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. 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

12 comments on “WE (HEART) ANNA SUI

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    1. Kathy Van Kleeck

      What an amazing encounter! Kind of takes my breath … definitely love Anna Sui! I’m in one of those moods and could use a nice jolt … might need to head out for a cuppa. Thanks for the inspiration!

  1. Oami

    Well, you are certainly passing on Anna’s gift to you: I’ve had a few of those days of late (most recently on Sunday), and reading your blog is one of my proven antidotes!

  2. Heather

    Wow! What an amazing story! I cannot wait to see what pattern you picked! I would love to see one of the more unfitted patterns. I don’t know how you feel about those working with your techniques. I have both of your books and am eagerly awaiting your third- but I have a poochy stomach and don’t think the tank dresses in past books would flatter me. I’m hoping to try the gathered skirt dresses in the new book! Yay! I love this Thursday series and look forward to it each week! Thank you for all the sharing and inspiration!

      1. Joanna

        If you are looking for looser knit styles, there are some good ones in the DKNY patterns that Vogue put out. V1179 would work well with embroidery, particularly along the hem. They have styled it as a dress, but it looks good worn as a tunic over jeans as well.