Mar 10th, 2020, 01:08 PM

The Dazzling Power of Susan Alexandra

By Linnea Wingerup
Author Linnea Wingerup in Susan Alexandra's world. Image Credit: Linnea Wingerup
Fashion month may be over, but it’s worth taking a look back at one of the most stand-out shows of the past few weeks.

When I first stepped into the free beading class of fashion brand Susan Alexandra on one hot afternoon in July, I was immediately captivated by the wondrous world designer Susan Korn had created.

At the Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysees, brightly-colored beads dotted the tables before us, some shaped as pastel shells, fruits and other eclectic curiosities. The shiny mirrors and reflective shelves surrounding the space were decorated with Korn’s iconic beaded bags, as though the space itself was wrapping us into her kitschy and maximalist utopia. Everyone attending chatted and beaded as Korn herself, outfitted in a cherry-printed dress, a myriad of beaded necklaces and pale blue strappy sandals, flitted from table to table complimenting various outfits and smiling faces. When I went up to Susan toward the end of the class to ask for a photo and for her to fasten my creation with a final knot, she beamed and obliged with a bubbly enthusiasm that was positively infectious.


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That jewelry-making class may have been many months ago, but my first taste of what ManRepeller has called “the endearing cult of Susan Alexandra” has only pushed forward my appreciation and love for not only what Korn has artistically accomplished with her pieces, but how she is challenging the industry as a whole. Described as “a bubbly, positive yente by nature,” this past month at New York Fashion Week, the designer debuted her newest collection by way of a self-directed musical, rather than the more traditional presentation or runway show.

The show, about 20 minutes long, followed the loosely-autobiographical story of Susan herself deciding to open her first shop in SoHo, and the many struggles that came up along the way. In an article with Nylon, Korn says that “the theme is loosely based on my career. It's about a girl, a sort of Wizard of Oz theme. Her dream is to own a store in SoHo and she is clawing her way through just to exist in New York, which we all know is very difficult.” Performers were clad in brightly-colored unitards and tutus, as well as intricately-beaded tops, sparkly makeup, glittering jewelry, and, of course, Susan Alexandra’s signature bags slung on one arm. 


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The story was heartfelt and personal and showed a strikingly intimate and vulnerable side of the industry that many designers look past in the presentation of their collections to the public. This risk did prove to be a massive hit, with publications like Paper describing the performance as so “filled with heart and raw joy that even the most cynical fashion snob must have felt compelled to quit pouting behind their sunglasses and sing along.” 

“When I took my mom to her first fashion show she asked me why the models looked so ... sad. Bored. Angry. Sour! I realized at that moment that if I was to ever show at fashion week, I would do something completely the opposite,” Susan wrote in an Instagram post the day of the performance. “Every show I create is a reflection of what I believe fashion should be: inclusive, joyous, funny and welcoming.”


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Susan Alexandra’s cult of fashion lovers, performers, creatives and just all-around kitsch enthusiasts refreshed the possibilities of fashion week and the prospects of the industry as a whole. With the aim of “bringing joy and sparkle to everyday life,” Korn’s designs have proved to light up rooms, faces, and adorned arms, as “exuberance and excess” ring true throughout her handmade pieces. Her fearlessness and clear love for craft and the unconventional in a terribly conventional industry have opened the eyes of creatives and consumers who need something fresh, Instagram-worthy and simply joyful to brighten up their day. 

As a self-proclaimed bead and fruit fanatic, Susan Alexandra’s aesthetic both delighted and enforced my love for all things charmingly quirky. The dazzling pink-toned necklace I created that day back in July (complete, of course, with strawberry beads, pearls and tiny stars) is a sort of armor that pairs beautifully, of course, with the pastel blue babydoll dress in my closet, all the while acting as a splendidly feminine beacon of Korn’s sunny spirit.

Author Linnea Wingerup with Susan Korn herself at beading class. Image Credit: Linnea Wingerup