Anna Sui‘s charming 1990s and early 2000s collections made the kids who these days love and embrace the arty-crafty, slightly goofy, very witchy, highly whimsical aesthetic – which got additionally intensified by such it-girls like Ella Emhoff and, of course, the power of TikTok. The autumn-winter 1998 line-up by Sui seems to capture all things which are suddenly (re)loved in 2022. The collection was inspired by fairy tales, but also nodded to all the great illustrators of the 1900s. At the time, the designer had seen an exhibition in London about the Victorian fairy tale illustrators that included Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielsen. “It was the most incredible and really moving exhibition that I had seen in a long time, and I just kept looking at those pictures, so then I thought, OK, I’ll do a collection like that“, she recalls to Vogue. The runway looks were all like a kid’s version of dress-up – “with the cowboy with the big badge, and oversized hat, and chaps that were all studded” – as if you were taking stuff out of the trunk and putting it on. All the animal hats and everything came from looking at Walter Crane drawings of frogs and bears. “I just thought it’d be really fun to do it almost from a kid’s perspective and make those into faux fur hats, so I called the milliner James Coviello and said, ‘We have to make these teddy bear hats.’ And I showed him a picture of one of the girl bands at the time that had knocked the stuffing out of a stuffed bear and made a hat out of it. I said, ‘Let’s do a fairy-tale version of this.’” And then, with Erickson Beamon, Anna came up with the crowns, which became instant hits. In the collection, there was also a whole series of the fairy-tale princess looks. “I just loved the frosted velvet that we made all those dresses out of. It was a stretch velvet in these frosted colors and then we trimmed everything with faux fur. There was a lot of it throughout the collection. The show opened with those black and ginger folkloric dresses trimmed with faux fur fringes. And then we did inside out faux fur, like there’s that jacket that Amber Valletta’s wearing, which we trimmed like Lapland clothes.” Looking at the collection today, it just feels so amazingly dreamy and so, so desirable. Every single look is relevant – especially in contemporary times where all aesthetics and subcultures become one big, eclectic melting pot.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.