Susana Martinez Vidal has been invited by Latin Women's Initiative to visit Houston's Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, September 28th! Get your tickets to see Susana speak about the 20 Fashion & Life Lessons that Frida Kahlo Left Us - plus, get your copy of her book, "Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being," on Cooperativa and bring it to get it signed by the author!
C: Tell us about your history working for Elle.
SMV: It was all very peculiar. Before I knew it, I was 24 and had launched a magazine called “Razazza,” which hit an editorial boom. At 29 I became the youngest director for Elle, the world’s best-selling fashion magazine, and now I’m publishing my first book with Assouline in the U.S and the rest of the world. I’m not sure why intermediate phases aren’t really my thing and I don’t think it’s necessarily an advantage, but I miss them. When you’ve landed a job that carries so much responsibility and at such a young age, it’s only natural that people start to work at your pace and you start to trust even more so in yourself. And that is something I think has been my secret.
When I was 24, Hachette (the publishing house) came to me with a proposition – to develop an editorial project solely focused to the younger generation. They were toggling with the idea of making a musical magazine for both sexes (it was during the time Bravo and Super Pop were booming). I was given the opportunity to travel around Spain and work with different groups to help define the concept for a whole year, a luxury that I appreciate because it was truly a lesson in life. I learned that the market only knows what it doesn’t want, and that guessing what It wants is one of the most fascinating and complicated missions that exist. I convinced myself that the new magazine needed to be a fashion one, because younger girls weren’t just reacting to the groupie profile anymore.
Four years later, Hachette (which published both magazines), asked me to become Elle’s director. They didn’t offer it to me directly but they hired the services of a head hunter who concealed his client’s identity and passed himself off as the competition. The international directors from Paris asked for an internal report before confirming my position as Director of Elle because they thought I was too inexperienced. At 29, I became the youngest director of Elle Spain, the leading edition out of the 30 running at the time, and lasted almost 18 years (and also in charge of Elle Deco for seven). It was in that industry that I learned that I would always be wonderfully accompanied but absolutely alone.
C: How did you jump from a career in fashion to writing your book? Tell us a bit.
SMV: Shortly after moving to Mexico in 2012, the Huffington Post asked me to write a blog post about the newly opened exhibition showcasing Frida Kahlo’s dresses. After seeing this fantastic show at the Museo Casa Azul in Mexico City, I began to remember all those images of Frida from the runway shows and decided that the subject deserved a much more in-depth approach. At the end of my article, I expressed my hope that one day a book would be able to tell the extent of Frida Kahlo’s influence on fashion. It was a challenge I threw myself into, daring to take the step. For months, that article was one of the most read and it only convinced me that there was a part of Frida that was still alive. “Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being,” is the realization of that dream.
The root of the book is to show the influence of Frida Kahlo in contemporary fashion and pop-culture from the get-go, and also explain why it still seems so modern in the 21st century.
My goal has been to unravel Frida Kahlo’s constant obsession with fashion and to decipher why her style continues to provoke an uncontrollable attraction across the planet, despite the fact that it’s an industry that’s always in constant motion.
After reading this book, I would like for readers to have a different look on fashion and to bring them closer to one the most beautiful, unknown, and unappreciated sides – the intellectual, artistic, and sociological dimensions that go beyond vanity and consumerism.
Valerie Steel, the director of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York and recently vindicated as one of the most authoritative voices in the world of fashion said, “when we talk about fashion, it seems that we’re talking about the bastard daughter of capitalism and female vanity. But what this debate is really about is our struggle to take the place we deserve in the world of the arts.”
C: Your all-time favorite must-go-to museums.
SMV: St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum, the MET in New York, and the V&A in London.
C: Your top three favorite spots in Mexico.
SMV: Sailing through the Sea of Cortes starting from La Paz in Baja California, Blanco Colima for lunch in Mexico City, Cuixmala (the only jungle reserve in the Mexican pacific), and Oaxaca for its extraordinary fusion of tradition and modernity.
GET YOUR COPY OF SUSANA MARTINEZ VIDAL'S "FRIDA KAHLO: FASHION AS THE ART OF BEING." BRING IT TO HOUSTON'S MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28TH TO GET IT SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR!