While fashion styles and trends go in and out each day, there are those omnipresent pillars – select influencers and opinion leaders in fashion – who don the Alaïa heavyweight belts not because of a name but through the blood-sweat-tears-climb-that-ladder-and-work-your-arse-off determination that keeps them at the top of their game.
Meet British-born fashion critic and journalist Suzy Menkes, whose down-to-earth (albeit slightly, delightfully mad) openness and sincere warmth immediately grab you, and who in March 2014, at 70 years of age, was offered the promotion of a lifetime – to work for Condé Nast as international Vogue editor, spearheading the style offerings of 19 international editions of Vogue.
When Collective Hub caught up with her in Sydney, we got a glimpse of why fashion’s most powerful players bypass other global news outlets and flip straight to what Suzy has to say…
I’m an energetic person.
I’m a curious person and, of course, I eat. Unlike so many fashion people who are sort of floating around on half a tomato, having pushed the other half three times around the plate. You know, I actually eat!
I have another life that not everybody knows about.
I have a family life which is very important to me so, although I would be very sorry if Karl Lagerfeld never sent me another bouquet of flowers – especially because his flowers are the most beautifully chosen and arranged you could ever see – if my children or my grandchildren didn’t send me a bunch of flowers or, more importantly, didn’t talk to me or something, I would be devastated… [Fashion’s] not the whole centre of my life.
My role is about me writing.
I am the central force, but what I say goes out to 19 different Vogues across the world, and because one of the great strengths of Vogue is that each magazine is independent, and so very much of the character of the editor of the magazine, and the photographers that she or he uses and all the things that make it a personal magazine to a certain country or area, are reflected in the way my pieces are used so that they can look visually very different or they can actually somehow feel different… So I have this feeling of working with nearly 20 magazines, which is really a very exciting thing for me.
It’s certainly not a great [fashion] show because I like it and I personally want to wear it.
I like it because it’s good. And there is a tremendous difference there, but I realise that this is not the way of doing things now. Now it’s about me and it carries on to the fact that, you know, ‘Dolce & Gabbana have given me this great handbag’ or whatever. So much is all personal now and I’m absolutely not in that school in any shape or form. I don’t accept gifts and that’s why I don’t have to play that game. I don’t have to be nice to designers because, you know, they are not going to send me a handbag anyway!
I don’t go fawning around to be nice to advertisers.
Because fortunately I don’t have to, but I appreciate that this is more complicated for people whose life’s work depends on that, but I think the point is I’m not a magazine editor. I would be a very bad one. I am a journalist and that’s the difference.
What sustains me…
is the fact that I am very fascinated by fashion and I am, in general, a very curious person. If I have a choice of having my hair done or going to a new exhibition or seeing a new designer, I can never put my hair first, even though it’s supposed to be my emblem… I think [what I do] is exhilarating. Of course, you have to instantly wipe out in your mind the boring shows so that you keep your mind clear for the brilliant ones!