Susan Bender Whitfield

Susan Bender Whitfield
Susan Bender Whitfield shares her captivating journey through the spheres of artistic expression, fashion business, and styling. What started as a childhood passion for collecting Vogue magazines and vintage shopping at Portobello Road has resulted in a career as a prominent figure in the fashion industry, ambassador for the Prince's Trust and former contributing editor at Vogue. Susan's story is a testament to passion, determination, and unwavering creativity. Delve into her world of fashion and preloved through her unique lens.
You are involved in so many different projects - talk us through a typical day for you right now.

My day usually starts at 5.30 am. I’m a big advocate of waking up when the sun rises (depending on daylight savings BST). I’ll listen to a meditation for 10-15 minutes in bed and think about my day ahead, write ideas or thoughts/dreams that visit me during the night in my Smythson Panama notebook I keep by my bedside table.

6 am: I’ll then hop out of bed and perform a few light stretches, feed my cat Suki Lala and prepare myself a healthy green smoothie and mushroom coffee before I head off to the gym. I’ll scan through my phone for new emails, messages etc…on the tube and listen to an audiobook or podcast on the journey.

7-8.30 am: I like to vary my regime and train on average 5-6 times a week, Versaclimb & Barre/Pilates at BXR Marylebone, TRX & HIIT at Form Studios, the odd boxing class and self-practice Astanga yoga at home.

After the gym, I’ll go through my emails, which I prepared the previous night so I can respond efficiently and effectively. Catch up on calls, chasing outstanding correspondence, meeting/zooms, et cetera, et cetera; I much prefer to meet IRL. If I'm in Marylebone/WestEnd I’ll arrange meetings in the area between 10-12 pm to maximise on time.

Late breakfast around 11.30 am - lunchtime either at Daylesford Marylebone or at home (I’m very much a creature of habit). Afternoons are usually for research, writing and meetings. I’ll do some research/write an article in the afternoon or visit a gallery/exhibition and catch up on the latest innovations in fashion and tech. If I’m prepping for a shoot/video I'll spend the morning going through collections online and make my selection, speak with my team and collaborators. During the afternoon I’ll visit the various PR showrooms to pick specific pieces of clothing and accessories for my shoot. If I’m working on a couple of projects ongoing simultaneously I’ll allocate an hour and a half - two hours per project. I get bored working on one project all day and like to switch it up to keep my brain agile.

Evenings are usually spent with clients or at a press event, I usually attend three/four evening events during the week, sometimes all on the same night. On these evenings mushroom coffee is my best friend, I’ll have one before I leave the house to allay my tiredness during the evening. I’m usually home just in time before my sleep alarm goes off at 10.30 pm.
You're an ambassador for the Prince's Trust women supporting women. What's that involved?

A lot of it is fundraising, organising events, dinners and talks, to support the great work of The Princes Trust helping women to develop skills and confidence to find a job or start a business. I’ll lend my advice to some of the businesses helped by the Prince's Trust, attend marketplace events to showcase their young creators and generally lend my support to the various activations they have throughout the year.

When did you know you wanted to work in fashion?

Thinking back from an early age, I was fascinated by costumes in old black and white movies, I also collected copies of Vogue magazine from an early age, which I would pour over for escapism and inspiration. I couldn’t afford the clothing featured and would hunt around Portobello Market on a Friday looking for the equivalent. At school we took sewing classes, I would create a dress or skirt from an old Vogue pattern in unusual fabric which I’d ask my Mother to buy. I guess it’s always been a passion of mine subconsciously. I didn't know which direction it would take and at the time and didn't know there was an actual role in the fashion industry of a stylist. I thought my segue into the industry would be via modelling (of which I was too short, and did not have the right body type or desired colour at that time), or being a fashion buyer. That seemed to be the coolest way into fashion, shaping what people purchased. It was after I finished a diploma in Fashion Buying, Marketing and PR that I realised a buyer’s job was essentially generating the largest possible profits for a store; analysing customer buying patterns, demand, pricing and predicting future trends. Basically a glorified accountant. It was a few years later at drama school a friend who knew about my passion for fashion, vintage and design asked me to help a stylist (Charlotte Stockdale) who was going to Paris to shoot a couture story for US Harpers Bazaar. I spoke French and knew my way around Paris so it seemed like a good fit. It was only then that I had my lightbulb moment and realised I wanted to work in the fashion industry as a stylist.
"I also collected copies of Vogue magazine from an early age, which I would pour over for escapism and inspiration. I couldn’t afford the clothing featured and would hunt around Portobello Market on a Friday looking for the equivalent."

What is in your capsule wardrobe?
That's a tricky one. My capsule wardrobe consists of what I’m feeling at that moment and the weather. To put my finger on it, there's always a great classic men's shirt, my black Huntsman Barathea wool double-breasted black jacket, a printed jersey long-sleeved Preen by Thornton and Bregazzi t-shirt with slits at the elbow. I’ve collected quite a few in various prints of the season over the years. Whenever I can’t decide what to wear and am short on time I’ll stick on a Navy pair of fitted flared men’s trousers from AMI, a KLOSS long-sleeve printed t-shirt or a cashmere hoodie from Johnstons of Elgin teamed with a pair of Jimmy Choo diamond Tilda ballet flats, all black Nike Air Max 2017 trainers or a pair of Chanel quilted patent toe motorcycle boots from early 2000. Plus a trench coat, I am obsessed with trench coats and have an impressive collection. A new addition to my capsule wardrobe is a pair of Bamford loose-fit trousers cropped at the ankle, crafted from GOTS-certified cotton. I loved the cut and shape so much that I have a pair in black and white.

What is your most treasured item of clothing?
It’s a tough choice I cannot make, so here are a few treasures: My early 90's Alaia collection, a pink cotton linen mix Helmut Lang S/S1999 dress, a 1950 couture black Christian Dior coat and an early 90’s John Galliano black cut-out one piece. Oh, how could I forget my megawatt Chanel Swarovski crystal encrusted wedge/heel, perspex front sandals from Spring 2007. They’re spectacular.

Top tips for shopping preloved?
Having a basic idea of what you're looking for usually helps. Don't be put off by the size; you can always have items tailored to fit. I always check inside to see if there's a generous seam allowance that can be used to make something bigger or smaller. Check each piece for damage, stains or holes, pre-loved isn’t always in perfect condition, sometimes you have to look beyond that. Never buy anything that you think you’ll fit into later, it’s too much pressure to lose weight for one piece of clothing and you’re depriving yourself of the immense joy of discovering and wearing the preloved piece.

"I don’t have a fashion icon. I’m my own fashion icon. I feel the designers who’ve created the clothing are equally/more iconic than the people wearing them."

What is your favourite styling tip?
Stick on a cool/contemporary pair of sunglasses with a semi-opaque lense. If you're not 100% convinced with your total look, take one thing off. I love using a belt or neck scarf to cement a look. Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise.

Who is your fashion icon?
I don’t have a fashion icon. I’m my own fashion icon. I feel the designers who’ve created the clothing are equally/more iconic than the people wearing them.

Which of the Reluxe pieces is your favourite and why?
From the shoot I loved, the Stella McCartney 2012 Brown and Blue dress. I remember when I saw it at the catwalk show. I love the patchwork design and the mix of tweed wool and bright blue technical fabric. Who doesn’t love a white boot? The Celine White Zip Front boots, make an outfit chic and playful.

What is the piece of fashion that you are still searching for?
A mint Louis Vuitton Centenaire Monogram Alma Bag By Azzedine Alaia 1996.
Anything from Azzedine Alaïa's Spring 1991 Tati collection.
Too many pieces to list from Nicolas Ghesquière’s creations at Balenciaga from 2002 -2007.
Prada Banana Print flared hem skirt from Spring 2011
Chanel cap-top slingback sandals in metallic leather with black grosgrain toe.


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