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Sui, Anna

line sui’s fashion clothes

B. 1955

Birthplace: Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Award: Perry Ellis Award, 1993

Anna Sui, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, grew up in a small suburb of Detroit, Michigan, where she spent her time designing evening wear for her dolls. After high school, Sui convinced her parents to send her to New York to study fashion at the Parsons School of Design. Sui left Parsons in 1975, after two years of study. Over the next several years, Sui worked for a series of design firms, including Bobbie Brooks and Glenora, and she freelanced as a stylist for photographer Steven Meisel. Sui also continued to work on developing a collection of her own, and in 1980 she received her big break. She had sold a few pieces to Macy’s which appeared in their full-page advertisement in the New York Times . This was the exposure Sui needed to launch her career, and she set up a sewing machine in her apartment and started her own business.

Sui’s new business initially met with limited success. The eclectic looks she created were not in line with the glamorous, status-conscious 1980s. Sui came of age in the 1970s, and the influence of the music and fashions of that time period can be seen in her clothes. She combines funk and vintage to create whimsical looks that some consider a cross between Coco Chanel and Haight Ashbury. It was not until the grunge look became popular in the 1990s that Sui’s unique fashion sensibilities really came into demand. Her baby-doll dresses became a fashion staple among grunge enthusiasts.

The 1990s proved to be a decade of growth for Sui. She added a menswear line in 1992, a shoe line in 1997, and a special-occasion party dress line, Anna Sui Party, in 1997. In 1995 she launched a bridge line, Sui by Anna Sui, targeted to a more classic and reserved customer than her signature collection. She also became a consultant for the Cento X Cento collection produced by the Milan-based Gilmar Group.

Sui’s clothes are in hot demand by the young and hip. Many of Hollywood’s young up-and-coming actors, as well as musicians, are frequently seen sporting Anna Sui fashions. Sui did not hold her first runway show until 1991, but when she did supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evan-gelista, and Christy Turlington all lined up to model for free in exchange for Sui’s clothes.

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