We’re enamored with Suzanne Rae, the Brooklyn based designer who merges feminine looks with masculine undertones in her minimalist garments — all of which are comprised of locally sourced, sustainable fabrics and materials. She designs with the modern, progressive woman in mind, and while many of her pieces flirt with menswear inspired cuts, her collection remains effeminate at its core. We asked her all about the concepts and practices that fuel the Suzanne Rae line, here’s what she had to say. — Bethany O’Grady

brooklyn fashion design suzanne rae

SHK: YOU’VE DESCRIBED YOUR LINE AS BOTH FEMINIST AND FEMININE IN PHILOSOPHY. WHERE DO FEMINISM AND FEMININITY MEET IN YOUR WORK? WHERE IS THE DIVIDE?

SUZANNE RAE: I don’t look for the divide, only where they meet. I think that by the structure of our current society, they seem already divided to us. So in my work I strive towards an aesthetic that is feminine in that it responds to our natural/biological female instincts and characteristics (curves, soft lines, sensitivity, sensuality) as well as feminist — that is, progressive, conscious and strong. Women are, and can be, all these things at once. Sometimes we just need to be reminded and encouraged.

WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU: THE WAY YOUR PIECES LOOK ON THE BODY, OR THE WAY THE WOMAN WEARING YOUR CLOTHING FEELS IN THEM?That’s a tough question. Both are important and to me go hand in hand, but I think the ultimate goal is that women feel good (liberated, confident, positive, caring) and therefore can spread the good.WHERE DOES THE PRACTICE OF CREATING LOCAL AND SUSTAINABLE WOMEN’S WEAR STEM FROM?

From my point of view, that fashion can be used as a tool for social change. I want women to move beyond superficiality and find meaning and purpose in their conscious choices, including the clothes they decide to put on themselves to represent themselves.

WHICH FABRIC TYPES DO YOU HAVE THE MOST FUN WORKING WITH? CONVERSELY, WHICH FABRICS DO YOU TYPICALLY AVOID IN YOUR COLLECTION?

I love working with any fabric that feels good to the skin, especially natural fibers. I love silks, of course, but I also love cozy chunky fabrics. I don’t know that I necessarily avoid any fabrics, but I do try to source sustainable fabrics, although it’s still hard to find beautiful eco-friendly fabrics that aren’t too “earthy” and that meet the small minimum yardage that a smaller designer like myself can work with. I mean I love earthy, but it’s finding a balance between high fashion and sustainable.

suzanne rae brooklyn fashion designer

THE FABRICS LOOK GORGEOUS IN YOUR LAST VIDEO LOOKBOOK! HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU IN THE PRODUCTION OF YOUR LOOKBOOKS?

I’m very involved. I love doing it. Similar to the runway, it’s another way for me to really express a complete thought. I always start by telling the directors what I want to convey (the mood, the inspiration), and then they come back to me with a treatment, which I then look over and we go back and forth about ideas, concepts, shots, etc. Then, when we’re shooting, I’m there the whole time also directing the movements of the models/actors because I want to make sure that my brand is properly represented.

WHAT’S IT LIKE UTILIZING THE GARMENT DISTRICT? CAN YOU SPEAK TO SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF HAVING EASY ACCESS TO THE HUB OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY IN NEW YORK, JUST A TRAIN RIDE/BOROUGH OVER? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WORKING IN BUSHWICK?It’s great having the Garment District. Without these resources smaller and emerging designers wouldn’t be able to realize their vision. Working out of Bushwick is great, but I can’t produce my production for store orders out of my home; I don’t have the manpower or money to do that. So having the garment district enables me to make my vision a viable business. That’s why supporting “made in America” is important. Otherwise, where is the future of American fashion?COULD YOU EXPOUND UPON THE RELATIONSHIP YOU FEEL EXISTS BETWEEN BUSHWICK AND FASHION? IS THERE ONE AT ALL?

That’s a good question. Yes there is a relationship in that artists, more and more, are infiltrating Bushwick — and artists always have a consciously constructed appearance. So I love the people watching. It’s not “fashion!” as most people view it, but it’s inspiration to me nonetheless. I just love the change and evolution and grittiness of the earnest people around me here. That’s plenty of inspiration for fashion in my opinion.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE MUTED YET ETHEREAL COLOR PALLETTE YOU WORKED WITH IN YOUR S/S 2013 COLLECTION?

With the S/S 13 collection, I wanted something soft and minimalist. A lot of it was inspired by Francesca Woodman’s photography, which is both delicate and strong. I wanted that, but because I’ve been feeling minimalist (shedding the excess), and I know a lot of people have been too, I wanted to make it really simple. Minimalism to me often has masculine overtones, so I wanted to find the femininity in that. Hence, the soft, feminine color palette.

WHAT TRENDS DO YOU THINK WILL CONTINUE ON INTO 2013, WHICH DO YOU THINK WILL FADE INTO OBLIVION?

I think minimalism is the way to go. I think people are tired of the overly embellished. I think that’s the zeitgeist in general. Shed the excess, reassess our priorities.

 

See. Minimalism

Hear. Silence

Know. Yourself

Comments

comments