Authentically BiniChic, Susan Unger’s home and fashion creations have embellished many homes and dressed countless women around the world. A few months ago, we shared with you the beginnings of her career on the island of Menorca (if you’d like to review it, you can do so here). Today we will pick up where we left off, continuing with her journey to another island: New York.
In the early 1990s, Susan Unger opened a boutique in Madrid and teamed up with various artists such as the choreographer Nacho Duato to design costumes for his ballet “Duende.” The project thrilled her, because “It felt like the Ballet Russe of old. The ethereal combination of movement, light, color and fabric was seductive.”
Her friend, the singer Maria del Mar Bonet has often been her muse, and throughout the years, Susan has designed many of her costumes often inspired by Ancient Mediterranean myths and goddesses. In 1992, she also collaborated with Els Comediants, a Barcelona theater group, on the opening ceremonies for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
The Susan Unger fashion line was picked up by Barneys and Charivari in New York where Donna Karan fell in love with the colors, textures and prints of the collection. She subsequently offered to finance a studio for Susan and talked her into moving to Manhattan the following year. The collection of hand dyed and silk-screened velvets for Ms Karan were a success, and by the fall of 1994 we (Susan, myself and our dog) were living in Manhattan.
Below, an image of Susan’s dresses on the Bergdorf Goodman’s window and the Donna Karan dresses made with Susan’s fabrics.
Susan’s fashion collections were characterized by their femininity, their transparent layers and timeless elegance. Susan’s was a rare blend of artisan-couture. Her product wasn’t so much about fashion, as it was about a sophisticated, yet easy, approach to living.
Her fresh vision earned her many fans — among them some celebrity clients including Carly Simon, Glenn Close, Diane Sawyer, Uma Thurman and Donna Karan.
The natural next step after having a successful fashion brand for many years was branching out into the home. Ethereal floating panels, duvets, decorative pillows, lamps, wallpaper, lacquer trays and other home accessories formed part of her the Susan Unger Home Collection.
The splendor of Byzantine art, Mariano Fortuny, William Morris, the nature around her, the unspoiled countryside, the beaches, and the mysterious ruins of the Mediterranean all informed her designs. She has the gift for transforming the elements from Nature, Art and Architecture into stunningly original fabrics for fashion and home furnishings.
I still remember an anecdote my mother told me about finding inspiration in the most unexpected places. She had been sitting in our Menorcan kitchen table the whole afternoon, trying to come up with her next collection. It got late, so she went to bed. The next day, she opened the kitchen door (below), and there — between the edge of the heavy wooden door and the stone frame — she found what looked like a fossilized gecko. The gecko print went on to become one of Susan’s most successful prints — so we can say that inspiration can literally be found around any corner.
Surrounding yourself with Susan’s home designs feels like lying under an olive tree as the light plays through the gray-green leaves or watching the wings of a dragonfly shimmer in the sun.
Subtle metallic inks pick up light, much as rays of sun play off a blade of grass or a ripple in a pond.
The collection of lacquerware she developed for J.Fleet — whom I still collaborate with to develop new prints — was an exploration of new surfaces and textures. The beauty of the nature-inspired prints was heightened by the richness of the shimmery materials and quality of the lacquerware.
The ultimate way of “enveloping” oneself with the Susan Unger lifestyle was the 72-piece collection of wallpapers she designed for Sterling and printed in Milan, Italy.
A beautiful project, Susan was involved in every part of the process, from choosing the exact color mixture to approving the final roll of printed wallpaper.
Gorgeous and diverse environments could be created throughout the house. Light and airy leaves for the bedroom, rich ochre for the dining room, inspiring red for the office.
I was particularly a fan of this project, as I feel that with minimal decoration it gave each room in the home its own unique personality.
Six years ago, Susan got a great opportunity to become part of the JCPenney team, and to continue designing beautiful things — this time in a whole different scale. It was no more hand printing or dying in bathtubs. Now she splits her time between Dallas and the rest of the world — where she often travels for inspiration and to oversee the production of the Studio line for which she is head designer.
As I’m writing this post, I realize how long and complete my mother’s career has been — and it’s not over yet! So many beautiful things have come out of her mind and workshop! Almost too many things to mention in one single post.
If you are now frowning, wondering where you could get your hands on a precious and one-of-a-kind Susan Unger accessory — worry no more! You can hop over to the BiniChic Store , where you’ll find a selection of her beautiful pillows. We will shortly be adding more things, so come back to visit!
I will soon post another article on the blog, since I haven’t been able to do so lately due to the load of work and my upcoming wedding (yes, Jacopo and I are getting married this summer!).
We thought you might enjoy seeing the making-of our BiniChic wedding. From the hand-made invitations, to the flowers and the dress — so we’ll be sharing that with you in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned!