This is the first in a series of posts I would like to do as an homage to the creative archives of Susan Unger, the designer.
Some of the people reading this post will probably own or have owned some of her designs, and I am sure they will agree with me when I say that her work is wearable art.
Susan Unger was born in the Mediterranean — or rather, that’s where her artistic awakening took place.
She had embarked on a post-college trip around the Mediterranean with a friend, and stopped by Menorca to visit some of her friend’s relatives. By the end of their sojourn, Susan had become so enthralled by the island’s beauty and history, that she decided to make Menorca her new home. She had also met a young artist who would later become her husband and the father of their daughter; together they would become part of a creative and flourishing group of international artists who settled on the island in the early 70s.
An innate artist, Susan had always been drawn to textiles: illustrating prints, sewing, hand-weaving, and silk-screening all came naturally to her. So much so, that in the late 70s she decided to establish her own company of hand silk-screened clothes.
Susan drew inspiration from the delicateness and beauty of her surroundings. She reinterpreted motifs that existed in ancient Mediterranean cultures to create her characteristic prints. She captured the spontaneity and timeless beauty of the natural world — grasses, salamanders, waves and other natural textures became some of her signature prints. Earth tones, metallics, and rich variations of greens and blues permeated her creations.
Although her firsts designs were on cotton, she soon started using only silk in its various incarnations as charmeuse, chiffon, raw silk and velvet.
The exquisiteness of the fabrics coupled with the hand printed designs gave each garment a feeling of luxury and opulence. The process was long, arduous and physically straining. Each print was drawn by Susan and turned into a hand-held silkscreen. In turn, each fabric was dyed and printed in her small workshop. The results were one-of-a-kind pieces that bring to mind the work of textile master Mariano Fortuny.
Her designs were sold at renowned high-end boutiques and department stores around the world. Her clothes were loved and worn by some of the icons of the time. By the early 90s, she was designing ballet costumes, home furnishings and accessories, in addition to fashion collections.
Her small, boutique-style production made it hard for the company to grow and expand in 1990s Spain. Partially for that reason, after twenty-four years in Menorca, she decided to continue her professional career elsewhere.
In 1994 Susan, myself and our dog moved to Manhattan.
Stay tuned for the next chapter!