Suzy Menkes’ words tell a poetic, observant story of fashion over the past twenty-five years, tracing back to the androgynous opulence of the 1980s when she first began working at the International Herald Tribune, to the Gaultier-Galliano madness of the 90s to the rapidly blurring lines between fashion and technology in recent years. Her words have acted as a standing ovation for the mavericks and revolutionary designers of our time, while delicately analysing the social changes faced by our economic climate. She has come to be an authority, a stamp on taste and style, always underlined by a sense of realism and a sharp wit. In celebration of 25 years at the International Herald Tribune, and as a limited edition magazine is published collating all of her writing for the newspaper, AnOther pick our top five Menkes moments that demonstrate her unique blend of astute analysis and her almighty way with a bon mot.1. “Broken bride’ said Rei Kawakubo, who stayed backstage as the exceptional Comme des Garçons show was greeted by a seven minute ovation. With its grace, beauty and sweet melancholy, it captured the mood of the season and its penchant for dark romance.” — 7th March 2005
Rei Kawakubo’s infamous A/W05 collection of chalky, glittering make-up, floral headdresses and embroidered lace and ruffles was a universal sensation, and representative of Kawakubo’s consistently radical designs and vision. Menkes has watched Kawakubo rise from her Paris debut in 1981, to her most recent A/W14 collection which she described as "like a Medusa’s head entwined with serpents.”
2. “Antwerp Belgium – it was like a film noir in a medieval dungeon: ghostly white figures with pictures projected on their bodies. But behind this dramatic scenario was a rack of intricately cut, well-made clothes in back and grey.” — 23rd June 1998
'The Antwerp six' was coined in the early 80s as a collective term for a new wave of Avant-Garde Belgian designers including Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Menkes was on the front row to welcome them into the fashion industry, a realm which they continue to occupy and change today. In 1998 she dissected the work of then-graduates Bernhard Willhelm and Kris Van Assche at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, both of whom have grown into globally renowned designers. This demonstrates not only Menkes' support for new design but also her extraordinary eye for burgeoning talent.3. “The tension at the Céline show on Sunday was like a wire vibrating as it was stretched to the limit. Could the designer Phoebe Philo, whose industrial elegance has set the agenda for a new female vision, pull off a second coup? From the moment that a model in a precise navy coat stepped onto the geometrically blocked carpet of a runway, Ms Philo proved her worth… not since Jil Sander drew the template for chic severity in the 1990s has there been such a precise vision." — 7th March 2010
Céline’s A/W10 show presented the second collection by new Creative Director Phoebe Philo. It would become a benchmark for sophisticated elegance and proof of Philo’s worth as a designer.
4. “A backstage dispute is summering in Italy over the cult of the supermodels, which is taking over the runways, swamping the clothes and sucking up the fashion industry’s money. Both designers and buyers, in Italy for the start of the International fashion season, are concerned that the escalating costs of runway shows are pushing up prices and that the image projected by these goddesses of the runway may even be alienating customers.” — October 9th, 1991
The turn of the decade in 1990 saw the rise of the Supermodel: Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evanelista made their break on the catwalk and transformed fashion week forevermore, birthing the commodity-factor and the idea that the status, personality and commercial viability of a girl was equally as important as the clothes that that she wore on the runway. Menkes broke down the rising costs of a fashion show and challenged this theory, something that continues to be a hot topic today.5. “If the Hedi Slimane debut – and his first ever woman’s collection – succeeds, he might consider the ultimate revival: bringing back Yves Saint Laurent haute couture. The face off between Raf and Hedi, on the couture stage, would be worth its weight in hand-cut feathers.” — October 15th 2012
S/S13 saw the much-anticipated debut of Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent. Dropping the ‘Yves’ from the house title, this welcomed a new chapter of smoking suits, flounces, wide-brim hats and ultimate Parisian chic. Menkes' prediction above still hangs in the balance — will we see the return of YSL Couture?
Text by Mhairi Graham