Front-row fashion-watchers tend to be in one season, out the next, but one woman is a fixture: Suzy Menkes. Anyone who’s been to a show has likely seen the International Herald Tribune’s critic, her bangs flipped into that signature top-roll, typing away on her mini computer (long before any blogger picked up on the trend, it should be noted). She’s written over 1.7 million words for the Trib, where she’s served as fashion editor since 1988. She’s both a tough critic and a nurturing presence—or, to put it more bluntly, as Kate Moss did when speaking to the New Yorker, she’s “like a slightly mad auntie.” During the upcoming menswear shows at Pitti Uomo, Menkes will be awarded the Fiorino d’Oro, an honor given by the Municipality of Florence to individuals who have greatly contributed to social and cultural development. For anyone in need of a primer on Menkesism, a few key moments in her rise and illustrious career:
—Menkes attended her fist couture show—Nina Ricci—while living in Paris and studying dressmaking during her gap year between high school and university.
—While at university, Menkes would sneak into the Paris show venues at 5 a.m. and hide under the stage until she could creep out and watch the collections walk down the runway.
—In 1991, during a Michael Kors show in an apparently derelict loft, a piece of the ceiling fell on Ms. Menkes’ head. The mishap caused her to deem New York fashion week “second rate.” But there was a silver lining—the incident caused New York’s designers to show their future collections in a single, less dilapidated, location—Bryant Park.
—In the nineties, Menkes prompted what was, perhaps, one of fashion journalism’s earliest open letters when she declared that the classic quilted Chanel bag was “over.” The house took out a full-page ad in the Tribune in protest.
—In 2007, perturbed by Marc Jacobs’ infamously tardy Spring 2008 show (it began two hours late), and unimpressed with his collection, Menkes wrote a review titled “Marc Jacobs Disappoints With a Freak Show.” Naturally, a fashion feud ensued. Jacobs eventually attempted to make amends by leaving a Marc Jacobs T-shirt on Menkes’ seat at that season’s Vuitton show. The shirt featured a drawing of the designer and critic side by side, as well as a “love note.” The note she may have appreciated; the gift, maybe not. She famously refuses all gifts, saying, “I was brought up to believe a girl should never accept anything but flowers and chocolates.”
—In 2012, Menkes reached her latest pinnacle: animation. Disney artists created a cartoon Suzy to sit front-row for the festivities surrounding the Barneys New York and Disney holiday windows.
—Katharine K. Zarrella
Photo:Dave M. Benett/Getty Images
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