Always had a big fashiony crush on Suzy Menkes, until recently the longtime International New York Times (I'm old enough to still call it the Herald Tribune) Fashion Editor, now at Vogue as International Fashion Editor.
She's not the usual fashion editor type: check the map-of-England face, offbeat pompadour ("I got sick of my hair falling in my face") and ample figure.
Menkes, who auctioned off her wardrobe and accessories at Christie's last year, claimed to have discarded nothing since 1964. She was always a big woman; to see her in a Harper's Bazaar slideshow, in four decades of wild chiffons, prints and brocades is to be buoyed by her verve.
She has said, "Fashion
ultimately is designed to cover the human body, to give you joy, to make
you feel better", and "...That's what I love, real luxury, the
kind of luxury you can feel and smell—I will always spend the extra
money to get a silk vest, not a cotton vest."
In preparing her wardrobe for auction (because she ran out of storage space) she said, "...going through my personal collection...taught me a lot about myself... I am an untypical fashion editor, who has totally failed to sculpt a
day-to-night wardrobe out of a block of black outfits. And that I love
color! Black—who needs it?"
At seventy, Menkes has apparently kept her integrity (she returns or donates designer swag) and heart. After the 2013 Bangladesh garment factory tragedy, she said: "...It's
not just about the manufacturers putting money into safer practices,
it's about the consumer—we need to realize that it's morally wrong to
buy a bikini for the same price as a cappuccino."
I adore Suzy Menkes for wearing ensembles like these:
She does in fact wear black occasionally, but softened by transparency and texture:
But more often, black is the base for an overlay of vibrant colour in the highest-quality fabrics:
With Menkes' departure and Cathy Horyn's retirement, the New York Times Syle section loses two distinct voices. But we can still read Menkes via Vogue, and here's a treat: her piece on how a present day Cool Girl's wedding dress echoes her '70s Ossie Clark. (Who else can write, "I called up Celia (Birtwell) who, along with Zandra Rhodes, was
the greatest hand-printer of them all...").
As 2014 draws to a close, a Menkes-minded New Year's resolution shapes up: to live my elder years with her example of exuberant elegance in mind.