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Gotta Have a Gimmick

Chris March explains why he was initially dreading working with Susanne Bartsch.

To be flat out honest, I was dreading having Susanne Bartsch as a client on the show, simply because she is truly one of the people in New York (and the world!) who can honestly say, "Been there, done that," about the fashion world and her own personal outrageous style. She has had the best of the best -- Vivienne Westwood, Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen -- all custom make outfits for her. Few people in the world are on a first name basis with the legends of avant-garde fashion as Susanne is. We have been friends for years, and with my new show, the time finally came for me to dive in and try to make my mark on Susanne Bartsch. A little history...Susanne of course grew up in Europe (how else did she get that wild mixture of accents?) and was a wild child on the club scene in London, Paris, etc. When she moved to New York in the ‘70s, she was shocked at the lack of fabulous, edgy clothing she had access to in Europe, so she opened a shop in the Village selling cutting-edge club fashion to the New York scenesters. Soon, she became the Queen of Manhattan nightlife, opening clubs of her own and hosting notorious parties for the rich, famous, and just plain outrageous. So you can see why I might have my hands full...

Susanne turned out to be a hoot to work with, and we actually chatted so much and so fast at her apartment the first day that the producers had to eventually stop us! As with all people who have a honed-edge vision of what they like and don't like, I learned a lot from my experience with her, as she reminded me to keep my thinking away from "gimmicky." My favorite thing in the episode was a miniature leopard fur hat that we made (if you look carefully, you will see Alex holding it) to give a fabulous finish to her twisted "ring master" look, but in the end it just didn't go with the mohawk she ended up wearing. It will always remain one of my favorite things that I have ever made. After some, well, adjustments to our original idea, I think the outcome was a smash, and it glowed with that kind of show-stopping perfection that I always strive for. It is always inspiring to have a client with almost no fear, but it also opens a whole Pandora's Box of other issues. You can quickly find out that too big is too big, too colorful is too colorful, and of course, that too gimmicky is too gimmicky.

See you soon,   


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