The Fashion Your Seatbelt podcast gives its listeners the rare opportunity to hear from some of the leading voices working in the fashion industry today. Each podcast is an exclusive one-to-one conversation with a creative who is crafting the future of fashion. Hosted by the renowned and award-winning fashion journalist Jessica Michault, this podcast is designed to take its audience directly to the heart of fashion and discover what makes it tick.
082 Suzy Menkes: Fashion's Greatest Critic
48:58I don’t think I have ever been as nervous about interviewing someone in my entire career as I was when my former boss and colleague Suzy Menkes agreed to speak with me for this podcast. I worked side by side with Suzy for 16 years at the International Herald Tribune, which is now known as the International New York Times. Over that period she mentored me, encouraged me and guided me. Shaping my career as I moved from her assistant to fashion writer and finally the Online Style Editor of the IHT. During our time together we experienced so many amazing fashion moments, from the John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacob eras at Dior, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, respectively, to watching first-hand the rise of LVMH, Gucci Group, Kering and the whole transformation of the fashion industry from artform to billion-dollar luxury business. Not to mention witnessing the debuts of iconic designers like Nicolas Ghesquière, Alber Elbaz, Phoebe Philo, Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Alessandro Michele, Riccardo Tisci, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Pierpaolo Piccioli and the list goes on. Suzy’s career as a fashion critic spans close to 60 years, starting with her college days at Cambridge where she was the first female editor of the university newspaper. But even before that, as a teenager, she moved to Paris to study at the fashion school that is now known as ESMOD. So her love of fashion as a visual expression of self and society runs very deep indeed. She started her true calling as a fashion journalist at the age of 24. Working under the watchful eye of Charles Wintour, the father of Anna Wintour, who would be an early mentor for Suzy. But Suzy came into full bloom as one of the most respected fashion critics in the world during her 26-year tenure at the International Herald Tribune. Her words were read in the pages of the daily newspaper by hundreds of thousands of readers around the world and eventually by millions once the internet was born. An audience that only expanded with the advent of social media and her turn as Condé Nast’s International Vogue Editor, which saw her words being translated into different languages and her reviews posted on all of the international Vogue websites. She also was the mastermind behind the idea of the modern luxury conference, events that are now commonplace but were brought into being at the IHT, and later continued at Vogue, under her guidance. Suzy is renowned for her honest, fair and insightful writing, and her ability to put fashion into the context of a wider global narrative. Today she runs her own very successful podcast called Creative Conversations with Suzy Menkes, where she continues to interview the leading movers and shakers within the fashion industry. She is still asking the questions every fashion lover wants to know the answers to, but now I am lucky enough to be able to turn the tables on her a bit and ask her a few questions of my own.
081 Alexandra Van Houtte: The CEO who is galvanizing the fashion industry
43:53From the moment Alexandra Van Houtte first told me about her newly launched platform in 2016, describing it as Google for fashion, I knew she was onto something. Since then TagWalk, the website she founded and is the CEO of, has grown by leaps and bounds and has become a linchpin platform for anyone working in the fashion industry. It is the first runway image keyword search engine in existence. In a nutshell, the former stylist’s assistant created a site that, in just a few simple clicks, makes it possible for stylists to whittle down their sartorial selections for fashion shoots or mood boards from the thousands of catwalk images, lookbooks, and street style shots taken every season. It is also the perfect tool for fashion journalists and editors who are obliged to cull together images for those never-ending “top trend” texts, as the platform allows users to search for images by keyword, colour, season, brand, and more. Tagwalk also offers a variety of features that make it easy to save, share, and organize images. In addition to its popularity with fashion professionals, Tagwalk’s democratic nature has made it a widespread tool for your average fashionista. As it allows visitors to the site the chance to explore the latest trends, discover new designers, find inspiration for their own personal style and create seasonal wish lists of the key pieces she wants to invest in. My conversation with Alexandra really gets into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to get a start-up off the ground, how best to bring on investors and what skill sets a successful leader needs. As always Alexandra is honest and open with her answers, not pulling any punches when it comes to the hard questions about revenue streams, scaling her business and her hiring practices. I came away from our in-depth chat feeling inspired, energized and ready to take on the world. This interview took place in May 2021
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080 SCAD President Paula Wallace: A Life of Learning and Service
28:02Talk about an inspirational story. Paula Wallace, the president and founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, better known as SCAD had a singular vision back in September of 1978, To create a world-class art and design college that would prepare students for a global workforce. Under her leadership, SCAD has grown from a small art school with 150 students to a global university that spans three campuses around the world with thousands of students enrolled. Over the years it also became recognised as one of the most respected art and design schools, thanks in no small part to President Wallace, who has been the driving force behind its success for 45 years and today is one of the longest-serving women presidents in the history of U.S. higher education. After speaking with president Wallace – and reading her charming book "The Bee and the Acorn" – which recounts the origins story of SCAD, the things that stand out about her are her drive, her sense of curiously, and her overarching desire to make sure her students are at the forefront of creative innovation. She is forever looking for ways for SCAD students, faculty and alumni to connect, collaborate and share their unique knowledge and perspectives. And president Wallace clearly believes that creativity is essential not only for economic growth, but also that artists and designers play a vital role in shaping the world. This interview was recorded in May of 2022.
079 Anine Bing: Turning Followers into a Fashion Empire
28:35Fashion entrepreneur Anine Bing is a very savvy business woman who knows how to seize her moment. An early adapter to the social media space, Anine, who is a former model and blogger, was one of the first to translate her online following into a successful fashion brand business. She launched her signature line back in 2012 out of the garage in her home in California. Her collection of chic staple pieces, inspired by her Scandinavian heritage and the casual cool of her Los Angeles home base, were an instant hit. Her “online first” business model, leveraging social media to market and promote her pieces was a new strategy at the time she launched. But today it's a formula that many are emulating. She reverse-engineered her success, starting from the digital space and then moving into the more traditional brick-and-mortar arena. Because today, Anine is sitting on the top of a wardrobe essentials empire. Not only is her collection sold in more than 350 stores globally, she also has over 15 stores located around the world. And Anine continues to expand. She has moved into childrenswear and has launched a successful line of perfumes, not to mention sunglasses, shoes, bags, lingerie, and jewelry. I sat down with Anine in her stylish stand-alone store in the heart of Paris to discuss her impressive success story. I was curious to learn more about a woman who was able to translate her love of timeless style and relaxed elegance into a brand that is helping legions of women look picture perfect for their selfies.
078 Kaat Debo: The Fashion Curator Looking to the Future
38:38Kaat Debo is the Director and Chief Curator of Antwerp’s famed ModeMuseum fashion museum, better known as the MoMu; a museum that has spent the last three years under renovation. But now, after years of waiting, Kaat is able to reintroduce the world to her second home. A museum with over 35,000 pieces of Belgian fashion in its archives and a unique history that celebrates sartorial storytellers who have helped the world see fashion from new and unexpected angles. But while the MoMu is all about helping the larger world understand the different aspects and influences of the fashion universe, Kaat herself hasn’t been one to share her story much with the public. There is very little information about her online, other than the broad brushstroke that tell us that she studied literature and philosophy in school, that she first joined MoMu as a curator in 2001, she spent a couple of years as the editor-in-chief of A Magazine and then in 2009 took up her top spot position as the director of the MoMu. So I was excited to have an in depth chat with Kaat about what it takes to be a curator, especially one working in the rather new field of fashion curation. I looked forward to learning how her studies, her childhood and her mentors throughout her career shaped her world view and her collaborative nature. And I was interested to hear all about the rebirth of MoMu and how she is planning to make this museum so much more than a shire for clothes; but rather a living, breathing part of the Antwerp cultural community that interacts with the city that surrounds it and helps to nurture fashion lovers of the future.
077 Mary Katrantzou: Fashion's Goddess of Trompe L'Oeil and High Tech
50:01I’ll never forget the first time I discovered the work of Mary Katrantzou. It was in London in 2008 I believe, and I just happened to wander into a room where a rack of her now-famous perfume bottle printed dresses was on display. On hand was her mother who was proudly showing off the stunning creations her daughter had dreamt up. And Mary’s mom had every right to be proud. Her work was unlike anything else going on in fashion at that time. Advancements in printing and computer technology had made it possible for this young woman to create architectural designs on fluid fabrics. Blending beautifully her passion for interior designs and her studies in the field of architecture at Rhode Island School of Design with her Bachelor of Arts in Textile Design and her Master’s in Fashion from Central Saint Martins. But it wasn’t just the print work that set Mary apart from the pack,it was that combined with her choice of vibrant rainbow colorways. The result was a collection that was the harbinger of the 2010s colorful print fashion revolution. Since she started her signature brand in 2008 Mary, who was born in Athens, Greece, has found a way to modernize trompe l’oeil, help women fall in love with print and color again, and showed the world that clashing aesthetics can be boldly feminine and empowering. This is why powerful women like Michelle Obama, Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé, Lizzo, Jane Fonda, and Zendaya have all flocked to her creations. But Mary’s success goes beyond her ability to reinvent her core design principles every season. She is a very savvy businesswoman who saw early on in her career the power that collaborating with other creatives and brands could have in expanding her reach and name recognition. Her recent partnership with the high jewelry company Bulgari on a line of limited edition bags is a perfect example of this. But so is her work with Victoria’s Secret, Longchamp, Topshop, and Adidas Original. And her recent decision to create the size-inclusive year-round holiday capsule collection called Mary-Mare also is indicative of how Mary is able to deftly read the fashion tea leaves as the industry shifts away from seasonal shows and moves into a space where smaller drops throughout a year feels more in keeping with the times we live in. With over a decade in fashion, Mary Katrantzou is still innovating and challenging herself as a creative, and her devoted clients couldn’t be happier.
076 Spencer Phipps is Making Sustainable Style A Manly Pursuit
37:10Designer Spencer Phipps is a born risk-taker. There isn’t a limb on his body that doesn’t have a scar from one escapade or another - that he jumped into with both feet before asking questions. The man is even missing a significant portion of one of his pinkie fingers from one memorable misadventure. And when it comes to taking risks, Spencer also has no problem doing that in business. It was, after all, an impulse decision to launch his signature menswear brand Phipps back in 2017. When, after having worked alongside Marc Jacobs and Dries van Noten, he found himself looking to make his next move and couldn’t find a fashion house that ticked all the boxes. So instead he decided to start his own. Spencer, who was born and raised in San Francisco and graduated with a degree from Parsons in New York, has over the past four years created for himself a label that scratches a very interesting sartorial itch. His clothing celebrates timeless American wardrobe staples that allude to wide open places, outdoor activities, and manly pursuits. Garments that Spencer has designed so that they revere nature, appreciate the artisanal hand, and seek to leave as little an impact as possible on the planet. While simultaneously his goal is to have them hold a long-term place of honor in a man’s closet, another sustainable pursuit. From its inception, one of the pillars of the Phipps brand has been its commitment to sustainable sourcing and responsible manufacturing. For the designer, this means both leveraging the latest technology in terms of construction and production, as well as fine-tuning a list of transparent, sustainable suppliers that he works with regularly. His fervent commitment to crafting clothing that makes an impact but doesn't leave one on the Earth is one of the reasons why Spencer was an LVMH prize finalist in 2019 and, after just two seasons, the brand was added to the official Paris Fashion Week: Menswear calendar. But if I am being completely honest, on top of all the reasons I have already mentioned, Spencer is just a really cool guy that you always have fun hanging out with, as you will discover yourself with this interview.
075 Joseph Altuzarra: Finds Fashion's Perfect Balance
41:35You get the sense, when you speak to designer Joseph Altuzarra, that he is that perfect combination of creativity and commerce. That as a French American, he has an innate sense of style coursing through his veins. While his American roots give him savvy business sense and a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. From a young age, Joseph - who was raised by his French Basque father and Chinese- American mother - has always believed in the transformative power of fashion. A self-taught designer who got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art and Art History from Swarthmore College, his approach to this sartorial art form has always been focused on how the clothes someone chooses to wear tell a larger story. It can be the story of who that individual is or it can be one about the person they hope to become. That clothing telegraphs a message to the world about how we see ourselves. As luck would have it, Joseph landed an internship in the design studio of Marc Jacobs in 2004 and he went on to work with Proenza Schouler before getting tapped by Riccardo Tisci to join him in Paris and become the designer’s first apprentice during his tenure at Givenchy. Then in 2008, Joseph returned to New York to strike out on his own. And from the moment he launched his signature brand, his work stood out from the other fashion collections being shown at New York Fashion Week. His sexy, sensual aesthetic that wove together elements of his multicultural heritage into his designs did not fit into the American Sportswear approach of many of his peers at that time. But standing out from the crowd served Joseph well. He was honored with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2011 and the CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear Design in 2012. He was then named the winner of the US Woolmark Prize in 2013 and in 2014 he nabbed the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award. Suffice to say, Joseph, with his accolades, his brand collaboration with Target, and his stint as a judge on the first season of the Amazon Prime television series “Making the Cut” turned Altuzarra into a household name. And now with his label well established in the fashion industry, Joseph is thinking about where he wants to take things from here. In our conversation, we discuss what the future holds for this talented designer as he looks at his career from a post-pandemic perspective. A viewpoint that has been changed by the arrival of his daughter Emma and a desire to lead a balanced and intentional life. But one that will always have fashion at its heart.
074 Alisa Volskaya: The Future of Luxury PR
36:15I wanted to interview Alisa Volskaya, the founder of the public relations firm AVEC, for a few reasons. First of all, every time I would bump into her at a fashion show or event, our conversations about the state of the industry, future trends, and fashion in general always went well past surface chit-chat. Secondly, I was impressed by her drive and third, it just takes a lot of guts to launch a PR company during a moment when that field is in the middle of such a paradigm shift. Not to mention doing it in 2020, the year the world stood still. Alisa started out her career working at Condé Nast International in Paris and was in charge of the fashion publishing house’s digital projects and partnerships. In 2015, she became the Executive Director at Naked Heart France, a charity founded by the top model and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, where she was in charge of international fundraising and partnerships. Then just five years later, she decided to go out on her own and launch her firm AVEC. Alisa’s PR philosophy is right there in the name of her business - AVEC. She sees the work that she does for brands like Chaumet, Ralph Lauren, Chopard, and Balmain as a real partnership. One where her role is to be there with the companies every step of the way in their strategy journey, from conception to completion. But what exactly does that mean in the post-pandemic, social media-centric metaverse world we now inhabit? Alisa, just like every other time I have spoken with her, had some insightful and sometimes surprising answers.
073 Alexandre de Betak: Fashion's Consummate Creative
55:06Consummate creative Alexandre de Betak is an industry touchpoint in the world of fashion. He is behind some of the most era-defining fashion shows, events, and exhibitions of the past three decades. The proverbial man behind the curtain, Alex has brought to life the visions of designers as diverse as Raf Simons, Michael Kors, and Gabriela Hearst, and brands big and small, from Dior and YSL to Jacquemus and Rodarte. Throughout our fascinating conversation, we talk about where the spark of creativity comes from, how to keep those creative juices flowing, and how Alex is instilling in his own children that desire to experiment, to explore, and to see the world, and what it could be from different perspectives. Perspectives that will help those around them also experience a moment in new ways that challenge, delight, and mesmerize.