Enter the World of Anna Sui at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC

Opening September 12 during New York Fashion Week, The World of Anna Sui celebrates one of the country’s top designers at the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle.

anna sui fashion show

Photograph by Thomas Lau, courtesy of Anna Sui.

The 75 fashion looks on display in this exhibition will showcase Anna Sui’s decades-long career, beginning with the groundbreaking fashion show in 1991 that introduced the world to her one-of-a-kind eclectic aesthetic. That show, staged with the help of Sui’s friends Steven Meisel, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell, launched Anna Sui into the pantheon of contemporary American fashion designers, a position she’s held securely in decades since. Sui has been honored with the CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award and collaborated with global brands such as Google and Target, bringing her genius to a wider audience. 

The exhibition will be “an unforgettable immersive experience of Anna’s design universe,” according to MAD’s Chris Scoates in a press release. Visitors will be welcomed by a full-scale installation in the lobby, representing the first Anna Sui boutique in Soho. These distinctive red floors, baroque furniture, signature Dolly Head mannequins, and violet walls (inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes) will provide the perfect entree into Sui’s design ethos as visitors continue through the exhibition. 

Anna Sui incorporates panoply of influences into her collections, ranging from the arcane to the antique. Several of Sui’s mood boards will be on view in the exhibition, displaying disparate elements from what she once called her “genius files.” An omnivorous researcher and collector, Sui has drawn from pirates, Minnie Mouse, the London boutique Biba, and French antiques throughout her design career. These and her childhood fashion icons, such as designer Zandra Rhodes and model/art collector Jane Holzer, will be pictured as part of The World of Anna Sui exhibition. 

Anna Sui Collection

Photographer: Stuart Ramson.

The designer’s dreamy, nostalgic sensibilities extend from her personal style, as evidenced in the interior design of her homes and her own love of wearing the fantastical. Her designs have been inspired by her native Detroit—specifically the Grande Ballroom, designed by Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren, and pictured in the exhibition—and 1960s graphic design trends that were popular during Sui’s childhood. An item from Sui’s former apartment, Greer Lankton’s sculpture of fashion editor Diana Vreeland, will be on view as well, on loan from its current home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other items throughout the exhibition will come from the designer’s personal interiors collection, marrying the personal with the public brand. 

Featured fashion designs will also illuminate thirteen particular personas recurring in Sui’s wide-ranging oeuvre, including Rock Star, Schoolgirl, Punk, Nomad, and Surfer. Some of her most iconic designs, such as the “Babydoll Dresses” from her playful, punk-inspired collection in Spring 1994, will be on display. Contemporary designs such as the patterned tights and bright, wide-wale corduroy ensembles from her “Poptimism” collection from Fall 2019 will also be on view. 

The book The World of Anna Sui by Tim Blanks will be on sale in the museum gift shop, and a series of public programs will enhance visitors’ experience of the exhibition throughout its five-month run. Sui Saturdays will feature Anna Sui herself in conversation with a series of important fashion figures such as make-up artist Pat McGrath, model/musician Karen Elson, and Vanessa Lawrence, Senior Editor of Elle Decor. An upcoming film series, organized in part by Sui’s niece Jeannie Sui Wonders, will coincide with the exhibition run as well and include films that have sparked Anna Sui’s imagination throughout her career. 

deyn elson anna sui


Designer Anna Sui (center) with models Karen Elson and Agyness Deyn. Photo by Jennifer Graylock.

Anna Sui once told Vogue, “Clothes have to be fun; otherwise, who wants to bother?” Join the fun at The World of Anna Sui , running September 12 though February 23, 2020, at MAD. 

The Museum of Arts and Design is located at 2 Columbus Circle. Call 212-299-7777 or visit for tickets and more.

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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