Curator or collector? This lady is no dilettante, no lunch lady, no shopaholic, and no hoarder of clothes. Rare is the person who understands fashion, let alone one that possesses great personal style. Even more rare, especially in these times, is a fashionphile who speaks her mind and please consider the source of those words. Possibly the most precious jewel of all is the individual who is of independent and unique style who does not appear to be a float in a parade of bad fashion and fleeting trends. Her fashion prowess comes from her mother, a woman of acute taste and elegance as well as her own personal hunger for education and understanding of great fashion.
Ms. Suppes’ book, Electric Fashion which she co-authored with Frederic Aranda, illustrates what happens when a woman is devoted to fashion and yet is not obsessed with it; she is no fashion victim. Christine Suppes, who honors me with her friendship, is one of those people who enter your life as serendipitously and then becomes someone you share with because she just gets it and gets me and that’s pretty hard to find these days.
Christine Suppes is a mother, philanthropist, collector and connoisseur of fashion and most of all a devoted friend to those she loves. While all this might sound as if fashion plays a minor role in her life, that assumption would be misguided; she is always fashion conscious and thoroughly educated when it comes to fashion. She is well known among the fashion cognoscenti as she has been a presence for decades, albeit, not in plain sight.
Jeffrey Felner: Can you give us a brief synopsis of the how and why you became such a huge collector or fashion?
Christine Suppes: My mother, Jane Johnson was my earliest and most important fashion mentor. She talked about Mainbocher, Courrreges, Geoffrey Beene, Galanos, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent in tones some might employ in discussing saints. This did not pass me by. I loved how beautiful and elegant she always looked, and vowed when I was a small child to learn these names and who these designers were. I began to study their clothes, became obsessed (the apple does not fall far from the tree) and began my collection, starting with an Anne Klein gray flannel suit with a thin burgundy leather belt in 1975.
JF: What was the genesis of Electric Fashion and how did it come about? How did you meet and decide that Freddie was going to be your partner in crime and what’s next in terms of book or projects?
CS: Freddie and I met in New York in early 2009 during Fashion Week through a mutual friend, Jeanine Celeste Pang. Freddie is so charming and so intelligent that when he casually mentioned he was a portrait and fashion photographer I thought I might be great fun to work with him. I was thinking these photographs would be a personal record. But when Freddie came to visit me in California and saw my collection, he convinced me that we should consider a book project with me as the model. I was hesitant at first, as I am not model age. But I had done pioneer things in the past, specifically one of the first online fashion publication I began in the 90s. So I thought “Why not”? It was another pioneering sort of thing and I obviously adore challenges. The genesis was Electric Fashion, a comprehensive examination of my clothes on me, sometimes in situ and in still life, with close-up images of particularly beautiful embroideries or other details. We are working with our publisher now on a second project, examining the elegance and diversity of my home state, California.
JF: It is well known to me that you have a special affection for both Rodarte and Alexander McQueen, can you tell us why and also who else is constantly on your radar?
CS: Rodarte and McQueen have never let me down. The fit works for my long, lean frame and the aesthetic is both feminine and cutting edge. Commes des Garcons, which I have collected since the late 80s is also on my radar, especially as Rei Kawakubo who will be the 2017 Met Gala honoree, the first living designer since Saint Laurent in the early 80s to be so. I love the work of Simone Rocha. I could spend hours in the London Dover Street Market. I am crazy about almost everything they sell.
JF: What is your opinion of fashion today and what would you do if you could change it? What do you suppose has been the biggest deficit in fashion today?
CS: I am least impressed with Italian fashion and make it no secret. You will not find it in my collection. I think the habit of these major Italian houses to outright steal from younger, smaller designers is shameful and a disgrace. Likewise I find Alta Moda a dog and pony show with entrance going to the highest bidders. Chanel’s show this past spring in Havana was a clear misstep. In a country where people live on twenty dollars a month, what was Chanel thinking—giving their hardcore base a thrill looking at poverty whilst swanning around Havana in couture? Disgraceful! On a more positive note, I think America’s top fashion schools are turning out future stars who will be prepared to deal with the certain changes…”immediate fashion”, use of video and other technologies.
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
CS: Yves Saint Laurent, Robert Towne, the screenplay writer, the 18th century philosopher David Hume, Princess Diana and Hillary Clinton. Why? Saint Laurent is my number one fashion god. Robert Towne wrote the screenplays for Chinatown and Shampoo and that’s enough of a reason for me. David Hume was a rationalist who could hold the conversation together and indeed was often called upon by royalty to do so. Diana was a fashion icon and a mystery who will continue to fascinate ten thousand years from now. Hillary Clinton will become the first female president of the United States and there is nothing more I need to add to that!