5 minutes with Suzy Menkes

Discusses her auction with ELLE

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And so to Christie’s, where ELLE got up close and personal with In My Fashion: The Suzy Menkes Collection, which is officially open for bids as of now.

Among the treasures were classic 70s maxis by Ossie Clark, a divine bow-backed YSL cocktail dress, heaps of brasher-than-brash 80s Lacroix – and, of course, Suzy herself, who sat down for a round-table discussion about all things fashion in front of an audience that included Mick Jagger, L’Wren Scott and pretty much all of London’s young design talent.

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We caught up with her for a few words before curtain up.

Why did you decide to sell your private collection?

I’ve never really believed in sleeping beauties and I felt it was time for my clothes to wake from their long sleep inside travel trunks – and live again.

How did you decide which pieces to sell?

I selected on a time plan – almost everything from 1966, when I came down from Cambridge, to 1991 – 25 years. Some things – like Missoni pieces and those from Zandra Rhodes - I have kept, because I still wear them.

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How many pieces do you have left and how do you store them?

I don’t have anything now actually in store. But I do look after my clothes carefully, especially winter wools. I am hysterical about moth and react to one flutter of wings with horror. I put winter clothes in cloth (not plastic) covers in summer – and vice versa. But these days, like most people, I have a year-round wardrobe with a few high summer and deep freeze clothes as extras.

How did you go about choosing the pieces that you’ve invested in over the years?

Looking at my clothes, I realised that I always choose the same kind of thing: a sensible base and cut, but lots of colour and pattern. In the early years it was Pucci or Ossie Clark, but now my Dries Van Noten coats fill just the same mission: optimistic clothes for a busy person.

What’s the one piece in your collection that you would never sell and why?

My wedding dress – for the obvious reason that it is so dear to my heart. It is quite traditional – white lace with a butterfly pattern and dates from 1969. I wanted to have Ossie Clark make my dress, but he was a creative, imaginative designer who was not too good at getting things together.

Will you continue to collect once the sale is over?

My clothes were never meant as a ‘collection’ – they were just pieces that caught my imagination, tugged at my heart strings – and what I could afford. I do love coats, because I am always chilly. And I like the mix of wild pattern and rigorous tailoring.

What advice would you give to someone beginning to collect fashion now?

Follow your heart and not your head. I never bought my clothes to sell. I chose things that inspired me and expressed how I wanted to look at a given moment. I am only happy for other people to have them – and, I hope, love them.

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