Anna Sui on Kurt Cobain, Being Anti-Plaid, & why “Eco” is a Double Edged Sword

With Anna Sui hitting up the Morrison Hotel Gallery, paying homage to Kurt Cobain through Jesse Frohman’s iconic images, I got to chat with her about how Nirvana played its way into her aesthetics. As we spoke of the grunge movement, other movements came to mind, like her quest to Save the Garment Center, and the eco revolution that could really use a game changer of Kurt Cobain proportions to shake it up. Get inside Anna Sui’s mind and history after the jump.

Anna Sui on Kurt Cobain, Being Anti Plaid, & why Eco is a Double Edged Sword

Twiggy in Anna Sui, shot by Steven Meisel. Vogue Italia, 1993

Did Nirvana have an influence on your designs?

Yeah, I did a grunge collection. Same season as Marc Jacobs. I had gone to see Nirvana a bunch of times, and it was such a strong movement, that period.  Because there was finally great music again, different music. It was different than all that stadium stuff going on. It was fun going to concerts. It was exciting because you would see lots of interesting people there, and festivals were starting. It was good.

Did the grunge movement influence the way you dress as well?

I never wore a plaid shirt, I’m not that type of girl. There was a shift, I always liked that hippie look, but it wasn’t about hippie anymore.  It was more pared down and the colors were more somber. Everything was more quiet and somber.

Anna Sui on Kurt Cobain, Being Anti Plaid, & why Eco is a Double Edged Sword

 ©Jesse Frohman/courtesy of The Morrison Hotel Gallery

Then how might you explain his leopard print jacket?

It was vintage. The collection I did after the grunge collection was because I went to a festival and I could see people were wearing a combination of vintage, sports and a lot of Tibetan influence because there were a lot of Tibetans refugees coming here, so you could buy lots of handicrafts. Kind of uniform, army stuff too. That kind of became a trend through the 90s, for alternative music, alternative look.

Now, onto a different movement that’s influencing designers right now: The Green Movement. What advice would you give a designer to get into in the eco-friendly movement?

I don’t know, that’s a dual edge sword, because I’m not sure that eco-friendly is really eco-friendly. There are pros and cons to it. So I think the best thing we can do is support local workers, local craftsmen, and that’s what we can do. But I’m not a big one on the other.

Anna Sui on Kurt Cobain, Being Anti Plaid, & why Eco is a Double Edged Sword

I also asked this question of Nanette Lepore [both are highly involved with Save The Garment Center]: If you were in an elevator with a young designer who was about to send her collection overseas to be produced, what would you tell her?

I think it’s more and more difficult because they want bigger and bigger quantities. The prices are getting higher. But if you have that kind of a collection, that’s great! That’s great if you can sell that much, but most new designers don’t have that kind of volume, unless you’re working for an established company.