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Monday, October 26, 2015

Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch

I'm aging myself; Everyone says nightlife in NYC was better back in the day. The Fashion Underground: World of Susanne Bartsch is the current exhibition at the Museum at FIT that proves it was true.

When I first came to NYC in the 1990s, it was the tail end of the rave era. Underground parties were extreme events where you were expected to wear the most creative designer outfit imaginable. As a young fashion design student, this was a challenge to be met every night you stepped out.

photos by Mariana Leung

The Queen of the clubs was Susanne Bartsch

Sure, you had lots of drag queens on the scene, but she was a glamorous icon for the club set. She brought London chic to Gotham. The Museum at FIT is paying tribute to the socialite's best looks. They included Haute Couture creations from designers like Rick Owens, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, The Blonds and Jean-Paul Gaultier, helping to propel their names to fame. Her patronage of wearable art also helped define up-and-coming creatives like Zaldy and Leigh Bowery to prominence.

Bartsch spoke at a symposium last week about her journey from Switzerland to London to NYC. She is still inspired by the artists and designers breaking out today. Other speakers like Hamish Bowles, Simon Doonan and Joey Arias told their tales of how she influenced everything from magazines, retail stores, gay culture and modern nightlife.

People make enjoy the minimalism of skinny jeans and a skanky top for a night out today. My old soul will always yearn for the glamour of an epic rave in a Gothic church or a corseted runway in an old train tunnel. Clubbing to me was a ride down a three-story slide wearing a spiral velvet bra and giant fur coat.

Susanne Bartsch is still throwing parties. To catch her exhibit,  you need to head to the Museum at FIT before December 5, 2015.

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