Sue Wong at the LA Art Show: When Fashion Meets Art

Fashion has always been an artistic endeavour and the LA Art Show, an international art exposition held this year from February 5th to February 9th at the Los Angeles Convention Center, certainly realized that when it recognized the seminal contributions of world renowned designer Sue Wong to the world of fashion/art and saluted her with a position of honor in its show.

The LA Art Show, which turned 25 this year and has as its purpose the celebration of the visual arts in general and the cultural diversity of Los Angeles in particular, sought to expand its horizons this year with its choice of Ms. Wong as its standard bearer. Certainly it was a great choice! Sue Wong’s oeuvre, which spans a 50 year career in design, is a clear manifestation of the marriage of art and fashion; furthermore, she is truly an inspirational representative of the city’s culturally diverse population and one who has overcome adversity her entire life to achieve success and acclaim as an artist.

At the show were art galleries galore, and such famous artists as Jackson Pollack and M. C. Escher, and, of course, Sue Wong. Although some may be mystified that a fashion designer was asked to show with artists of that stature, it should be noted that Wong’s recherche designs represent both the meeting and the union of fashion and art and trigger the same response in the viewer as does great art: an instantaneous jolt of both emotion and enlightenment.

Indeed, for Wong, each design is a work of art meant to celebrate the human spirit, because, as she says, “It is not just a gown or mere fashion – I create an experiential transformation, awakening the inner goddess within everywoman.”

The powers behind the LA Art Show, Kim Martindale, Kassandra Voyagis, and JP Hayden, certainly recognized that in Wong or else they would not have made her the central attraction of their show and given her space to display seventy mannequins bedecked with her extraordinarily beautiful gowns.

Ms. Wong was nothing short of brilliant in curating her first art exhibition.

She positioned the mannequins with her flowing gowns both inside and outside her huge booth and laced its walls with imposing posters; the viewer was seemingly surrounded and inundated with fashion, beauty, and art. A video she created with cinematographer Stefano Milla detailing the Sue Wong experience, as it were, played continuously; this video covered her growing up in the fifties, her coming of age in the wild sixties, her experimenting with deconstruction and punk, her launching of her evening wear business in the nineties, and her building of a worldwide fashion empire in subsequent years.

This impressive retrospective of her work at the LA Art Show spans twenty-five years of designing. The gowns on display, the posters, and the video afford the viewer a glimpse into the fabulous world of Sue Wong, where the designer’s raison d’etre is the elevation of the human spirit though the art of fashion. (It is obvious she merits her own museum exhibition!)

Opening night was electrifying! One could just feel the excitement in the crowd as many celebrities stopped by the Wong booth, including Larry Namer, founder of E Entertainment: Chris Pitman, musician with Guns and Roses; director Sean Stone; and actor Sophia Milos of The Sopranos

The rousing opening party started at six. Five of Wong’s favourite models mingled amidst a throng of guests and photographers. Attendees were simply awed by the majesty of Wong’s gowns, each of which she ingeniously topped with a feathered headdress of her own design. The creativity displayed in the entire exhibit simply overwhelmed viewers emotionally, based on the effusive laudatory comments left in Wong’s guest book in admiration of her immense talent. Truly the night belonged to Sue Wong!

The artistry in Wong’s gowns is amazing. She can put a modern spin on designs from the twenties and thirties, which is her trademark. This talent has not gone unrecognized in Hollywood and Wong has dressed many a celebrity including Ann Hathaway, Taylor Swift, Minnie Driver, Jane Seymour, and Tyra Banks. 

Fashion design has been Wong’s passion since childhood, when she often made her own clothes. Through diligence, perseverance, and dedication to her craft she overcame all obstacles to achieve early recognition and financial success with her designs but did not find her true calling until 1999 when she began creating evening wear. After more than half a century as an artistic visionary, Wong hasn’t given up fashion design but has moved on to other creative activities such as co-authoring a biopic, writing three books, and designing boutique hotels.

While curating the art show Wong was simultaneously organizing a fashion show for her own Academy Awards Gala on Oscar Sunday. This fact is interesting because John-Peter Hayden, Jr., long time Director of Development for the LA Art Show, had originally suggested Sue Wong as a Los Angeles artist worthy of a salute by the show, as well as one who could bring in crowds to that annual exposition and was also connected in the minds of the public to the academy awards ceremonies taking place the same weekend the show was to run. Hayden describes Sue Wong as a designer much loved and favored by the general public and Hollywood luminaries and one whose glamorous gowns honoring the glories of Old Hollywood have been featured at the Emmy, Golden Globe, and Oscar ceremonies. With all this in mind, the conclusion of the LA Art Show principals, as stated succinctly by Hayden, was: “Fashion is an art and an integral part of LA’s creative landscape, so for the 25th anniversary we are honoring 25 years of the local legend Sue Wong’s iconic style.” 

The rest, as they say, is history! As JP Hayden concluded after the show, “The crowds who attended proved the decision to be right on target.. The exhibition designed by Sue Wong was an outstanding success with the thousands who attended and the world wide press.”

In a speech she gave as part of this art exhibition, Sue Wong summed up her work as follows: “As a creative Intuitive individual, I apply my artistic sensibilities to everything that I do, therefore optimizing the higher gifts that I was blessed with — whether it be interior, furniture or garden design, architecture, graphics design, painting, drawing, writing, cooking, Ikebana (floral arranging), throwing a stylish soirée, art-directing a photoshoot or creating an experiential fashion show.”