SUZY MENKES: Smitten With Style

By Jim Shi

Live streaming videos and social media may have forever changed the fashion show landscape, but Suzy Menkes remains indefatigable in her pursuit of first-rate copy. Here, we asked marquee designers what they had to say about the famous Suzy.

"I have never thrown anything out of my wardrobe since 1964." No, the author of the aforementioned quote isn’t a supermodel but, rather, what many in the fashion industry deem a super woman. Long before bloggers and street-style stars graced the front rows of the most exclusive fashion shows with social media platforms at the ready, there was Suzy Menkes, OBE—typing away at her laptop, seemingly oblivious to the hullabaloo surrounding her well-lit screen. In one year, Menkes, who turns 70 this Christmas Eve, attends over 600 fashion shows and writes over 360,000 words for the International Herald Tribune—adding up to over 1.7 million words in the esteemed newspaper since she joined in 1988. Ironically, Menkes, whose title will go from fashion editor to international fashion editor when the IHT is rebranded as the International New York Times later this year, originally wanted to be a fashion designer herself. "But I think my name is better on a byline than on a label," she said. "The emotion you get from clothes is not so much from a garment itself as from the experience of it."

A tough critic with a gentle, mothering, hand—Kate Moss described her as "like a slightly mad auntie" to the New Yorker—Menkes, a self-described fashion maximalist, has received many accolades over the years, but none more impactful—to the New York fashion community, at least—as the formation of an organized Fashion Week after a piece of ceiling fell on her head in 1991 at a Michael Kors show held in a derelict loft space. Indeed, there’s very little the intrepid Menkes won’t do to get the story. To wit, in an effort to snag an interview with Naomi Campbell, Menkes once told Alitalia she was the supermodel’s "colleague" at check-in so the clerk would seat them next to each other. And lest we forget, Menkes got the first scoop that John Galliano was going to work at Dior when she happened to be in the same cab the British designer had taken the previous night and listened attentively as the cab driver relayed everything he had overheard.

As her auction, "In My Fashion: The Suzy Menkes Collection," nears its close, from her highly-coveted Emilio Pucci pieces to designs by Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Janice Wainwright and Foale and Tuffin, the total sum of Menkes’s wardrobe is enough to make Marie Antoinette blush. In addition, the fantastically excessive creations by Gianni Versace, Christian Lacroix and go-to favorite Yves Saint Laurent are also on the block.


Designer Quotes on Suzy

Burberry Chief Creative Officer, Christopher Bailey: "Sassy, sharp and spirited, Suzy is in a class of her own. A true one-off."

Roger Vivier Creative Director, Bruno Frisoni: "One of the last major voices, who remains curious to see everything, every collection, from the most important ones to the smaller, more anonymous collections… because she is passionate about authenticity and creative sincerity. Her keen sense of analysis still makes her so young in her reviews."

Calvin Klein Collection Women’s Creative Director, Francisco Costa: "Suzy is a benchmark for all fashion critics with her professionalism and stamina–topped off with her uniquely English sense of humor. It is always an honor to receive a review from her, because she has such a keen eye and knowledgeable perspective on fashion."

Lanvin Creative Director, Alber Elbaz: "When I am designing an invitation for a fashion show, I will write Suzy’s name on the trial proof. If her name looks good on it, I know I can send it."

Roland Mouret, Designer: "It is great when people in fashion know about the legacy of the industry, Suzy is one of those people and has forever been original and impartial with her work. This auction will be at the level of her writing—unique and unquestionable Menkes…but is she going to auction her quiff??"

Valentino Creative Directors, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri: "Suzy has become a guiding light in many ways for the fashion industry. Her culture and vision about fashion and times is objective, backed with substance and knowledge. We have always respected her 'open minded' point of view as it makes you reflect. We love her snapshots of people and moments: it would be fantastic to print them all and see the fashion era through her eyes."

Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana, Designers: "Suzy Menkes is one of those rare personalities who, thanks to their culture and professionalism, were able to give to the world of fashion a cultural layer and, in time, to become a symbol of fashion journalism all over the world. It doesn’t matter if one agrees or not with her opinions, what we have always admired of her work is her unique capability of saying what she really thinks at all times."