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A Conversation With Susan Cianciolo

Susan Cianciolo is a multimedia artist and designer who has been working for almost two decades both inside and outside the fashion system.
JH
Κείμενο Jaclyn Hodes
2.4.08

Portraits by Mark Borthwick

And Run worked for you?

Run suited the kind of work that I felt I was doing. Like, Run equals “floating,” so that you are not a part of whatever else exists and you’re running so far ahead—really running away from anything and everything. You are doing your own work that comes from you. When I opened my first collection and Bernadette styled it, I decided from then on that I wanted to make Run the actual tag. When it grew into this big collaboration with many, many people, I added “collection” to the end. That’s the name that’s registered with City Hall—Run Collection. Making up names was one of the most fun parts of the shows—coming up with a new generic way to label something that’s completely not generic.

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It’s still kind of subversive though, even though it’s generic.

Being subversive was always my main topic, really. Whatever I would be working on—a show, a film, or a book—it was always about how do I make it subversive.

And now?

It’s still important to me, but it’s in a different presentation. It’s much softer now. And, you know, the reason why I chose more to make fashion over other media was because I felt it was the loudest way of communicating what I wanted to say.

Aaron Rose wrote a really beautiful essay concerning the term “collection” and what it meant in relation to the community that you have around you.

From the beginning there were people around me that made the shows happen. In ’95 when it began, it was just Rita Ackermann and her grandmother doing the knitwear, plus my mom and whoever came along to intern. That grew and grew. By the time I did the Run Restaurant project in 2001, there was a big group of people working on it. That’s when I decided to scale down. This time, a nice group of students from Parsons who I’ll be teaching in September worked on the collection. There was also an artist named Desiree Hammond who came from Holland and worked on the jewelry, embroideries, and beadwork, and this great artist named Aki came from Tokyo and worked with me very intensely on the pieces. It’s fun to see the completely naive working with the very skilled. Some pieces were passed around many times and it’s kind of a gamble.

Doesn’t it scare you that a piece might get ruined?

Sometimes I resist, but then I have to completely let it go. It doesn’t matter how it turns out. It’s about the experience and what happens while it’s being made.

You work with ecologically sound materials, right?

Yes. There’s a black lace gown from the 20s that we reconstructed. If you use pieces from the 1920s and before, it’s considered organic. Then there was a lot of fabric brought over from Thailand and Japan by friends I worked with. That stuff was all fair trade. I also worked with Jasco, which is a manufacturer of knit jersey that Geoffrey Beene worked with. They now have an organic section. All the yarn is from a farm in Maine that’s organic. Everything in the entire collection is fair trade and organic. I love working within clear parameters but making it feel like there are no boundaries.