Suzy Menkes is fashion’s leading authority. As Editor, VogueInternational, her articles and reports appear on the websites of 25 editions of Vogue in 18 languages, reaching an audience of over 74 million.
About Suzy: With an unswerving enthusiasm for her subject, she covers the universe of style, from haute couture to talent spotting and store openings, including both women’s wear and menswear. She regularly interviews leading designers and fashion executives in the luxury market.
Why are you bringing the 5th CNI Luxury conference to Cape Town, South Africa?
The CNI Luxury Conference has travelled the world – from Europe to the Middle East to Asia. The event changes city and theme each year, and we at Condé Nast International thought it was high time to take the event to the African continent. The concept of luxury is so appropriate now to Africa, because the force of nature and fine handwork are now recognized as luxury across the world.
What are you hoping to achieve by hosting the biggest global luxury conference on the Southern most tip of Africa?
We look forward to bringing together leaders and decision makers from both the international and African luxury and creative communities, and helping foster new conversations and collaborations. With its majestic mountains towering above the city, and the beautiful coastline, Cape Town is an extremely attractive location in which to discuss the topics that really matter to the global luxury industry. I hope that people coming to the conference learn something, meet new people, and will love Africa as much as I do.
What do you think will be the biggest influences on the changing nature of Luxury fashion outside of technology?
Technology’s influence on the luxury and fashion industry has been – and continues to be – monumental. I think it is a privilege to live in a time of such astonishing change, and am excited to hear from my colleagues at WIRED magazine who will be discussing technology at the conference. But aside from this, some of the biggest topics include the changing consumer and the evolving perception of what “luxury” really means.
How important is it for the Luxury segment to lead the way in sustainable, ethical fashion?
The luxury sector has a responsibility to lead the way in sustainable and ethically- sourced fashion – and we have a responsibility as consumers to play our part in that too. I admire the work that many of the big luxury brands have done to take sustainability seriously – from Gucci’s sustainability and transparency programme Equilibrium; to Tiffany’s diamond sourcing initiative. LVMH’s Environment Director will be at the conference, and I am looking forward to talking to her as well. I also admire the work of people like Simone Cipriani, who runs the Ethical Fashion Initiative at the WTO and UN’s International Trade Centre. Simone’s team partners with luxury brands and artisans, and investors, to showcase ethically produced – and highly desirable – handworked items.
What do you think is the true definition of luxury? Because the concept of luxury nowadays seems to be ever-shifting, perhaps even blurred?
Whether it is couture made by the “Petites Mains” in Paris or intricately beaded accessories from Nairobi, one of the greatest luxuries is something touched by human hands. I truly believe this. If you own something that was made with care, you treat it well, love it, and wear it forever. But of course, time is the ultimate luxury.
Any insight or advice you can give to young, emerging African fashion designers?
I actually studied fashion design as a student! I wasn’t very good, though, and decided I would much rather write about fashion than make it. So I am not sure I am the best person to advise designers. But I have always believed, whether in fashion journalism or in fashion design: It’s not good because you like it – You like it because it is good.
Do you foresee a future that embraces a ‘Made In Africa’ luxury fashion brand?
Absolutely. I have been to many countries in Africa, and the level of handwork I have seen is just magical. There are already many brands from the African continent which are making a mark on the international fashion stage, from Laduma Ngxokolo’s MAXHOSA, to Tiffany Amber, to Studio 189 which produces in Ghana. But there are so many more, and I certainly look forward to meeting them when I am in Cape Town.
Is It time for a ‘Vogue’ presence in Africa?
We’re extremely excited by the possibilities of launching titles globally and beyond what people may perceive as the traditional Condé Nast home territories. Each new launch is vigorously examined, and we take a number of things into consideration before launching a new title, including how much is spent on fashion in that locale, the availability of the right talent and how we enter that market. Talent is so important not only to create our magazines but also to ensure that the market has a good landscape to write about and work with e.g. a strong fashion community in the case of Vogue. We also weigh the long-term viability before making a decision, that we can stay for the duration. We have considered Africa as a possible market for Vogue. It is something that we are looking at, but we don’t want to rush or make any quick decisions.
From a fashion perspective, what do you know for sure?
No ones knows anything for sure, really. All I know is that fashion is about change, and that I love learning more, discovering new things, and seeing new places. And, yes, I love Instagram. But I guess one of the exciting things about fashion is that you never know what is round the corner, digitally or on the ground.