It's a sunny Tuesday morning down our neighbourhood, and what better way to spend it than with our newest girl crush – the inimitable Susan Bender. Effortlessly charismatic, incredibly articulate and undeniably stylish, these are only but a few words we would use to describe the stylist come creative consultant. Whilst taking a leisurely stroll down the road, we chat with Susan on her journey from music to fashion, and her inspirations from Hello Kitty to Comme des Garçons.
First off – tell us about your nickname. Why Kitty-su?
Kitty-su came from my obsession with Hello Kitty. I had everything in Hello Kitty – from the toaster (that imprinted her head on toast!), beauty cases, tea sets, and even PJ's! Still lusting after the bicycle which has a tyre imprinted with Hello Kitty. Haha, I'm just a big kid at heart!
We heard that you worked in the music industry for awhile. How would you say working in this industry was like compared to where you are now in fashion?
There are many comparisons you can make with both the fashion and music industry – I would say working now in fashion is a lot easier for me. I wanted to be an artist or creator on a visual level but not a performer, so my path and creativity seemed to flow more easily once I made the jump from music to fashion.
How did you get into styling and costume design? Was there a pivotal moment in your career that led you to this?
I was working with stylists Charlotte Stockdale and Phil Poynter on a book called 'Impossible Image' by Dazed Media, where I was a styling assistant and photo editor respectively. I enjoyed the styling side so much more and started my journey in this under Charlotte's wing, subsequently working with designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, and Sonia Rykiel. It was then that I started to understand all about the cut and details, to eventually getting more involved in clothing design through their pattern cutters that I started to think about costume design.
As you've done acting, could you tell us some of your favourite films?
I have a whole film discography in my head with too many to list! My choices depend on my mood so today's selections would be: Intouchables, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Black Panther, The Piano, The Leopard, Up, and Avengers: Infinity War.
What has been the most exciting part of your career so far?
The most exciting part of my career so far has been working with brilliant designers across the globe, and on Fashion Rocks – which took place in the Royal Albert Hall in London, and in Monaco. I was the fashion director for the whole project and worked with every major designer – plus Whitney Houston, Björk and Grace Jones to name a few.
Let's get into fashion – do you prefer vintage or new?
I would definitely say vintage as you can find rare and one-off pieces to mix with new purchases to help create your individual style. When dressing, I like to look different and unique!
Could you tell us some of the projects you're currently working on?
I'm currently working with Beazie – a fine jewellery designer, on all her visual media and a few projects as a contributing editor for Vogue UK.
What trends do you see coming up in fashion?
I find trends run in a cycle of about 10 years, so the pieces I have in my wardrobe always come out every once in a while. For this season, I have this incredible tie-dye dress from Comme des Garçons from about 10 years ago which I've resurrected and always love when military comes back into fashion.
Time to travel! What's your favourite destination and why?
At the moment, it would be the north coast of England. The beaches are breathtaking!
What do you never leave home without?
Definitely my phone, lip balm, a packet of tissues and a mini umbrella.
What would be your dream vacation?
Somewhere out of space amongst a galaxy of stars and planets.
What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
To embrace my boldness and leap into situations fearlessly.
Quick question – cats or dogs?
I'm a dog person but recently, I bought a cat for my husband. I'm totally in love and now a cat person too! I would also have to be such with my nickname being Kitty-su.
Lastly, a question we ask everyone – what do you wear to sleep?
Nothing if I'm sleeping with my husband, and YOLKE cotton pyjamas when I'm sleeping alone.
Thank you, Susan! This has been so much fun!