For her Nordic-themed fall ’15 collection, ready-to-wear designer Anna Sui partnered with Frye on a collection of shoes, boots and handbags. The collection, with boots ranging from $498 to $1,398, will hit select retailers and TheFryeCompany.com in mid-August.
We hopped on a call with the New York-based Sui to discuss her collaboration inspiration, research forays and her own shoe-organization tips.
Why did you want to partner with Frye?
“I just adore Michael Petry, who has since left. [Editor’s note: Petry is now the creative director of Tumi.] He was such a dream to work with because he made everything happen. They have such a great support team we worked with as well. The whole thing went smoothly.”
What inspired this collection?
“I had been looking at Nordic, Viking and fairytale influences. We used pony skin in these great colors, but then there was also a folkloric take we added to it. We also did short boot in a long-haired pony skin. We also did great patchwork shoulder bags that were a combination of different textures. We were lucky that we had so many rich materials available to us. That’s always the thing working on shoes — you have to manage sourcing. But with Frye, they found everything we were looking for.”
What did they think of your ideas?
“They were open to them — they just asked what we wanted. Pretty quickly, elements started to show up, from the leathers to the furs. It’s such a luxury because I’m such a small company and we’re very confined to what it is we are able to do ourselves. It was a luxury to have somebody help you source everything.”
Were any of your ideas not possible to execute?
“No — they just said ‘tell us what you want.’ That’s such a great way to work with somebody and collaborate. They were open to anything. They never said no. and when we were pushing for colors and other stitching techniques, they were very willing to try. There is nothing better than having your wish come true.”
What were the research sources for your Nordic influences?
“I have always been drawn to Nordic references from the Arts & Crafts period. I started out looking at that, but then thought it could look a little predictable. I love looking at images of the Sami reindeer herders. But I was thinking, ‘how can I put my own spin on it?’ That’s the thing you always pray for when you are working on a collection — to find some way to make it relevant and current.”
Were their any pop culture references you explored?
“I saw the TV series ‘Vikings,’ and that really inspired me. I thought it was so sexy-looked — like the way I wanted the collection to feel. That helped me spin it in another direction. It’s always a process. It’s not just a recreation of something.”
Have you every traveled to Scandinavia?
“I have, but it was probably 12 years ago. I went to Sweden and visited the Karl Larsson house. I had a lot of his work up on my wall. I visited Finland to see the Marimekko offices. That was kind of a dream to see all those archives and where they print the fabrics. I’ve also seen Scandinavian influences when I’ve visited Japan. So many people collect Marimekko pieces and pottery and glassware.”
What is your favorite style in the collection?
“It would have to be the lace-up knee-high [Parker Moc or Duchess] boot because I love it with all the long silhouettes we did. They had slits, so you could still see the boots, and it creates a little more air.”
Did our dreadfully cold winter inspire you to create such winter-warrior styles?
“Maybe that had something to do with it! It’s really funny because the first thing you do are the shoes. It’s always a shot in the dark, almost. You might have an idea, but you have to do the shoes before you even start on the clothes.”
Do you save your shoes?
“Oh yes. I have all black boxes with polaroids on each one of the shoe. It’s a little out of control now and not as organized or beautiful as it started out, but having the photo labels on each one really helps.
What was the last pair of shoes you bought?
“Some Marni sandals?”
What shoes are you currently wearing?
“Prada sandals with lots of studs.”
Click through the slideshow to explore the collection.