V Finds: Suzanne Rae

V Finds: Suzanne Rae

OUR LATEST FIND, NEW YORK DESIGNER SUZANNE RAE, BRINGS US A SPECIAL TREAT ALONG WITH HER LATEST SOPHISTICATED COLLECTION: THE CEREBRAL FASHION FILM/ INTERPRETATION OF NAM JUNE PAIK'S FAMOUS 1984 INSTALLATION, GOOD MORNING MR. ORWELL, SHOWN IN ITS ENTIRETY FOR THE FIRST TIME EXCLUSIVELY ON VMAGAZINE.COM

OUR LATEST FIND, NEW YORK DESIGNER SUZANNE RAE, BRINGS US A SPECIAL TREAT ALONG WITH HER LATEST SOPHISTICATED COLLECTION: THE CEREBRAL FASHION FILM/ INTERPRETATION OF NAM JUNE PAIK'S FAMOUS 1984 INSTALLATION, GOOD MORNING MR. ORWELL, SHOWN IN ITS ENTIRETY FOR THE FIRST TIME EXCLUSIVELY ON VMAGAZINE.COM

Text: Wyatt Allgeier

Suzanne Rae - Good Morning Mr. Paik 2015 from Standard Production on Vimeo.

WYATT ALLGEIER I want to start off by saying that it’s a treat to address your video. It’s rare that a “fashion film” is able to summon so many concepts with such fluidity and maintain it’s main objective, which is, of course, to showcase the designs.  I want to begin on the technology front. The uses of fashion to heighten or neutralize our engagement with technology, screens, and interfaces can be found at the core of your interpretation of Nam June Paik’s Good Morning, Mr. Orwell. Could you speak to the aspects of the film that riff on technology?

SUZANNE RAE Film and riffing on technology was one of the many ideas that I was examining when I was first considering using Paik and his work as the starting point for my collection. It seemed like such an abstract concept to use with clothes, but I knew that I didn't want to do anything too literal. I eventually decided on committing to Good Morning, Mr. Paik as a means to create the mood of the collection while expressing more clearly my thoughts on Paik, Orwell, art, technology, intimacy, clothes, performance, communication, the present, and the future. I asked artists Kate Falcone and Lindsey Eskind to work with me on developing and expanding on these ideas. We discussed operating systems, communication, dangerous side effects of these, human curiosity, and the reality of over-stimulation and exhaustion as we were writing the vignettes for the film.

WA The choice to use a video as a springboard for showcasing your work requires a full commitment to casting characters with motivations and individuality, not to mention aesthetic choices of setting and pace. What are your hopes in regards to the ways your designs and fashion in general can effect the wearer's performance of daily life?

SR Well, first of all, Paik used and worked with performance artists in Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, and I loved that and wanted to do the same. Plus, it made sense for me to work with Kate and Lindsey, because I needed someone to start discussing my ideas with in depth, and Kate and I have many similar interests and already have these sorts of conversations anyway. I feel like I learned so much from working with both of them on this. We thought about using models and actors, but I really wanted them to do it because they already do so much of this sort of thing for their own work and understood the concept better than anyone we could have found. Furthermore, I am in favor of an empowered beauty, which they both possess. This wasn't a "fashion look-book video," but more a video using clothing to offer a mood and express a concept.

WA The video pays great homage to both Paik, aesthetically and conceptually, and Orwell, via Paik's work, but also in relation to Orwell's ability to be a prophet of surveillance, management, and apparatuses of control. What drew you to build a bridge between your design work and these cultural figures? Do you find that "Fine Art" and "Literature" often find their way onto your inspiration board?

SR Yes and yes I do look to fine art and literature as inspiration. Previous collections’ inspiration has included Francesca Woodman, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, and Thea Alexander.

My first job out of college was working for Holly Solomon Gallery where Nam June Paik was an artist we represented. I already knew of his work from my art history classes at Bryn Mawr, but it was through Holly that I really got to know his work. As for Orwell, I got into dystopian literature as a teenager. You know, with the usual suspects that also include some of the aforementioned authors. I think a lot about the present and the future when I design, specifically, with regards to sustainability and feminism.

WA Yes, the sustainability focus in your work is clear. In your material sourcing and production practices, this is central, and in the video you seem to play with the fact that as the world changes, new concerns for practicality and perseverance arise (i.e. Falcone and Eskind wearing suntan goggles outside in the metropolis). In your design process, how much does practicality factor into the final outcome? Where in the process does design-fantasy get molded into considerations for the consumer, the changing world, and a conceptual stance?

SR I'm totally into practically. I think because I live in NYC, and it's a tough life here—the subways, the crowds, the cold, the heat—I’ve become very practical as I've also become more fashion savvy. I saw this past [New York] fashion week a lady wearing, like, 8" stiletto platform Louboutin boots on a day that it was snowing a lot, and I just felt bad for her. I mean really, the poor lady could barely walk. It was almost grotesque like the "Scary Beautiful Shoes" video by Leanie van der Vyver.

But that visual aside—it makes me feel uncomfortable—what I want to do is to bring out the best in us, which I know sounds cheesy, but when I say this I mean that I want people to encourage other people to think, and to think for themselves. Like, I like this article of clothing because it references x, y, and z, and makes me feel comfortable and sophisticated without looking like I'm trying too hard or actually trying too hard, or, I like this shirt because it's super versatile, it's locally produced, and the inspiration came from this artist who I want to learn more about and also read up on the history of women and the industrial revolution, or, this utilitarian jumpsuit is so cool, and I'm totally intrigued by uniforms and I wonder why that is becoming a trend...I'm just giving random ideas, but this is my idea of thought-provoking clothing.

WA You mentioned operating systems as a topic that arose in the process of creating Good Morning, Mr. Paik. What angle did that discussion take?

SR In regards to operating systems, we talked a lot about control, of course. But also, we addressed Siri and the intimacy in the film Her. The silly pizza scene in that movie was a focus of ours. Do you know it?

WA Yes, I know the scene. It was definitely an important moment in the film and what I most appreciated about that scene in particular is the honesty of our real relationship with operating systems. While most theorist and commentators on technology often mingle around the extremes of opinion—that OS technology is 100% wonderful and part of a "brighter future" or that these advancements are putting humanity in direct, dire danger—the film finds a more sincere middle ground that realizes that it is possible to be wary of OSs and still have truly sincere moments. I think your film captures this well, showing a world that retains its “human-ness” in the presence of new tech.

SR Thank you. Humanizing technology was a focus of our exploration.

WA On this theme I want to circle back to earlier when you mentioned exhaustion and over stimulation. Exhaustion is such a buzzword these days, having become so widespread. For those of us in the fashion world, the sense of exhaustion is highly felt with increased production cycles, constant news feeds, social media marketing, and endless accessibility due to email/phone expectations. How do you handle and manage your work schedule to avoid being brought to the point of exhaustion? Do you have decompressing methods?

SR I am definitely guilty of being attached to my phone, but I definitely try to not work on weekends. I like to stick to a nine to five schedule and while I'm working, I'm working. I barely take lunch breaks and try to not talk about anything that doesn't have to do with the work at hand. This way, I get a solid eight-hour workday and when I can go home I can take a break. To be honest, I do a lot of thinking and correspondence at night between nine and midnight and also early in the morning between six and eight before I get into the studio—damn laptops and phones—but I do very rarely work late at the studio. A very late night for me and an intern for example might be eight PM, but we start at nine AM and are most productive in the morning. To decompress I watch something online, usually Netflix, like Scandal, and when I'm really truly over-stimulated, I meditate.

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