Road to Success with Anna Sui
Anna Sui is a world renowned fashion designer, visionary, creator, and business woman. Originally from Detroit, Sui moved to NYC to study at The New School: Parsons, where she earned her degree alongside her close friend Steven Meisel. Sui launched her brand in 1981 and continues to impresses her client base with her attention to detail, whimsical style, and globally oriented inspiration. As Sui says, it's important to "hold on to your fantasies and dreams while still holding on to reality".
I had the pleasure of attending a "Parsons Table" talk in which journalist and architect critic, Paul Goldberger, interviews Sui based off of student led questions. The following are some inspirational quotes and helpful lessons that Sui spoke about.
Start of her company & globalization:
With just a $300 paycheck in hand, Sui was launched her own business. Having just been fired by her previous employer, Sui says she had no other choice but to "respond, react, and figure out a solution". Part of this solution was freelancing in Italy for about 12 years, which opened her up to globalization and sharpened her craft in trimming, embroidery, etcetera. Additionally, after the release of her first collection, Sui says that Japanese clients and department stores wanted a NY designer, which added on to her globalized position.
Process of creation and finding inspiration:
Sui's collection process is summarized as follows: inspiration wall-research-specific topic/ideas-color story-pictures to add detail. According to Sui, her inspiration wall is key and forms the base of her collection process as it keeps the collection's storyline in place. An example Sui gave derived from a trip she took to Greece and Turkey, where the visuals of a pirate in connection to a NY band she liked led to a full on collection. Some quotes from Sui and Goldberger on inspiration:
"You never know where inspiration will be found" -Goldberger
"The furthest thing from what your used to is what catches your eye" -Sui
Fashion, the market, and NYC:
When responding to a Goldberger on finding sources of beauty through everyday living and travel, Sui says, "Fashion is a reflection of the world around you." Thus, throughout the decades, Sui has grounded her business in NYC where 85-90% of manufacturing is done. She believes that NY is a special market that is worth supporting as it still has a focus and supports emerging designers. Furthermore, Sui says that "clients and buyers respond to newness." However, she believes that staying traditional with the 6 month calendar schedule for showcasing and selling collections is important because clients "need to have a longing in order to add value because things that happens to quickly aren't appreciated as much."
Values of business & components of success:
Core values that describe the Sui woman are femininity, edginess, nostalgia, and being recognizable. An example of remaining recognizable is seen through Sui's store display with the red floors and black/purple walls.
"Focus and determination is key to being a fashion designer"; "You need discipline of learning your craft, and you need to be able to understand your resources and how to apply them to what you are doing"; "Everything is only for that moment and you need to be able to react to that moment"; "Always be the first and the last to leave in your business" - Sui
Sui believes in being "in the right time at the right place". It is normal to ask "why not me" or question if you are doing something wrong, but Sui says "you need to adapt to the times and wait for your time". Thus, always remain hopeful and focused on your dream because, according to Sui, "Having that dream is what got me further than anything".
Two one-on-one questions I got to ask Sui and Goldberger directly:
1) Which emerging market are you most excited about? China (and she encourages for people to learn Chinese) ; Anna Sui
2) What makes a good journalist and how do you work with so many set questions? Be nimble and work with the responses you get from the person being interviewed ; Paul Goldberger