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In a world of white spaces and clean lines, Susan Alexandra says “no”. The brand, which has slowly crept from New York cult status to worldwide fame, is a burst of many things – energy, colour, fun – but minimalist, it is assuredly not.
From her smiley-face pearl earrings down to the hand-painted enamel cuffs that stack her wrist – on which hangs a sparkling I ♡ NY beaded bag – Susan’s style is that of our childhood dreams; our arts and craft projects realised to their highest potential.
Nostalgic for simpler times of summer camp, tie-dye and body glitter, the brand offers a sartorial portal to the playfulness which often gets lost in a world of political turmoil and a nine-to-five job. A Susan Alexandra piece is the grown-up equivalent of a blankie, providing comfort in hardship and promising brighter times in bleak moments – because honestly, it’s a whole lot harder to be sad when you’re wearing her Tiny Joys necklace, which features mini-renderings of a rainbow, french fries and cash.
Born in Ohio and made in New York, Susan and her brand shine a (fluorescent) light on the pockets of vibrance and creativity that can be hard to find in concrete jungles. Here, she lets us in on her insuppressible imagination, dreaming in beaded bags and favourite Chinatown haunts.
New York City
Type of brand:
Jewellery and accessories
Where did you grow up?
Define your brand:
Funny, whimsical, authentic and made with love.
Who do you have in mind when you’re designing your accessories?
It’s not so much a person but the feelings that I hope to inspire and the joy I want to spark. That’s what I think about when I’m designing.
What does your creative process look like?
It’s very internal; something I saw in a dream or imagined in a quiet moment.
Susan Alexandra is so colourful and wonderfully “anti-New York”. Why did you choose New York to start your brand?
New York is a magical and inspiring place; it’s a city that pushes you to the depths of your mind and creativity. I think my work is a response to the hustle and sometimes bleakness of NYC.
You live in Chinatown and your bags are made in Chinatown. What are your favourite Chinatown haunts?
Buddha Bodai for vegetarian dim sum. NomWah is a lot of fun when you have friends in town – it’s parent approved too. Pho Bang and Pho Vietnam are great for food, and you have to try the oranges and persimmons sold by the area’s street vendors.
How should we spend 24 hours in New York?
Walk absolutely everywhere. ABC Home for inspiration; Kiki’s for vibrance and Greek food; Flower Power to pick up herbs and tinctures, finally followed by dirty martinis at Bemelmans Bar.
How closely is your brand connected to your hometown of Ohio?
My work is very personal, so all of my designs are a reflection of who I am. I spent 18 formative years in Ohio and my work is not so much of the state’s cultural or physical landscape, but a reflection of who I became during that time. It’s from a lack of vibrance that you learn to create your own inner world of beauty and wonder. That’s what inspires my work.
If you could see your designs worn by anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my mother, my grandmothers and Frida Kahlo.
Three destinations on your travel wishlist…
Portugal, the South of France and more of Mexico.
A pearl of wisdom to give your younger self…
You are where you’re meant to be.
Your secret to accesoring à la Susan Alexandra…
Colours, patterns, shapes, sparkles, ease, comfort and humour.
And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?
My jewellery and bags, a camera (aka my phone) and palo santo for cleansing hotel rooms
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