She recently spoke at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series which was hosted by the Stamps School of Art and Design. A large number of Eastern Michigan University, Apparel and Textile Merchandising students attended to get first-hand advice from the fashion expert.
The discussion was preceded with a summary of the recent article in The New York Times by Guy Trebay, “When Fashion Shows Were Fun”- a nostalgic story of the sector’s incipient years of the game and the show, a far cry from today, more than for marketing.
Sui spoke about a childhood marked by lust and on the glossy pages of fashion magazines that adorn your bedroom walls with eye-catching fragments, and industry profiles. She recalled that her formative years were a time of obsession with all things rock ‘n’ roll, television, and, of course, the fashion inspiration that continues to manifest itself in her collections.Sui designed for a number of sportswear companies before she launched her first collection in 1980. She actually has lost one of her jobs because one of her first independent collections of clothing was too successful.
“My boss told me I had to stop and I was like, I can’t stop, I have to ship my orders! And I got fired,” she said.
“I overheard two seniors at Parsons talking about a job opportunity when I was still a junior,” she recalled. “It was with my favorite designer Erika Elias’s line for Charlie’s Girls so I took my portfolio over to see her and I got hired.”
“She would say, ‘just inspire me, do what you want,’ ” Sui said. “She was a really tough boss, but I learned so much from her.”
Sui took on various freelance jobs, spending seven years working on the men’s collections in Italy, as well as working with burgeoning designer Marc Jacobs.
She went to Paris to watch Paris Fashion Week with Meisel. During their trip, Sui and Meisel attended the Jean Paul Gaultier show with Madonna. This experience that gave her the confidence to continue to perform her craft.
She established her flagship boutique in SoHo in 1992, the first of 50 namesake buildings.
“None of my business was ever planned,” she said. “It was just knowing how to react.”
Sui’s drawings are currently on display at the Detroit Historical Museum, as part of the Booth-Wilkinson Gallery show, “Fashion D.Fined: The Past, Present and Future of Detroit Fashion.”