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  • Writer's pictureSavannah Bradley

At Anna Sui, All Things in Good Faith

And at Brandon Maxwell and Tory Burch, the same approach.

 

Hi there — it’s been a minute. ICYMI, we’ve been covering the FW24 shows at lightning speed, to the point where we’re having to loop back around and take care of some of the shows we might’ve missed. The silver lining to all this, though, is that the ways these designers, shows, and ideas are communicating with one another have become more apparent in the rearview.



Anna Sui is a designer who often defies language, as the work is so profoundly visual that the rules of grammar can’t match pace. Of course, other designers are afflicted by that same condition — Demna, McQueen, Lacroix — but I’ve always been curious as to why Sui isn’t grouped with them. It may be because Sui cares less about theatrics and more about the actual clothes; it may also be because Sui is one of the few female designers still in control of her brand. The words “genius” or “iconoclast,” in equal measure, are bequeathed infrequently to women. But Sui is both of those things, and FW24 only continues to confirm that.


Jam-packed with references to kitschy New York autumns of yore, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and even the 60s/70s filter of Harold & Maude, this was the first collection this season that reminded me that, yes, thank you, it’s FALL/WINTER. Everything wears like a dream: young women in babushka hoods; dresses formed by diaphanous patchworks of floral chiffon; Victorian chokers; bright argyle scarves; and a print that can only be described as “space-age paisley.” And yet it is the genius of Anna Sui, isn’t it, that these outfits feel thoughtful and sincere, rather than campy. It could’ve been so easy for a designer to tender easy, tongue-in-cheek allusions to The Royal Tenenbaums or Nancy Drew or mod London. Still, she didn’t — because Sui takes clothing as seriously as Sacrament. Thank God for that. 



On another wavelength was Brandon Maxwell, who eschewed intimacy by setting his stage in the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s capacious Duggal Greenhouse. When Maxwell was showing for Pre-Fall back in December, Emily Mercer called his new design ethos “...wearability, cleanliness, simplicity and sensuality,” which is evident here. Construction is everything — a turtleneck dress with a built-in shawl; a marl-knit dress under a matching overcoat; and a deep brown leather skirt piped with orange edging. Opening the collection was one of the most innovative looks I’ve seen from Maxwell: a white halter dress, slit open to reveal layer upon layer of hidden silk.


When the 39-year-old designer was named Walmart’s Creative Director back in 2021, everyone jumped. Hitching your wagon to a big-box brand, especially to a brand thought of as fashion purgatory, is dangerous. What happened next was a dialing up of the glam at his eponymous label — perhaps as a way to prove that he had not sold out. While those glitzier moments were perfectly fine, FW24 in particular feels like an attempt to do something honest and heartfelt. It’s nice to see Maxwell stick the landing.



Everyone is keeping a close eye on Tory Burch. While many brands struggle with moving over the T.J. Maxx death knell (Michael Kors, Kate Spade, even Theory), Burch was able to save her label from a similar fate. In an interview with Rachel Tashjian Wise last year, Burch said of her Hail Mary pivot: “I want women to individualize everything [...] How do you design things that have the integrity of design that will last and the quality that will last and also the style?” 


Burch showed at the New York Public Library, and mentioned in her show notes that she was focused on the pretty quotidian: “...an old jacket, a lampshade, even a shower cap.” And yet, much like Sui, the camp is absent. Burch instead approaches a material of worship, from coats constructed out of metallic raffia to shiny merlot bodysuits glossed against the abdomen. The lampshade skirt doesn’t even read as frustumic; it hangs solidly and subtly flares at the thigh line. The only misstep, here, is a minidress curled with cavatappi tendrils, a mid-2000s B-side that should’ve died with the old Burch.


L-R: Anna Sui, Brandon Maxwell, and Tory Burch FW24

Still, though, Burch is in good company with Sui and Maxwell — all three designers, this season, are trying their hand at sincerity, and what it means to reconnect with their respective brands against a changing industry. Earnestness often comes across as saccharine and painful; many designers avoid it, dipping their work in irony to avoid having to say anything meaningful. Playing it as it lays — and letting your art come from the heart without pretense or a desire for applause — is really the way to do it. 🌀


 

Savannah Eden Bradley is a writer, fashion editor, gallerina, Gnostic scholar, reformed It Girl, and future beautiful ghost from the Carolina coast. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the fashion magazine HALOSCOPE. You can stalk her everywhere online @savbrads.

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