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“I dress for art. There is no division for me between life and art. Life is art, art is life. When I leave the house, I don’t want to leave it behind. So I wrap myself in it. I make my own clothes or I have artists make it for me.”
There was no doubt in mind as I approached Stories, the Hackney café-bar located just off London Fields, that the colourful woman loitering outside of our meeting spot was the subject of my interview. In a time when older women are embraced and even coveted, the New York-born Londoner of more than 30 years, Sue Kreitzman, is a proud pioneer of what she calls the ‘old lady revolution’. With her large red glasses, a wardrobe staple since she was just 15 years old (she is now 75) the artist sits in front of me, eager to share her stories.
“Nothing has been difficult because I just fell into it,” she says to me over coffee. “What was going to happen was going to happen…it just sort of happened organically.” Most would consider Sue’s earlier work as an entire lifetime of achievements, but in reality it was just her warm up. Her career path is one that is nearly impossible to categorise and her proudest moments can not be limited to a single fold.
Having spent her 20s as a teacher in the states, Sue went on to develop a name for herself in the culinary world, publishing an astounding 27 cookbooks as well as making frequent contributions to newspapers, magazines and talk shows. It wasn’t until the mid 90s that she discovered her calling in art. “I always knew that I was very bad at art… I was told that in all my art classes at school and I never even doodled. And then one day,” she recalls, “I picked up a marker and I drew a mermaid and I got completely and utterly obsessed with drawing. It was as if I had discovered this new secret talent and I couldn’t get enough of it.”
I know what I like and I wear it and it changes because I’m always making new art and I’m always putting it on my body…that’s what it’s all about
For over a decade now Sue has experimented, developing a reputation in London’s artistic community and beyond. She is a constant embodiment of her energetic collages at home, in her studio and, most notably, in her quirky style. More recently, Sue has been asked to join a panel alongside Pandora Sykes, Kim Howells and Davey Sutton to discuss the new documentary based on the life of Iris Apfel.
Sue is the questionable doppleganger of Iris, and is frequently mistaken for the 93-year-old gem, but is quick to correct the common misconception: “We are similar with our over the top style and we both have short silver hair but she’s much older than I am, she’s much richer than I am, she’s much thinner than I am and she’s not an artist. We are very, very different.”
Both women, despite their obvious differences, have acquired a position on the ever-changing fashion scene and use their standing to bring life and colour to the sea of little black dresses. Sue Kreitzman has embraced the ‘old lady revolution’ with vigour as she exposes the world to her unique outlook on life, fashion and, of course, art.
“I don’t care about fashion, I don’t care about hemlines, I don’t care what is in the high street,” she says. “I don’t care that this colour is here, that colour is there. I know what I like and I wear it and it changes because I’m always making new art and I’m always putting it on my body…that’s what it’s all about.”
Sue Kreitzman will be participating in a panel discussion about style, self-expression and taste at The Book Club on 29 July, following a preview screening of Iris, the documentary about style icon Iris Apfel. BOOK HERE.
Words by Nora Maloney
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