By Diana Fujii


A forgotten 80s song pumps through the speakers as you open the doors and walk into The Fashion Institute of Technology’s new exhibit, Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch. Colorful graffiti covers the walls and mannequins draped in costume-like dresses greet visitors. I am transported immediately to another world, and an unfamiliar one at that: this is my first encounter with Susanne Bartsch. I stop to read exhibit curator Valerie Steele’s artist’s statement on the front wall and I soon discover that she is known for her conspicuous Swiss accent and is called the “Queen of the Night.” Bartsch is a woman who has created a space of artistic convergence for people of all walks of life. Whether they be from uptown or downtown, gay or straight, art or fashion professionals, Bartsch’s extravagant parties and charismatic personality foster an environment of unabashed creative expression. 

As I walk into the larger room, I see mannequin after mannequin dressed in the most lavish pieces of clothing; clothing sells it short. Art is what most of these pieces are. The collection ranges from the work of lesser known designers, like Pam Hogg to legends like Alexander McQueen and Rick Owens. Although overwhelming at times, I leave the exhibit feeling like a friend of Bartsch, a companion in ribaldry and a worshipper of wearable art. Bartsch’s collection illuminates the type of person she is: unique, inspiring and perhaps a little crazy. So, in honor of the “Queen of the Night,” next time I go out I plan to adopt some of her panache and of course, a lot of her crazy.