When Gigi Hadid walks a runway, there’s typically an accompanying headline about it. Same may be said when Hadid walks a show with her sister, Bella, as was the case at Anna Sui Spring 2018 last year. This season, Sui added yet a third powerhouse model to the mix, newcomer Kaia Gerber, to stack the deck with an “it” girl model trifecta.
The Hadids simultaneously opened Sui’s show with slinky struts and a couple of twirls, the kind of boldness an Anna Sui getup inspires. There’s no hiding in the designer’s mix of colorful prints, embroidery, texture, and embellishment.
For anyone else it might be kitsch without credibility, but for Anna Sui, it’s a signature. This collection, which she called “Beloved,” feels a bit like her Fall 2012 collection, which also included a certain 1960s glamour with unmistakable Anna Sui flair. The show opens with powerful red and purple prints — a baby doll top over sequined flared pants on Bella Hadid and a floral printed blouse and miniskirt on her sister.
Bits of the collection end up looking like thrift store finds, and not in the retro-riche of the ’60s Sui intended to evoke. Most other moments feel smart, like a pale turquoise and gray gradient fur coat paired with turquoise trousers, or a gray knit sweater over a black and marigold-spotted ruffle blouse and knit midi-length black and white skirt, tied together with a gold leather fanny pack.
Anna Sui doesn’t bend to what the industry at-large trends toward, meaning you won’t find, say, streetwear on the veteran designer’s runway. Though it’s not completely devoid of outside influence, like those fanny packs or the colorful and printed tights we’ve seen elsewhere this season.
Sui might have all those top models walking her show, but one can’t help but wonder, does the Anna Sui girl still exist off the runway, and outside of Sui’s imagination?
Social media gives some clues. When users hashtag “Anna Sui” on Instagram, they often post photos of Anna Sui cosmetics and accessories, but less of full Anna Sui looks themselves. (Compare that to the “it” items from Gucci or Balenciaga that seem ubiquitous within the influencer economy.)
That doesn’t mean Sui isn’t popular outside of America. On Twitter, a lot of the buzz generated about Sui’s show on Feb. 12 was tweeted in Japanese, Russian, and Thai.
Sui herself isn’t so worried about the ubiquity of her clothes in America, where the “retail apocalypse” is roiling the industry. (Having robust fragrance and cosmetics licenses — certifiable moneymakers for fashion brands — helps, as she’s acknowledged.) Sui’s in a sweet spot between luxury, a sector doing particularly well, and more affordable pieces, since her clothing doesn’t typically sell for more than a few hundred dollars.
All of which is to say: Anna Sui is “beloved” by fashion critics, her fans, and consumers, a free-flowing love that channels itself through her collections, and through that very “it” girl trifecta selling Sui’s image around the world.
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