Fern Mallis Puts Suzy Menkes in the Hot Seat

Suzy Menkes was the guest of Fern Mallis’ Fashion Icons talk last night at the 92nd Street Y, following in the footsteps of Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs. Naturally the opinionated, 25-year veteran of the Int’l Herald Tribune didn’t hold back. Here are her more memorable comments…


On Kanye West’s fashion pursuits…
“What I would say to him, particularly after his absolutely brilliant performance Monday, is ‘Don’t give up the day job.’ Or in his case, the night job.”

On John Galliano’s troubles…
“It’s a tragedy. We know that creative people have all sorts of demons. I would never say that I love Hitler in any shape or form ever, and I don’t know many people who would. That’s not to say that somebody with such brilliant talent shouldn’t be given some kind of second chance. But how you do that is difficult.”

On the state of European houses…
“Tragically, all of the big bosses never come to me. I am sure they go to Anna [Wintour] and ask her advice. I tell people what I think, and that is probably not what they want to hear. Fashion houses are like families. Yves Saint Laurent was absolutely built that way. People were treated like family and they felt like family. It isn’t like that anymore. It’s much tougher, not necessarily better or worse.”

On going digital…
“It’s equivalent to the revolution and what a privilege to live in such an era. It’s a question of whether you use it intelligently. I try to train myself not to go home at midnight and start looking at my emails. I don’t always succeed. I have a Facebook page. I am not tweeting at the moment. During the collections, I am absolutely flat-out. It is very heavy. Heavy is the wrong word because I love it. But it is an enormous amount of work.”

On decreasing poverty in Africa…
“I went to Africa four times last year. The level of handwork is just magical. I went to Nairobi, where they have collectives making bags for Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney. If these things can be properly regulated by honorable people, then fashion can be a wonderful way of getting people out of poverty.”

On working conditions in Bangladesh…
“There has to be a change in mindset by the consumer. It’s about saying there is something morally wrong about having a swimsuit or dress that costs the same as a cappuccino. I don’t think the answer is the Disney answer. To pull out would be a catastrophe because that’s the only industry they’ve got there.”

On not accepting freebies…
“I don’t go where I am paid to go, and I think that is the way it should be. Someone like Valentino, such a generous man, so many times he invited me to go many places you can’t even remember what they’re all called. I never went on the boat even though he asked. Of course, I didn’t really have the bikini for it.”

On writing bad reviews…
“When you know a designer whom you all admire is losing it, it’s terribly painful because you feel for them and at the same time you feel for yourself, not wishing to stick the knife in. I tend to soften a review if, for example, somebody has lost a partner to AIDS. You do not then go in.”

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