Journalist Suzy Menkes, who’s been leading fashion coverage at the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times) since 1988, is not one to share her personal fashion choices. (After all, what good is a fashion critic that doesn’t begin her day on seemingly neutral ground?) So it was interesting to learn that Menkes planned on auctioning off a good chunk of her wardrobe via Christie’s, revealing her designer preferences beyond the obvious. (Anyone who has observed Menkes over the years knows she has a penchant for Issey Miyake.)
In My Fashion: The Suzy Menkes Collection, includes more than 80 pieces from Menkes’s closet: Christian Lacroix coats, Emilio Pucci shift dresses, and even a cushion from a Chanel runway show. The online auction ends today, and I was fortunate enough to correspond with Menkes via email (I imagine her spending this brief time between the couture and the spring shows gardening in rural England) about the collection, but also to get her thoughts on present-day fashion: from the crazy price hikes to the most exciting runway shows.
Fashionista: You’ve never been one to talk much about your own clothes: the designers you wear, that sort of thing. Why did it feel like now was the right time to let everyone into your wardrobe?
Suzy Menkes: Ah, ha! But I have been very smart. These are my clothes covering 25 years from late ’60s to early ’90s. I am not talking about current designers, but about those who have become part of fashion history: Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Jean Muir, Emilio Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent because they have sadly passed away. Christian Lacroix, because he is now a costume designer for opera and theatre. So I am not really giving much away about designers–although I have loved them all.
What are some of your favorite pieces in the collection and why?
I love the Pucci pieces because they are part of my own falling-in-love-with-fashion history. I went to Florence with my friend Idanna Pucci, Emilio’s niece, when I was just 19. His colorful, beautifully crafted shows were a revelation. The Ossie Clarks are divine–so whimsical and recalling that moment of Swinging London. There was such freedom in the early 1970s about the way we dressed–skirts weeping the floor and a great mix of color and pattern. In Yves Saint Laurent’s little black dresses I felt like a real ‘Parisienne’. I am really too eccentric to be seen in that way, but the Saint Laurent pieces were so smart and easy to wear. And of course, I love Lacroix for his sense of decoration and his fearless way of creating crazy, beautiful fashion.
You say you’ve never thrown anything out since 1964. What didn’t you include in the lot?
My Biba pieces that fell to bits, although they were wonderful to wear at the time.
How have your shopping habits changed over the years?
It’s the prices that have changed!! I used to spend, relatively speaking, quite a lot of money on designer clothes. But there was not then the huge gulf between high street and high end. An evening outfit or a handbag at the ‘high end’ was twice, or maybe even three times the cost of basics. But now that gulf is AT LEAST 10 TIMES. With bags and shoes it can be 15, even 20 times the basic price. I think very, very hard now before I invest in expensive clothes or shoes. They have to work as hard as I do!
You’ve been covering every fashion season for many, many years. Is there one that is more exciting to you than the others? (Fall, Spring, Fashion Couture, Spring Couture, Mens?)
Haute couture in Paris used to be my favourite–in the days of John Galliano at Dior and the great Saint Laurent shows. Now there is not much couture left. But at least there is time to savour it. I suppose Paris ready-to-wear is still the most exciting, because of all the designers from across the world who want the crowning glory of making it in Paris.