On the runway, designer Anna Sui is renowned for her deft use of materials and textures, as well as her masterful command of prints and patterns. She possesses a dark and elegant sense of femininity that permeates everything from her flagship SoHo store to her exquisite makeup line.
Since the early ‘80s, Sui has played a pivotal role in the New York fashion world— casual friends include fashion industry legends Steven Meisel, Garren, François Nars, and Naomi Campbell. However, it wasn’t until 1999 that Anna Sui brought her beauty products to life. Her packaging mirrors the interior of her world, complete with black-lacquered containers decorated with ornate roses and intricate detailing. If you don't own a vanity yet, these makeup collectibles will definitely make you want to get one.
Anna is a master of contrast; dark and delightful, playful and avant-garde all at once. From the clawfoot legs of her powder container to the intoxicating rose fragrance of her nail lacquers, every item is a little bit of paradise. Using each piece makes you feel special, beautiful and for a moment, transported to her world.
Anna took time from her busy schedule to discuss how she entered the fashion world, what inspires the brand, and how she translated her vision into makeup.
B: What initially sparked your interest in fashion?
As a child, I remember reading an article in Life Magazine about two girls who graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. They then moved to Paris, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton opened a boutique for them. As a kid, you think wow, you’ve found the Magic Ticket...all you have to do is move to New York and go to Parsons…everything will fall into place. The funny thing was, years later when I went back and re-read that article, I realized that one of the girl’s fathers was the legendary photographer Irving Penn—which might have given her certain advantages. But that was my original fantasy!
B: Tell us about your universe—what inspires the Anna Sui brand, and how do makeup and beauty fit into the picture?
The first Dolly Head [Anna’s brand mascot] I envisioned was fashioned after the adorable way Liza Minnelli looked as the character Sally Bowles in Cabaret, with her iconic widow’s peak bangs, false eyelashes, beauty spot, and ribbon choker—and her green nail varnish that she describes as divine decadence! Her look was always an inspiration to me…nostalgic bohemian.
B: At what point did you decide to branch into beauty?
When I started my own beauty line, I felt the whole cosmetic industry had become so staid. I was longing for something more fantasy-oriented. I wanted women to feel free to experiment—to have more fun, to not take themselves so seriously, to opt for a little glamour. It was such a thrill to imagine a collection that would include everything I’ve always loved about makeup, everything I personally use daily and all the colors and special effects that I’m currently obsessed with.
B: Your runway style is very feminine combined with a little darkness. Describe the interplay between your makeup and clothing designs?
I’m known for the contradictions I incorporate into my work. I wrap sweet, feminine looks with romantic nostalgia…always mixed with the hip, trendy touch of rock-and-roll coolness. It’s all about that ambiguity, the good girl / bad girl thing.
B: You're famous for innovative textiles and prints—do those elements inform the makeup as well?
My quest has always been to create cosmetics incorporating all the colors and textures of my memories and dreams. Glitter is one of my favorite special effects; and I imagined it in shades and colors far beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
B: Do you have any favorites from the line?
I adore the latest glittered blue Nail Color No. 110, the Rose Cheek Color and the Loose Face Powder. These were developed to be the staples of my own beauty routine.
B: How did you decide on the lavender and black-lacquered look of your packaging and vanity accessories?
I must have always known that I’d one day be doing a cosmetic collection! I had carefully saved all my favorite empty bottles and tubes of makeup my whole life. For my own line, the design is based on the furniture I use in my boutiques, and the lavender comes from the color I paint the walls. I collect Victorian Louis XV-revival “Bombe” chairs, armoires, and vanities festooned with carved roses. I always paint them glossy black. I loved the idea of creating cosmetic containers and packaging that had this look—like miniature dollhouse furniture. You’d have to find another use for them, or just keep them to decorate your vanity. The boxes had to do the same thing, be more beautiful and collectable than any other packaging you’ve ever seen. I wanted everything to be so special, down to the inclusion of my favorite tea rose scent.
B: What is coming up next for Anna Sui Cosmetics?
Next year will mark the 15th anniversary of the launch of my cosmetics line, so keep an eye out for upcoming releases! The new products will feel exciting and inspiring to make makeup more fun than ever!