There are many ways to describe Suzy Menkes, the fashion reporter and editor for the International Herald Tribune. In a conversation with her at the 92Y, Fern Mallis introduced her as the most “respected, loved and feared person in the industry.” Others might call her simply relentless. There aren’t that many people that would admit to sneaking into a building as a cleaning woman, equipped with broom and mop to wait hours to see the Chloe show under artistic direction by Karl Lagerfeld because she didn’t get an invite in the early part of her career.
This was just one of many interesting facts the audience learned from this seemingly warm, passionate and all-family woman whose face sang of joy when she discussed her sons and grandchildren.
Her allegiance to fashion began an early age. At 5 years old, she created her own fashion magazine and despite having a pattern ripped up by a teacher in school for being 1 millimeter off, she didn’t give up. She turned to writing. From her university newspaper to other editorial positions, she continued to climb and has now been in her current role for 25 years.
With experience that trumps nearly all in the industry, making her the authority on fashion and its bigger role on society, her advice was honest and frank. “Be resilient and happy about the good things in life because life isn’t fair, but we might as well learn that.”
She also talked about recent news. The standout at the Met Ball was Sara Jessica Parker and after seeing Kanye West’s performance, she believed that he should stick to his day job.
In regards to Bangladesh, it’s not about a complete evacuation, but regulating standards in factories. And, finding a way to change the consumer’s mindset to help them understand what’s important is a next step.
For the wave of emerging talent, she believes that gaining experience in Paris is valuable. She also referred to the latest group of Asian American designers as the “new Jews” noting how their family businesses gives them a competitive advantage on production and how many carried an impressive American spirit such as Alexander Wang.
Her thoughts on social media were on par with everyone else today. Although it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on designers, it’s necessary. She proclaimed, “I don’t understand why people wouldn’t engage in it.”
Lastly, she shed light on her hair. For her, it wasn’t about creating something shocking, but a way to get her hair out of her face which just so happened to become a part of her brand.
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