The upcoming exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art will display Susanne Bartsch: Art-a-Porter from July 29 – November 12, 2017. The exhibit will feature 35 looks spanning Bartsch’s career including designs by Alexander McQueen, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Zaldy, and the Blondes. CITY, the annual fashion fundraiser for the museum, will take a departure from the traditional fashion runway show and with the influence of Bartsch, create a fashion “happening.” METRO had a chance to chat with New York City’s famed event producer and “Queen of the Night,” Susanne Bartsch, about her career, inspirations and future.
METRO: Tell us about your brand and your thoughts behind producing these “art & fashion” events.
SUSANNE BARTSCH: My brand, like any is really about my eye and my taste. I’m not really doing anything I haven’t always been doing. I’m interested in a certain mix, which I guess results in its own flavor, like any recipe does. And over the years, my tastes have developed, broadened and changed. But I’ve always been interested and always been selling art and fashion. I produced an art show for Trojan, who was Leigh Bowery’s collaborator ages ago in Japan. My shop was definitely about fashion and art. Creating it as an event is really streamlining a concept I’ve always had, but when you express it as an event, it’s more concentrated, and you’re not stuck with a lease and merchandise sitting there.
M: To keep current and to continue to push the boundaries, where do you find inspiration today?
SB: I think keeping current is really just about keeping your eyes open to what’s around you. I also move in many different circles and age groups. I definitely am always thinking about what is modern. It’s a word I probably use a lot in terms of expressing what I’m interested in. But of course taste is very subjective, and so keeping current is one of those instinctual intangible things. I’m probably always rooting for the underdogs, and once something has become too mainstream, I probably lose a little interest. So in terms of fashion, when I see something different, I find it fresh. And I like it. And usually something’s fresh when it’s still a little underground. So maybe that’s how I keep current. I like things that are different and things are usually the next big thing after they’ve been the next weird thing. I like them when they’re the weird thing.
M: What can guests expect at CITY this year?
SB: An interactive presentation of some of my favorite up and comers from New York. Everyone I am bringing is an independent designer, with very singular visions. There will be performance art hosts who work in the realm of “Self Couture,” who will be mixing and mingling with the audience, and I am inviting a few designers to show their clothing styled together and with those of other designers. Since my parties are always about a mix, I thought it would be interesting to reflect that in the show. So, there will be some total head to toe single designer looks, and there will also be looks where the skirt is designed by one person, the top by another, and the accessories by another.
M: What makes a great party?
SB: Mix, mix, mix. Mix the people, the music, the decor concepts, the clothes and ideas.
M: Many designers in the fashion world are departing from the traditional runway shows, how are designers showcasing their looks today? Are many leaving the mainstream? Why?
SB: Fashion has become such an important force in the media. Because it’s become so important, it is also become extremely competitive. And because it’s so competitive, a designer has to do anything they can to standout. Of course, the best way to stand out is to make terrific clothes, but innovative presentation of the clothes helps. I was honored to be asked recently by Adrian Landau, deferred designer, if I would help her stage her most recent fashion presentation. She loved my Halloween party at the MOMA and she wanted to stage something with a similar feeling. We used the concept of living everyday life in a theme park, complete with stage sets to depict each area of the park. We had a transgender bride on a horse, we had Amanda Lepore in pasties, for not much else as a glamorous mother surrounded by children in a park setting. We had glamorous ladies of the evening on an urban street set. We had Hindu gods, and we had a tropical island and the disco. There was no beginning, middle, or end to the show, it was simply an environment where the clothes were being worn by the models and the guests could come and go as they please. I love that Fashion Presentation Concepts are opening up and changing, and I am planning to work on more of them.
M: What new and different ways are designers presenting their fashions?
SB: I think that in terms of different ways that people are presenting fashion, the skies the limit. People wear clothes. It’s a very fundamental part of life like eating and sleeping. And so, depending on the clothes somebody’s showing, the Fashion Presentation could be a rock concert, it could be an art exhibit, it could be a rodeo, or it could be a circus or a combination of all of them. I think people love to be surprised and thinking outside the box is what generates new fresh and exciting ideas. Also, social media has really changed the landscape and is a way to reach massive audiences. Tighter budgets too are a factor, so showing a collection via video and social media instead of a live event, is becoming viewed as the norm.
M: You create interactive vignettes/moments, merry looks, fashion, and art. You call them “happenings,” can you explain?
SB: My happenings are basically a place for me and other artists that I like, to express themselves and showcase their work. I’ve produced all kinds of shows from art shows to fashion shows to theater shows to cabaret shows, and so I guess you would call me a multi-disciplinary curator. I have very strong ideas about the way I like to present things whether it be the decor or how an outfit looks. I’m a person who expresses herself aesthetically. Some people express themselves with words, painting, singing, acting, which none of them are my strong points. I feel more comfortable expressing myself visually and so I’m able to do this in my “happenings.” I’m able to develop my own eye and I’m able to give people I like, the chance to develop and showcase their eye. You can’t really develop your work in a vacuum, and so I like providing platforms for people to experiment and grow.
M: At your events, what feelings and memories do you want guests to leave with?
SB: I want people to feel happy. I want people to feel turned on. I want people to feel joy. I want to pick people to feel freedom. I want people to meet people, that maybe, they wouldn’t have met anywhere else. I want people to celebrate life and I want to celebrate life with them.
M: What is next for Susanne Bartsch?
SB: Lots and lots of things. The main thing being the documentary, which is currently making the festival circuit. I went to the Life Ball, which is the worlds biggest AIDS benefit in Vienna. I’m working with Bloomingdale’s on a sort of pop-up bazaar, doing a book with Francois Nars. Those are a few things that are coming up. I’m also trying to develop my line of couture lashes. It’s been slow going, but it’s a project I believe in and I think this is the time and market for it.
My Follies Cabaret/Show is going really well, and I am working on going on the road with it and making it bigger. And I’ve been spending a lot of my personal free time being a good old fashion Swiss Frau and making pies. I’ve connected with my joy of baking and making onion pies and peach pies, and all kinds of pies. So, who knows maybe I’ll give Patti LaBelle a run for her money with Bartsch pies. But come what may, I love the business of bringing people together, creating events and platforms for people to express themselves, and I am very, very excited to work with the Tampa Museum of Art. M
CITY: Art-a-Porter: Susanne Bartsch
The exhibition coincides with CITY, Tampa Museum of Art’s annual fall fashion fundraiser to be held on September 9, 2017. For sponsorship, tickets and more information, visit www.TampaMuseum.org.
Featured Image Credit: Photographer Steven Menendez
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