Overlooked No More: Anya Phillips, Fashion Influencer in New York’s Punk Scene


This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

In the 1970s, Anya Phillips left Taiwan to forge a fashion career in New York City, showing up in a burgeoning downtown punk scene in what would become her signature dress, an eye-catching piece made of electric blue spandex that laced up the front. When she paired it with stilettos and a full-length fur coat, she exuded a slinky glamour that would make her the “It girl” of Lower Manhattan’s night clubs.

New York at the time was on the brink of bankruptcy, overwhelmed with neglect and crime. But rent was cheap and amid the decay, designers, artists, musicians and filmmakers formed collaborations, making art and meeting up at rock venues.

“Arriving there and finding this incredible creativity happening in this kind of grimy downtown scene — she instantly got it,” said Sylvia Reed, a close friend and the former wife and manager of the Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed, in a phone interview.

At the time, no wave offered few fashion templates. Acting as a kind of creative director, Phillips sought to create a loud aesthetic that complemented the group’s sound. She dressed Chance in sharkskin suits and styled his hair into a pompadour — a retro-inspired look that reflected the band’s own fusion music.

She acted as a promoter for the band, generating the buzz that helped take James Chance and the Contortions from an opening act to a headlining band.



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