She's eccentric. She's whimsical. She's a rock chick, a romantic. And she has great hair to boot. I have always looked-up to Anna Sui. From when I was a young teen starting to find my own fashion feet, Anna was one of my idols. She turns the idea of innocence and playfulness into something very sexy and edgy. She mixes prints and fabrics and aesthetics until you are so confused you don't know left from right, but you do know that you're head over heels in love.
As soon as the lights went out and the music started, it was very clear that the audience at this runway show was not just there to see the clothing come down the runway. They were there to be transported to Anna's world. And Miss Sui did not disappoint.
In the largest theater at Lincoln Center, the walls at the opening of the runway slowly moved apart to reveal a huge version of the Anna Sui logo, reminiscent in style to the Beatles' film 'Yellow Submarine'. A group of models posed in front of it as if we had just caught them in a freeze frame hanging out before the start of the world's most organized and relaxed fashion show. It isn't until you look down at your program that you realize she has recreated the cover (the same image from the front of the invitation to the show).
Using the magic that only Anna seems to possess, we were tossed back and forth with references. Were they models schoolgirls from the 50s with their long cardigans and pleated skirts? Is it the 60s with bouffants and hyper-cool mods? Were they jetted out of the 70s with a love for all things colorful? Were they actually me as a child, thinking that my knit hat in the shape of an owl (literally) was the coolest thing on the block? It was sophisticated and refined but also begged us to come play a game of hopscotch.
And then what does she bloody go and do? She starts sending down these adorable cocktail dresses before the 'Lily' (she has given every look a sweet girls name from every nationality possible) comes floating down the runway. It is approximately here that I lose the ability to act cool. 'Ultramarine Mixed Silk Jaquards + Velvet Caftan with Navy Lace Shirt' reads the program. And I think I've had all I can handle.
Until it happens. Anna sends the final look down the runway. And I giggled. Out loud. I am feeling nothing but pure joy and at the last of the 46 looks presented, watching myself grow-up with each outfit that walks the runway. 'Frida' appears and it's everything I wanted and nothing of what I expected. A reminder that no matter how sophisticated I may think I need to be, I must never lose touch with my sense of fun, naivety and whimsy. An owl hat as the models have been wearing the entire show shines, but in this version, all cream-colored and embellished within an inch of its life. Paired with a 'snow queen' silk and velvet caftan.
Is there anything more beautiful than being just the right side of confidently ridiculous?
It was the perfect end to what has otherwise been an incredible opportunity being shrouded with pure chaos. Getting rather ill, losing an incredible amount of sleep and having aching paws, I was beginning to feel a wave of 'that's enough for this season' and Anna grabbed my hand and skipped out of the tents with me to finish on a high. It may be absurd and laughable to take a life lesson away from a runway show, and I assure I wasn't looking for one...but after a week of worrying about outfits and presentation and fitting in while standing out, Anna Sui changed my outlook. She re-energized me. While other shows set out to impress and, in some cases, intimidate, Anna had a pretty clear message. 'Throw on your damn owl hat. Wear whatever makes you happy. F**king smile! And the rest of the world will smile with you'. Fashion, at its core, is all about having fun.