Most people still think that sustainable fashion is, well, frumpy. But Suzanne Rae is changing this perception with every ready-to-wear collection she designs. With social awareness, slow fashion and sustainability as a part of the label's foundation, Suzanne Rae makes a point to incorporate luxurious yet socially- and environmentally-friendly materials in designs that are inspired by and made for the progressive and modern woman. Keep on reading as we chat with Suzanne Rae about her inspirations, her feminist approach to fashion, and how she is sustainable in her day to day life.
When did you first start designing clothing?
When I started attending parsons in 2004.
What’s your fashion background?
Design at Costume National and Morgane Le Fay and also retail at Chloe and Prada during school and when I started my line.
When did you know that you wanted to design your own clothing?
3 weeks into design school.
How do you stay grounded amidst all the work and stress that comes with being a designer?
Through my family. They remind me of what is important in this life and also to make time for each other.
Favourite thing about being a designer?
I get to make things that I imagine.
Worst thing about being a designer?
Endless desire to make something I don't have. It's an insatiable hunger.
Favourite city to visit?
Where do you find your inspiration for your collections?
Various places - movies, books, galleries or museums, life...it changes all the time.
If you had to wear one pair of shoes from your collection for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
The D'orsay. I find it comfortable and versatile.
Your latest collection includes shoes (which we are obsessed with). How did you find the design process different from clothing, and did you enjoy it more?
It's different bc I'm not making the patterns or seeing it from a cobbler's perspective (as opposed to the clothes where I have to knowledge to be doing or to be involved with the pattern making). But bc of this I feel the design process is more purely about the imagination, which in some ways is less work and therefore more fun.
What have you learned after designing your first shoe collection?
Feet are all shapes and sizes!
Favourite book you’ve read?
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
We love Suzanne Rae’s feminist approach and involvement with women’s groups around New York City! Can you tell us a bit about your social outreach?
I volunteer primarily with Women in Need (WIN) and Girls Inc. In Connecticut. With WIN we have been doing different art / fashion related activities with the children and/or the moms, with a focus on self-expression or empowerment. And with the fw17 collection we are donating a percentage of our sales. As for girls Inc. I started out doing similar volunteer activities, which eventually led to my helping them relaunch their sewing program 3 years ago. It's a great program that not only teaches the girls to sew and have a vehicle for self expression, but they also learn so many important life skills like patience and problem solving. Also, all the volunteer teachers who have come to help out have been incredibly amazing. The program has truly been a source of inpiration for me.
Hmmm... Don't know. I think in general I get most annoyed by people who have a lack of regard for others. Whether that's hugging the pole on the train, taking up too much space or leg spreading so others can't sit, or cutting the line. Maybe cutting the line is the worst and so uncivilized; obviously there are others before you who have been waiting...
Why do you find it so important to keep social awareness and sustainability at the core of your collections?
It keeps me grounded and makes me remember what is important in life, including why I do what I do. I think fashion sometimes gets a bad rap as a superficial or silly concern, but I think the contrary; I'd like people to understand the insight that fashion involves and can offer.
How are you sustainable in your day to day life?
Oh there are so many things that I do and so many more things that I probably should be doing. I think it boils down to awareness and then conscious practice. Of course I recycle, though I want to start composting, but don't yet. most of our lights at home are on sensors so we don't risk wasting electricity. As far as clothing is concerned, I wear things over so as to avoid over washing things and wasting resources. We also use environmentally friendly cleaning products and detergents that not only save our earth but also make cleaning a more pleasant experience lol. I also air dry most of my clothing, which not only saves energy but saves the clothing itself. We buy a lot of thrift when it makes sense and we donate whatever we are getting rid of instead of throwing out. We really throw out very little. And of course buying locally and responsibly. That's important too. Did I forget anything? Hahaha...