Anna Sui and La Vie de Bohème in San Francisco


Anna Sui pays a visit to longtime muse, San Francisco, to launch her new fragrance, La Vie de Boheme at Sephora. She catches up with 7x7 to discuss her San Francisco haunts, old and new, the Beastie Boys breakdancing at the Tonga Room, her favorite apps, and the nineties revival.

Tell us about La Vie de Bohème... Where does the inspiration come from?

Whenever anyone talks about Anna Sui fashion, they say girly, feminine, nostalgic, rock n’ roll… and always bohemian. With all the attention on what people wear at Coachella and Glastonbury—it’s the trendsetting thing. So, we thought it’s the perfect time to do a bohemian fragrance. 

San Francisco is famous for its own vie de bohème. Do you ever reference SF in your work? 

Oh, definitely. In fact, I did in my last collection. Spring 2014 is inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, with a mix of modern rock star. Some of the bands I listened to and looked at include Jefferson Airplane (who are from San Francisco). I used one of their songs for the runway show. I also looked at Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and the way they dressed—imitating knights-in-shining-armor or damsels-in-distress. I think they were the modern day Pre-Raphaelites. In the 1960s there was that mixture. I like that mix.


What do you think about when you think of SF in this day and age?

It’s changed a lot. There is a lot of building and renovation and it seems to be evolving. I remember always thinking that there was a certain period of time that was San Francisco.

The Summer of Love?

The Summer of Love or even before that. Kind of like, old fashioned San Francisco.

Like Hitchcock San Francisco?

Yeah, and some of the buildings were kind of like those big bank buildings. I’m staying at the Palace Hotel. So there it’s just like you’re in a time warp when walking though. I love all of that.

I remember I came here during the first Tibetan Festival that the Beastie Boys put together. We stayed at the Fairmount and that was like locked in time. There was still the beautiful Dorothy Draper carpeting and the furniture. I remember there was the Tonga Room. There was a big party in there and I remember watching the show in the boat and the rain coming down. Then all the boys broke out and started break dancing in the middle of the Tiki room. I mean, it was a site to behold, you know, the Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys break dancing… it was just like, “This is surreal.”

San Francisco is a tech town. What do you love most about technology? And what do you hate most about it?

That is such a good question. Of course, I love the fact that you can have everything now. It is all there. Those things that took you years of research and searching and looking and asking about; now you can find in a second. I love that, but I hate the fact that it’s not as special anymore. You treasured that thing that took you 20 years to find and now it’s throw away because you almost don’t even remember it after you find it.


Are there any favorite apps that you love?

I like Shazam, because how many times are you in a place and you’re like, “What song is this?” And now all you have to do is click it on a button.

I love all the apps where you can make photographs glorified. My friend Mika Ninagawa has one where she does hyper color. She is a Japanese photographer who photographs a lot of girls, always surrounded by beautiful flowers. Everything is hyper colored. So, there is an app that circles your photos with really intense flowers.


Where do you like to shop in San Francisco?

I like this area (Hayes Valley), which is fun and eclectic. We just went inside an interior store with lots of maps called Marker and Moss. They have beautiful ceramics that look like they’re from Turkey. Bell’occhio is so interesting. I get the coolest stuff there. She has such incredible taste and she travels all through Europe. It’s like nothing you need and everything you want: beautiful packaging and beautiful ribbons.


What do you love to do in San Francisco?

I love the De Young because the museum is so beautiful.


What do you think about San Francisco style?

There is something causal here but also very traditional. Then you see the real wacky ones too.


The nineties are having a major moment. Your brand launched in 1991 and helped define the look of that decade. How do you feel about this resurgence?

Well, obviously I like it because it is what I like. I mean, it is done in a different way this time, in an expensive way. In my day, we went to a thrift shop and tried to look like movie stars. So, now it’s like you have to be a movie star to wear the look to afford it. So you know, it’s a different time. I think, the cost of things has gotten so out of whack. It would have been hard to image five or 10 years ago, that boots would be $3,000, and dresses $5,000. It is kind of crazy.


You always have had a strong link between your shows and music. I discovered Rufus Wainwright when he walked in your show in the late nineties. Who are you loving now?

I love Tame Impala. They sound like Cream or the Beatles in their psychedelic era, which I love. There is another newer band I like from Australia called Jar Wa Ma. They are like a psychedelic band with a nineties dance beat mixed in. It is always fun finding new music—one of my brothers goes to Lollapalooza every year. He is always sending me these new bands and it is fun because it is always before fashion week.

Do you scout those guys for your shows?

Well, actually the one I really wanted for my show this time is Ezra Miller. He was in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He was the gay kid in that: beautiful, with a big grand nose and long hair. 

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