“Express yourself, be yourself” – Susanne Bartsch
The World of Susanne Bartsch
at The Musem at FIT, NY
Through December 5th
Susanne Bartsch is a well known muse for fashion designers and makeup artists. Born in Switzerland she moved to swinging London as a teenager, and ended up in New York in 1981. Bartsch opened a boutique in Soho while still on a tourist visa, something that today is unthinkable. She was also one of the first New York retailers to import British designers to the United States.
It’s not quite an exaggeration to say Susanne Bartsch has ruled the New York club world for decades. She has hosted out of this world parties, covered in high-fashion, fantastic makeup and wigs in every major club since the 80s and you can still see her on the dance floor. Since her first event in 1983, a fashion show called “New London in New York,” Susanne has produced countless parties, for art, fashion, philanthropy and fun.
“ It’s really the people that make me wanna do it, because I see the people having fun, I see people they don’t know each other saying “Hello”, the smiles, the flirting together..It’s all about energy which makes the party good. It’s allowing people to be who they want to be. Acceptance, freedom of being yourself it’s really what i’m about’
F.I.T is celebrating the “Queen of the Night” with an exhibit entitled : Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch. An incredible curation of over 80 of her best fashion moments, featuring designs by major names like John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, The Blonds, Thierry Mugler, Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood as well as underground geniuses like Zaldy and Pam Hogg, among others.
In an alley full off graffitis completed with aluminum trash cans, visitors are greeted by a lineup of mannequin partygoers dressed to impress and a doorman equipped with an RSVP list ,including names such as Andy Warhol and Anna Wintour.
“It’s so New York, I should have had a rat run around somewhere, too,” says Bartsch.
In the main exhibition gallery, the first section focuses on the 1980s English fashions that Bartsch introduced to New York , displayed to evoke her boutique.
The second and largest section evoques a nightclub with a disco ball, thumping music, and dozens of partiers mannequins. It features a variety of the creations that Bartsch and her friends have worn at her famous club nights at Savage, Copacabana, and Le Bains, with a special section devoted to the AIDS balls. Highlight here; the Thierry Mugler “egg” wedding dress she wore to her own wedding.
“Transformation is Creativity.”
The last section of the exhibition evokes her apartment at the Chelsea Hotel, the red sanctuary, center of her creative world, where the collaboration on these clothes takes place. It’s painted China red, and on display are recent creations, brilliant and bizarre.
The Blonds’ JAWS corset of 2013, for instance, is mounted with a huge gaping shark jaw filled with blood-red crystals!
But it didn’t end there, Bartsch also took part in FIT’s 15th annual symposium, which focused on her powerful influence. Speakers included Simon Doonan, Stephen Jones,and Hamish Bowles, who focused on the fabulous ’80s club scene in London, the New Romantics and the 90’s Kids Club Scene. Genderfluid times, raves, bringing up the pop star in everyone and the consequence of capitalizing the subculture.
I was thrilled and delighted to have the opportunity to assist the event. It was mindblowing!
Bartsch’s conversation with Dr. Valerie Steele, who was the curator of the exhibit, was fascinating . The two touched on everything from: Bartsch’s famous Love Ball benefits for AIDS,to her relationship with the genius performance artist and designer Leigh Bowery, to her wild wedding to gym owner David Barton. Bartsch also hit on her beloved corsets: “They suck everything in, they improve your posture, they’re fantastic!”
Life in 1980s New York was not just a party, AIDS was devastating the community. As her friends began dying, Bartsch notes that she “survived this period by becoming a fundraiser.” In 1989, she organized the Love Ball, one of the first and most important AIDS benefits. Over the next few years, she raised a total of $2.5 million for AIDS research .
It takes courage, to do what she does, letting visions, ideas and dreams come to life.
“Acceptance, freedom of being yourself it’s really what i’m about.”
– by Brunilda C.