“I’m in my old lady era,” Susan Korn tells me from her colorful apartment on the Lower East Side. “I was just traveling in Italy, and the most inspiring thing was not the art, not the food, not the architecture—although those things were amazing—but the very put together Italian older women and men.” It was, she explains, their perfectly coiffed personas and the dignity with which they carried themselves. She found a muse, one might call it, for both her designs and her personal style.
Korn’s own label, Susan Alexandra, has come to be known for its maximalist color palette and beaded bits and bobs. The origins of which happened a bit by accident. The Ohio native studied at Columbia College in Chicago, then dabbled her way through the fashion industry, interning at Jean Paul Gaultier and Interview. “Gosh, then jewelry,” she pauses during an account of her career trajectory. “I really fell into jewelry.” Korn hit her stride apprenticing with designers like Jill Platner, though honing her craft in areas like metal-working often led to more mistakes than successes—at least technically. The young designer would simply paint over imperfections and wear them as is. Her own body a walking billboard for her aesthetic endeavors, people in her community began to take interest. That side hustle slowly evolved into the whimsical world of Susan Alexandra. “People always say that my pieces are very kitschy and reminiscent of something else,” she says. And “I feel that too. I don’t love anything that’s too modern. I like being a little bit behind the times in a very traditional, special way.”
Her home provides the perfect laboratory for all this creativity. Her kitchen cabinets reflect every color of the rainbow. Blobby light fixtures descend from the ceiling. The main wall houses floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with her collections. Beaded Susan Alexandra bags perch like sculptures next to books, tchotchkes, and framed photographs. The array of trinkets and treasures serves as an homage to the odd, the feminine, and the eclectic. “I like to have things that are inspiring really close,” she explains. “I feel like I subconsciously see these things all the time. So when I have to design something, I can pull in all the colors and references without even trying.”
The vibe of her own wardrobe isn’t far off, either. Korn’s wistful affection for the past translates to a closet full of vintage. “I feel like I was born in the wrong time, all the time,” Korn muses. She’s currently inspired by clothing of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, anything Louis XIV and ultra ornate—think Marie Antoinette adorned with lace and bows at Versailles. Her most popular vintage search term? Floral, just floral. In her multiple closets, you’ll find collections of old Moschino (specifically of the ‘Cheap and Chic’ era), Issey Miyake, and Miu Miu, all of which she likely purchased from The RealReal, eBay, or Poshmark. “I really like something to feel like it could transport you to a different era,” she summarizes.
This mixture of interests results in items like one pink and green rose-adorned lace-trimmed communion dress she found on Poshmark. “I feel my best in a dress,” she notes. Another favorite look is a sparkly matching set she made based off an old fairy costume she found at an antique mart. But when she’s running to the Bodega or walking her chihuahua Pigeon, it’s paint-stained UNIQLO pants or loungewear from Suzie Kondi. There are days I wake up and I wish that I was one of those minimal girls who had perfect jeans and perfect white T-shirts,” says Korn. “But I know, at my essence, that’s not me.” According to her, fashion should “delight.” Click through the details of Korn’s otherworldly closet and home below.
“The cool thing is whenever somebody who’s in their eighties sees one of my bags or jewelry, they’re totally delighted. And people who are eight years old are totally delighted. So I love the timelessness and the agelessness of it.”
“Fashion has such a power to make us feel a certain way. Art has a power to do that. So I love the idea that I could create something that makes somebody feel delight.”
I really love Issey Miyake. It’s the most comfortable thing to me in the world. I’m always look for [old] Issey Miyake.”
“The cardigan and the camisole are part of Rosette, which is my other job. My friend Dorian and I, (she’s an amazing stylist) started this line because we really wanted to wear matching sets made of really special fabrics. So we just launched it in the last couple months. The blue is my favorite color that we make.”
“I think that I always had a distinct style and there were always things I really loved, but I was still very much swayed by my surroundings and wanted to be the girl wearing Juicy Couture and Abercrombie and designer jeans at the time that those were all very in. I never had parents who would buy me expensive full price items. So I was able to cobble together outfits from thrift stores or hand me downs or TJ Maxx. That was my thing. I would be scavenging for treasures in all of these random places and putting together outfits that I thought looked really cool and in style. But kids don’t really appreciate that in the suburbs. I can’t imagine people are like that in New York, but having distinct style that stands out when you’re in high school and middle school was not cool.”
“I have three tattoos. My first tattoo, I had just moved to New York and I was with my best friend at the time. I felt very empowered that I could make a choice to do something so permanent to my own body. Then the eye represents protection. And the rose was in honor of my grandmother who had just died. But the irony is that if she had seen this, she would’ve lost her mind. This is no honor to her.”
“Growing up, I had a friend whose aunt who owned this fabulous designer store in Chicago. She had these Miu Miu baroque carved wooden heels. They were unlike anything I’d ever seen. They looked like they belonged in a medieval chapel. So I look for them a lot and have found them, but these are as close as I could. They’re like mermaid shoes, they’re Lucite. I have to weigh them, but I think that they probably weigh at least 10 pounds each. And they’ve never been worn, but I think they are so spectacular. They’re sculptures. They were expensive, too, but I had to have them because they were so important.”
“I love to hunt for vintage Moschino. Moschino ‘Cheap and Chic,’ which was pre-Jeremy Scott Moschino.”
“I wanted to have a built-in shelf to put all my tchotchkes and books on. A friend of mine literally measured my collection of stuff and he built this sort of display to house all of my things. I like to have things that are inspiring really close. And I feel like I subconsciously see these things all the time. So when I have to design something, I can pull in all the colors and references without even trying.”
“The dress is by Tyler McGillivary, who’s a friend of mine. She’s a Brooklyn-based designer who always makes really, really special, innovative pieces. I saw this on her Instagram and I had to have it immediately. I just think it’s like a fairy goddess dress.”
“I never really thought that this would be my life. I didn’t have a business plan, I don’t have business partners. I had a dream and I wanted to do it, but I didn’t believe it was possible. So I’m still in shock every day. I’m still in shock that we’re having this conversation.”
“I think everyday I’m still experimenting with what I’m comfortable with and there are days I wake up and I wish that I was one of those minimal girls who had perfect jeans and perfect white T-shirts—and was comfortable. I feel like I wear ridiculous things sometimes. I love beauty and I love color and texture, but sometimes I just wish I could have this easy uniform dressing. But I know, at my essence, that’s not me. So I fluctuate. And I’m also really open and chameleon-like with clothes. I’d love to see myself in many different looks.”
“I bought this dress from Poshmark. I think I stumbled upon it by just searching “floral dress”, which is a big search term. When I was opening the store last year, I had a lot of photo ops and events lined up for it. And I realized I had nothing to wear. So I bought a bunch of stuff. Some of it fit, some of it didn’t. But this was a Poshmark find and I think it’s a communion dress. To me, it had a very Simone Rocha vibe. So I was like ‘Sold.'”
“I definitely take in a lot of stuff via Instagram. I have a New Yorker subscription and I try to read them the week that they come out, front to back—that never happens. I consume a lot of movies and a lot of TV. I just finished House of the Dragon, so now I’m starting Game of Thrones from the first episode for the third time. During the pandemic, I started to read again—it’d been a long time since I really was reading every night.”
“Most of my jewelry, I wear every day. The earrings I always switch up. Some of the bracelets are beaded that I made. One of them is a very simple gold rope bracelet from my grandmother. One of them is one of those painted bracelets that I started with. And then the necklaces, they always live with me. So it’s a mix of family heirloom stuff and [Susan Alexandra] stuff. I have a gold potato, a ‘S’ necklace from my bat mitzvah. I never liked it and I still don’t love it, but I think it’s good to layer with.”
“People always say that my pieces are very kitschy and reminiscent of something else. And I feel that, too. I don’t love anything that’s too modern. I like being a little bit behind the times in a very traditional, special way.”
“We made this set for fashion week based on a costume that I found at an antique mart in California. It was a fairy costume. I bought two vintage pieces and we used that as the pattern. It’s custom made so it fits me perfectly. But it was used in a fashion week show. We had grand plans to release it and it just never happened.”
“I first started to love fashion when I was really, really young. I had an aunt who would give me her discarded fashion magazines. I was in Ohio and I would be seeing this portal to another world via Vogue Magazine, via Saks catalogs, W Magazine. And that’s how I became enchanted with fashion. As a birthday gift my mom got me a subscription to Vogue when I was seven.”
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Best Friend Necklace
Vari Velour Top
Patmos Velour Joggers
Madame de Pompadour Taper Candle
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