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The World of Anna Sui

  • Art
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

So dense in detail is American designer Anna Sui’s work that even a crack cryptologist might come unstuck. This retrospective of her work is complicated, tricky but totally absorbing.

This is the crystal maze of fashion exhibitions: there are no clues as to where her inspiration came from, other than the clothes themselves, so unless you knew that Barbarossa was plundering at the same time that Louis XVI was on the French throne, you would have no idea that the starting point for a pirate-style dress was in fact Marie Antoinette. With over 125 outfits on show, each as incredibly detailed as the last, you could spend ages in the main space trying to work out what her possible references were.

Sui is clearly obsessed with music. There are outfits that look like they’re straight off a tour bus – a pretty blue baby doll dress is very reminiscent of Kurt Cobain raiding Courtney Love’s wardrobe, whereas the dandified versions of flares and jackets, all velvet, faux fur and embellishment are pure Jagger. They’re looks that fit well with the current ’90s revival.

She’s an incredibly narrative designer. Rather than her work being displayed chronologically, it’s instead organised by the themes and motifs that run through it. An army of fairy tale characters stand opposite a herd of punks, while on another podium cowboy themes meet a Pennsylvanian country club with some Warhol-inspired embroidery thrown in for good measure.

Disparate though her ideas are, there is a clear Sui thread running through everything. From the space itself which – with its Tiffany lampshades and lilac walls – mirrors her first Soho (NY, not London) store, to the top-to-toe looks – with every centimetre considered – you are very much thrown into Anna’s world.

Written by
Miriam Bouteba


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