We all encounter bumps in the road, but with encouragement and tenacity, we persevere.
Back in 2001, I faced one in my life. I returned to New York to continue developing my life’s work into what is now Alabama Chanin. At the time, I was living in the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street while I was developing the line, working with partners, and sorting out production issues. One Sunday morning, I woke up feeling extremely frustrated.
From an outside perspective, things appeared to be going well- but, to me, it seemed like such hard work, and there was never enough time or money. I felt like there was no way to keep going along this path. I was ready to give up on my dream.
In an effort to clear my troubled mind, I forced myself to get out of bed and go outside for some fresh air. Nearby was Chelsea’s Antiques Garage Flea Market- a fabulous place to find a hodge-podge of antiques, anything vintage, and beautiful weathered art. The flea market had one of the few coffee shops in the neighborhood that was open for the early-risers and antique enthusiasts. Seven o’clock on a Sunday morning in Manhattan is considered very early. I nursed my cappuccino while I sat in solitude on their outdoor bench.
As I sat there in the throes of one of my biggest pity-parties to-date, I glanced across the street and saw Anna Sui crossing the street from the market. Anna is a lover of antiques and is one of the dedicated early-risers who had already been through the market.
As if it were a dream, she walked closer and closer until she was standing right there in front of me. Then she stopped and simply said, “I just love what you’re doing. Keep up the good work.” That was all. She walked into the coffee shop as I sat on my bench, a little dumbfounded.
Our brief exchange that morning forever changed the course of my company and my life. More than she knows, she helped me overcome my bump in the road and to persevere.
Though I have always loved her amazing work – especially during my days as a stylist and costume designer – this is one of the many reasons that I love Anna Sui, the person. She seems such an honest and kind soul with a very down-to-earth nature. For me, this woman, her spirit, and her work represent sustainability at its best. Without knowing, Anna Sui contributed to sustaining a small designer at a time when quitting seemed easier.
She’s also the type of person who will personally respond to a simple request.
For example, four years after that brief encounter at the flea market, she wrote a letter to the Council of Fashion Designers of America on my behalf- which ultimately contributed to my acceptance into the organization.
Another reason to love her- I found her patterns among the Vogue Designer Patterns. These patterns, which are made available to all, are a key resource that contributes to the DIY side of Fashion. Right now, Anna offers four dress patterns on the site. We thought our DIY Thursday would be the perfect place to feature one of her dresses.
Come back this Thursday as we continue our conversation about the intersection of Fashion, Craft, + DIY. We’ll also feature instructions on how to make an Anna Sui + Alabama Chanin DIY Dress, using our hand-sewing techniques.
See you then!
Anna Sui by Andrew Bolton