Anna Sui’s Fall Winter 2021 collection—like so many of the iconic New York-based designer’s collections—feels like a campy fever dream. A heady mix of ’70s psychedelia, Beatles-esque rock n’ roll motifs, and cutesy nods to Jane Birkin. There was cow print layered over tweed, paisley tucked into rose-printed velvet slacks, and a fantastic sequin-embellished emerald green suit. Looking for a vision of life post lockdown that doesn’t totally suck? Step inside Anna Sui’s brilliant, bold world.
The collection featured a handful of collaborators—close friends of Sui’s who she hand-picked to contribute specific elements. Illustrators Monika Forsberg and Golden Daze gave graphics, Birdie Purl made cropped hand-dyed knits, and Anna Castellano hand-painted the denim. Two of Sui’s nieces contributed illustrations and hand-beaded face mask chains retrospectively. The end result felt homespun in the most positive way—intimate, familiar, and, above all, wearable.
Sui has long been influenced by music—’70s rock goddesses like Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull—but also by the bands she grew up watching as a teenager in Detroit, like Iggy and the Stooges and MC5. Fashion felt like a gateway into the musical subcultures she saw and loved, as a way to rebel, or to find a like-minded tribe—it served as part of her ongoing inspiration to be a fashion designer, a dream she famously nurtured from the age of four.
The music world embraced Sui right back. One of her breakthrough career moments came when Madonna wore one of her pieces to a party at Paris Fashion Week in 1991 (Sui debuted at New York Fashion Week later that year). In 1993, Mick Jagger debuted her menswear line during a Rolling Stones’ appearance on Saturday Night Live. The pieces in this new collection still carry that same sensibility—Sui was reportedly inspired by The Fool, the Dutch design collective who outfitted the Beatles, famously running their ‘Apple Boutique’ in the late ’60s, while designing FW ’21.
The sartorial sensibility of that time was, at its core, all about freedom. The freedom to pile on clashing colours and textures, to pop on outrageous flatforms and top the look off with a shaggy shearling hat, and to still look fabulous. It’s a sentiment Sui herself echoed in a recent interview with Show Studio: “We’re so lucky to be women, the fact that we’re able to wear so many different things, we don’t have to be locked into a stereotype,” she said. “Exploring that, experimenting with it—it’s what I’ve always enjoyed, I’ve tried every colour hair, every sort of makeup, every style of clothing—you have that freedom, why not use it?” Why not indeed?