To create the look of the Zebra Punk Party Dress (which was part of her Spring 2007 Punk collection), Anna Sui combined ripped mesh leggings and armlets, references to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Mclaren’s punk fashions of the mid-to-late 1970s. The monochrome zebra print recalls the strict dress color code of the New York clubs that Sui frequented in her youth, such as Max’s Kansas City and CBGB.
Zebra Punk Party Dress is made from Silk chiffon with a nylon petticoat, leggings and sleeves; worn with brass/glass/plastic bracelet by Erickson Beamon for Anna Sui; cowhide boots by Ballin for Anna Sui.
Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.
“When I think about pinafores and jumpers and compromised purity, it’s actually quite punk. Go further back and it’s all about mod and Twiggy and dolly birds and thousands of school girls like me pouring over magazines, reading articles from the front lines of pop culture.”
Throughout her career, Anna Sui has summoned the youthful spirit of the school girl but was an edge, embracing the complexity of teen-hood. For the fall 1994 Schoolgirl collection, Sui focused on Yves Saint Laurent‘s most iconic designs, which she reinterpreted in high-tech sportswear materials.fall 1994 Schoolgirl collection, Sui focused on Yves Saint Laurent‘s most iconic designs, which she reinterpreted in high-tech sportswear materials.
Saint Laurent was also a superb colorist, as reflected in the collection’s use of bold colors. The sportswear sensibility extended to a series of outfits inspired by cheerleader uniforms, many of which Sui accessorized with pom-pom hats by James Coviello.
Jacket Front and Back Detail
Schoolgirl Collection Installation View: Cheerleader Ensemble (far right) worn with plastic/wool pom-pom hat by James Coviello for Anna Sui; Plastic belt, two necklaces, and bracelets by Erickson Beamon for Anna Sui; fishnet nylon hose and acetate/satin-covered domestic cowhide short boots by Emma Hope for Anna Sui.
Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.
“I think that, with hindsight, this may have been a moment in my career where my own past and present truly came together, more so that with other collections, which, however much I cherished them, were a carefully stitched-together tapestry of obsessively researched elements. My Grunge collection was more ‘felt’ than it was thought.”
The 1993 Grunge collection secured Anna Sui’s place in the history of fashion. She saw Seattle’s grunge music scene as the major force in the youth culture of that period, and used the layering and mixing typical of its style to great effect, riffing on the youthful sincerity of the movement to produce some of the most influential looks of the nineties.
Anna Sui Grunge Kilt Ensemble, Detail: Polyester and Cotton Tank and Leggings with Totton Kilt and Shorts
Grunge style sprang out of a Seattle subculture in which a new wave of musicians, including Nirvana fronted by Kurt Cobain, sported a “thrift store” style of dressing that seemed to mirror their novel sound. This “un-fashion” style chimed with the decade’s rejection of the excesses of the 1980s and quickly went from subculture to mass culture. Marc Jacobs, working for Perry Ellis at the time, glamorized this style to create a grunge collect for Sping 1993. Sui’s references to grunge in her own collection, in contrast, are colored with optimism and a “hippie” sensibility. The outfit seen here features a kilt, widely associated with grunge, as well as a flower belt more reminiscent of the sixties or seventies
Lunchbox by Designs from the Deep, Cowhide/Rubber Boots by John Fluevog for Anna Sui
Anna Sui Grunge Kilt Ensemble (Spring 1993) Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design
The importance of storytelling is clear in Anna Sui’s collections, which conjure an imaginary world of Icelandic princesses, pirates, fairies, Vikings and enchanted animals. Complementing these historical and fantastical figures, her runway shows have featured whimsical, surreal accessories from animal hats to gingerbread handbags.
This dress was inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte and the introduction of the Empire style to France in the early nineteenth century.
Sui gave the gown a punk makeover by cutting it off mid-thigh. She created a series of these dresses in silk chiffon and crepe de Chine printed with hearts, roses, stripes and polka dots. Worn with petticoats and produced in a combination of red, white, and black, they recalled the designs of interior decorator Dorothy Draper, who was known for her dramatic deployment of black and white, as well as the punk clothes worn by members of the New York Dolls. Sui recalls, “Back in the 1970s, if you were part of the rock scene or if you went to clubs like Max’s or CBGB, you only wore red, white or black. Everything was heavily codified.” The French Empire, too, was governed by rigid codes, and this provided the link for Sui’s collection. The Dorothy Draper Pirate ensemble is from Sui’s spring 2007 collection.
Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC.
This poster by Peter Savile, who first came to prominence for his designs for Factory Records, was issued to promote Joy Division’s 1979 debut album, Unknown Pleasures. Band member Bernard Sumner found the image, a rendering of successive waves emitted by a pulsar, in an astronomy textbook. Saville reversed the image from black-on-white to white-on-black, conjuring the darker atmospherics of the album’s sound. The Cover Art design has attained an iconic status, particularly of late, going so far as to spawn the term “joyplot,“ which refers to a method of data visualization that involves the layering of successive and comparative histograms.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Too Fast To Live Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC.
Teri Greeves (b. 1970) is a member of the Kiowa Native American tribe, and her culture deeply influences her work. Khoiye-Goo Mah (2004) translates in the Kiowa language as “Kiowa women,” and four Kiowa women are depicted on these sneakers: the artist’s grandmother and mother, both skillful bead workers who taught artist this traditional craft,; her aunt, the first female fancy war dancer in the state of Oklahoma, and spiritual woman, who had the honor of naming the artist.
Artist LJ Roberts offers the following input on the piece: “Converse hi-tops have long been a part of my everyday life. I’ve modified them as a means of personal expression, and for years they have been the surface on which I move and travel. Khoiye-GoodMah integrates matrilineal skill sharing, craft, movement, and Independence. To converse it to communicate, and to also reverse or revert; Greeves’ artwork does this in rich and complex layers.”
Photographed in the Museum of Ats and Design in Manhattan
Paula Douglas, also known as Gretchen Fetchen, was one of the early participants in the San Francisco Acid Test happenings organized by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters in the mid-1960s. The events were designed as gatherings to promote consciousness expansion and creativity through the use of LSD, which was legal at the time.
Gretchen Fetchen’s Acid Test Dress (1965) and painted Orange Leather Boots reflects the Merry Pranksters’ rejection of norms of appearance through the embracing of exuberant Day-Glo colors. The garment also features a star, together with red, white and blue stripes — symbols of the Merry Pranksters.
Acid Test Dress and Boots Installation View. Photographed as Part of the Counter Couture Exhibit, Up Though August 20th, 2017 at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC