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Syrian Shopping With Anna Sui and Anthro Buyer Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson has an ambitious shopping motto: “You only regret the things that you don’t buy.” As such, the guy’s found himself the perfect job: The Anthropologie buyer and host of the Sundance Channel’s Man Shops Globe, now in its second season, travels the world as a professional shopper. (Jealous much?)

He was joined at Anthropologie’s Philadelphia headquarters last night by Anna Sui, his shopping partner for an episode filmed in Syria. The duo combs open-air markets, back alleys, glassblowing factories, and more in search of pieces to entice Anthro’s Stateside buyers.

For Sui — who was wearing a black, lace-trimmed frock from her own fall collection for Anthropologie, along with a silk scarf Johnson found for her in Syria — the country was full of surprises. “There are no tourists there,” she said. “There are very few places you can go in the world that you don’t feel like you’re in Detroit, New Jersey, or Philadelphia. There’s all the same stores, all the same malls, all the same fashions — but that’s not the case in Syria.”

That said, don’t book your trip just yet. While Johnson and Sui did turn up some treasures (we’re betting you’ll see a series of seventies-ish New York–meets–Syria chandeliers in Anthropologie’s home section soon), it wasn’t an entirely successful mission. Most of the inlaid furniture they set out for either couldn’t be produced quickly enough or wasn’t shipped back to New York carefully enough to consider sourcing it from the Syrian artisans, and — the occasional exotic tapestry aside — one of the markets was eerily similar to the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

Will the trip influence any of Sui’s upcoming work? She predicts it will, but can’t say when. “That’s the great thing about travel and discovery — you always have it, and you can always use it,” she said. As for her Fashion Week show, you never know — she claims she hasn’t made the clothes yet.

Syrian Shopping With Anna Sui and Anthro Buyer Keith Johnson