series by our International Editor, fashion designer Anna Sui reveals that her personal survival guide during quarantine involves a highly-curated movie collection and copious amounts of homemade chicken soup.
Hello! How are you? Are you in New York?
“Yes, I am in New York. We have been in lockdown for more than one month. It's been challenging but also an opportunity to reflect and slow down from our crazy global schedules.” 
I’m in Prague at home with my family on our 49th day of sheltering in place. Have you ever been to Prague before?
“I went to Prague in 2001. I loved the beauty of the old city and exploring all of the Art Nouveau elements of the architecture and art. The Alphonse Mucha museum was fantastic.”
Foto: Miguel Flores-Vianna
Anna Sui photographed by Miguel Flores-Vianna
I'm loving your #AnnaAtHome posts on Instagram, including your #WFH Spotify playlist. “Vacation” by The Go-Go's is especially resonating with me since we were supposed to be in Morocco for Spring Break right now. How are you coping with the current situation?
 “I think we were doing twice as much work than previously required. So, let's hope that we can re-set our world to a more livable pace. And adjust the fashion calendar to one that makes more sense and works with the actual seasons. Meanwhile, it’s been great actually picking up the phone to talk to friends and have real conversations!” 
What television shows or movies are you watching?
“As soon as we found out we would be staying home, I organized my DVDs into a mini film festival. Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, Alain Delon, Pierre Clémenti and Helmut Berger. To supplement my DVDs, I subscribed to Criterion Channel and Amazon Prime. I've also been bingeing on series like Desperate Romantics about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artists, Sex Education and various British detective shows. Endeavour is my favorite! And now I'm happy that Killing Eve is back!” 
Any favorite meals that you’ve been cooking?
“I've surprised my Mom and family and all of my friends that I have been cooking! I'm the worst and I burn water! But I wanted to try making my Mom's recipes of chicken soup and oxtail soup. So far it's improving! And each pot of soup lasts me almost the whole week.” 
Any great books that you could recommend?
“I'm reading Aubrey Beardsley by Stephen Calloway. I wanted to go to London to see the exhibition he curated at the Tate but that didn't happen. So, the next best thing is to read his book. There is also a virtual tour on the Tate's website. I'm also reading Clara and Mr Tiffany by Susan Vreeland about Clara Driscoll who supervised the women who made many of the beautiful floral Tiffany lampshades that she designed. There is an amazing exhibition of this at the New York Historical Society that I saw in March before the lockdown. And I just got my friend Walter Lure's book To Hell and Back about his days with Johnny Thunders in the band The Heartbreakers. This is set mostly in the days of the punk rock scene in both London and New York. They were my favorite punk band.” 
Vogue.com spoke about escapism when writing about your Spring 2020 collection. Escapism is exactly what so many of us need right now. Can you please tell me about the inspiration for your Spring 2020 collection?
“My Spring 2020 collection was called Victorianna. It was inspired by my favorite childhood movie Pollyanna, a Disney movie set in Victorian times about a young girl who is the ultimate optimist. I felt that the times were getting so dark, both politically and economically, that I thought we needed a big shot of optimism. This was way before this terrible virus that has devastated us all over the world. The collection is very light and frothy. I wanted everything to look like a confection and unbearable lightness of being.” 
What are your three favorite looks from the collection?
“My favorite looks are look 34 which is a direct homage to Pollyanna - white eyelet in a Victorian-inspired smock dress. Look 28 which is a combination print bohemian kaftan dress - actually perfect for staying at home. Look 50 which is a frothy party dress with an oversized pajama shirt and a cover-up - again, pajama dressing.”
Foto: Thomas Lau. Courtesy of Anna Sui
Anna Sui Spring 2020
Foto: Thomas Lau. Courtesy of Anna Sui
Anna Sui Spring 2020
Foto: Thomas Lau. Courtesy of Anna Sui
Anna Sui Spring 2020
Your runway shows have always been a highlight of New York Fashion Week. One of my favorites (and, believe me, it is hard to choose just one) was for Spring 1994 when Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell (aka “The Trinity”) walked the catwalk together wearing white babydoll dresses and feathered headpieces. What are some of your favorite runway presentations?
“It’s so hard to choose a favorite. That would be like choosing a favorite child. Every collection is so personal and incorporates so much of what is going on in my life and my obsessions. But the Spring ‘94 Trinity moment is definitely the crowd pleaser of all time from my collections.” 
Speaking of your past collections, The Museum of Arts and Design in New York recently presented a major retrospective of you and your work called "The World of Anna Sui" which was adapted from a 2017 exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. What was it like looking back at your four decades in fashion?
 “The World of Anna Sui was such an emotional experience for me and also my longtime assistant Thomas Miller who had been with me since the first show in 1991. He called me from London when they set up the exhibition and said he was moved to tears upon seeing the mannequins dressed in all of the various outfits. We were always so busy working on the next collection, that we never had time to reflect on the past.” 
And, lastly, what is the first thing you will do when things are “back to normal”?
“The first thing I will do when we return to normal? Maybe invite my friends over for chicken soup.”