Today’s interview is with the lovely and very talented Suzi. Suzi is a design lover and world traveler who has traveled to some truly amazing places. She is also an incredibly talented sewer and designer who I truly envy for her skill in creating beautiful clothes. I really enjoyed getting to know more about Suzi, and was happy to learn some more about interior design and how to select well crafted clothing along the way. Enjoy meeting Suzi!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is Zuzana, or Suzi as you’d like. I was born Czech, and am now living in Austria in a village very near to Vienna, and am married to an Austrian (for ages)! I’ve lived in several countries across Europe because of my husband’s job in banking; the latest stay was for almost two years in Moscow.
Now we are back in Austria and I am trying to settle down again.
You studied civil engineering and interior design. I’d love to hear more about some of your favorite design pieces in your home!
I am a big fan of modern architecture from the last century, especially the 1920 – 1930 period, which is generally characterized by a simplification of form and an absence of applied decoration. This era was better known as the International style, mainly developed in Germany, France and Holland. Some of the well-known furniture made by the representatives of this era found a home with us. For example ,the LC4 chaise longue designed by le Corbusier with the collaboration of Pierre Jeanneret und Charlotte Perriand produced today by Cassina, or an E. Grey glass side table in repertoire with Classicon. Also, our breakfast porcelain is designed by another big name of that era – professor Walter Gropius, a founder of the Bauhaus school.
The latest addition to our collection is little bit different: a chair by B&B Italia, UP6 and UP5 designed in 1969 by Gaeatano Pesce, in a deep purple colour. When talking about the sixties I can’t leave out the Panton chairs or the ‘’Puppy’’ by Magis, used now in the decor of our home.
You are a world traveler. Could you share some of the favorite places you been – and the unique experiences you’ve had?
I can’t live without traveling. There is no substitute for travel. Travelling refines your knowledge gained from books. It is a sort of education no school can give you, and broadens your mental horizons and makes you more liberal in your thoughts. I am not afraid to say it makes you even a better person… against your will!
Travel expands your outlook, makes you thankful for what you have now, who you are and want to be, it makes you more generous in your heart. I have visited about 35 countries around the world, and also half of all of the states in the US, several times.
One of the best trips I have ever did was a safari in Kenya and Tanzania. One whole week without civilization (of course only during the day from 6 AM to 6 PM) in the company of a local ranger, equipped with lunch boxes for us, water, radio transmitter and a huge SUV with open roof and extra gasoline! Of course every day in the evening we reached a fine lodge – in the middle of nowhere with all the modern facilities, restaurant, wine, and most important of all – fresh water! It was the first time I realized how important water is! At the end of the trip we were awarded with a walking safari in the early morning, and walked through dewy grass, guided by three armed rangers.It was an experience to know that there was no escape into a car, that we had to move slowly with full respect to nature, in order to watch the animals from a close range.
The most exotic trip was three weeks in Burma, now Myanmar. I was treated like a queen, with all the respect one person can imagine. One day we made unintended stop near to a school, and I stepped out from the bus. The kids just had a break and were all outside – they spotted me and some hundred school children took a run toward us, made a circle around me and for a while there was silence, with them watching us.
Another very interesting trip was to Iceland, inhabited by the most introverted people I have ever met, where we enjoyed the longest day in Ìsafjördur when the sun touched the horizon at midnight for a moment only. We also chased seals on Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland, providing outstanding views of the icebergs.
Last spring we spent three weeks in New Zealand traveling both islands, I enjoyed the best blue cod fish in my life (I love good food) and can’t forget sitting on the beach, watching sea lions. Great coffee everywhere no matter wherever you stopped. And I know what I am talking about , having lived for years in Vienna, a place of excellent coffee culture!
What’s your favorite place to visit in the world – and your favorite hotel/resort?
I have no favourite place in the world but I have to admit I like some places more than the others and mostly because of good food or coffee or great atmosphere (Miami was a big positive surprise for me) or friendly people.
All the boutique hotels around the world are always a good choice mostly because you are not a number there. The service is more personal, the hotels are furnished with a special touch and don’t all look the same. You may also expect a something extra like fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate brought to your room in the evening.
If you are lucky enough to go to Milano I would recommend the Hotel Spadari al Duomo, a contemporary design hotel just a few steps from the Duomo Cathedral, shopping district, and La Scala Opera. It is brimming with art pieces and offers a great à la carte breakfast.
In last January we went to Venetia (by the way, a great season to visit, less people everywhere and you can walk the streets, which is not possible in summer) and stayed overnight in Dei Dragomanni Hotel, a very charming ancient Venetian Palazzo, offering buffet breakfast with cappuccino service!
When in Prague, my number one choice is to weekend at Boscolo Carlo IV. It has a fantastically designed interior, something really special, in the posh and formal location of former ‘’Ceskomoravska Hypotecni Banka,’’ a highly decorated historical building. If you are into something modern you might like Hotel Josef designed by Eva Jiricna.
If you are planning a trip to Berlin, try the Brandenburger Hof Hotel – a classically furnished hotel with personal service, or thesimplistic Ku’damm 101, a very modern minimalistic design hotel with a lobby and bar full of retro sitting furniture.
You sew and make clothing for yourself. Can you share more about how you started to sew and how that interest has evolved?
I’ve always had artistic tendencies like drawing ( I attended an art school since I was eight), visiting galleries and exhibitions, and collecting graphic art, so it was really only another step to start making my own clothes.
I also love anything creative like design and photography, and own many photography books ranging from Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, David la Chapelle, Peter Lindenberg, Ellen von Unwerth to Jan Saudek to Frantisek Drtikol and am a proud owner of Pirelli calendars.
I started to make my own clothes when I was eleven, sneaking in my mum’s closet and using her sewing machine secretly. Later on I made my dresses for my dancing lessons as sixteen year old, working on my dresses until four in the morning. During school I couldn’t wait for Friday afternoon to go shopping for fabric and work on something through Sunday evening to impress my school mates on Monday at school. I always wanted to wear something, which would be different from the rest, something that only I could have. I wanted not to blend into the crowd, to provoke a little bit.
I like to create, I always did and always will…it is simply my passion.
What are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve made?
I like my silk blouses, nobody else has the same blouse, only me! My absolute favourite for now is a yellow silk blouse from satin silk with a scarf pattern. Another favorite is the violet blouse from the Etro silk fabric I was lucky to get in Moscow in one little shop I discovered after some time, though the shop was just a few minutes’ walk from our Moscow apartment.
What are some of your favorite clothing and accessory pieces in your wardrobe?
I love perfect craftsmanship, so I am forced to shop for some top end brands like Hermès or Chanel when it comes to bags. When it comes to shoes I like ballet flats from Chanel and any classic pumps ranging from Giuseppe Zanotti, Prada, Vicini, Escada to Christian Louboutin.
Most days I need less than five minutes to dress up, and on some other days I need ages to choose something to wear.
I have multiples of my favourite pieces of clothing like trench coats or any coats in the same colour and cut. If I like something, I’ll just get it in different colour. I might even buy the same piece twice or three times as I did last summer when I discovered the perfect grey trousers.
Some favorite clothing pieces include a Burberry silver trench coat, bouclé jackets from Escada and Rena Lange silk blouses.
Clearly as somebody with a keen eye for design and construction, you must be pretty picky about the clothing you buy. What are some brands that you tend to go to for great design and construction?
I love Burberry classic outwear for its perfect details. For casual and classic clothes with extra twist I like Escada and when it goes to classic pieces in pursuit of elegance and sophistication I opt for Rena Lange clothes which use the highest of quality standards and the finest fabrics, refined detailing and precision tailoring at a couture level.
I know you are a big reader. What are some of your favorites books?
Apart of travel guides I collect books about art, painting, photographing, architecture and interior design plus fashion and style books. I have about 2500 -3000 books in our library.
My favourites are obviously photography, architecture and design books. When it comes to design I own few books of Kelly Hoppen, a famous British interior designer, and books about Josef Hofmann, Jan Kotera, Czech cubism, Mies van der Rhohe, and more. My favourite art books range from Victor Vasarely to Piet Mondrian, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, Salvatore Dalí to Magritte.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
I am a passionate skier. For me it is a sort of adventure, I like the sense of thrill and achievement. I love skiing so deeply that it has become a part of my life. Sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it, but I know that I will ski and be around all aspects of the sport for the rest of my life no matter how old I become. I love skiing because of its freedom, the speed when skiing downhill there is only me, the hill and the speed, nothing else.
Can you call food and coffee a passion? If so, they are my passion. I am not afraid to say that I am a pretty good cook and addicted to coffee. Luckily for me, there is no problem in Vienna to get good coffee almost everywhere, including at home!
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
I took part in a whale shark expedition in Thailand and after five days diving three times a day, I was lucky enough when already in decompression mode, some mysterious shade over my head emerged from the middle of nowhere. I ended up touching the belly of nine meter long baby whale shark!
How fantastic is Suzi’s library? As a big book lover, it is a thrill for me to see the collections of other reading enthusiasts. I also can’t emphasize enough just how jealous I am of Suzi’s ability to create her own clothing – oh, what I’d give to never have to hem something again!
Thank you very much to Suzi for being here today and sharing some of her wonderful world with us. For more of Suzi, you can visit her blog, here.