Fashion Underground: Introducing Susanne Bartsch

Susanne Bartsch has been the queen of New York City nightlife since the 1980s when she first became famous for spectacular parties, where a diverse crowd brought fashion to the level of performance art. Over the years, Bartsch has had a profound impact on the world of fashion and visual culture. She has been a retailer, a fashion show organiser, a muse and a catalyst. This extraordinary career, combined with her fascination with the way people present themselves makes Bartsch the perfect subject for a new exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

‘It was about seeing and being seen’ – Susanne Bartsch

Famous for being an underground ‘It girl’, party planner, party goer, style consultant, ‘the Swiss Miss’ and philanthropist, Susanne Bartsch lends herself to the photographer’s lens, and the catalogue to Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch showcases her life and creativity. To celebrate the show, we’ve compiled some key facts about New York’s most ostentatious party girl.

susanne bartsch

Endpapers from Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch

Susanne Bartsch – key facts

  • Bartsch was born in Switzerland, moved to London as a teenager and became part of the fashion scene at an early age. She arrived in New York City on 14 February 1981. Her cosmopolitan upbringing is echoed in her work.
  • On arrival in NYC she decided she missed the London subcultural post-punk fashion scene and, to remedy this, opened an avant-garde inspired fashion boutique with imported styles from the likes of BodyMap, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood.
  • The success of the boutique inspired Bartsch to stage her first fashion show called ‘New London in New York’. This was responsible for bringing many new British designers to the New York fashion scene. It has been said that she was part of the ‘pre-globalisation’ of the fashion industry.
  • Bartsch is a philanthropist, organising events such as the ‘Love Ball’ and ‘the Hoppening’ (a benefit hosted by the Playboy Mansion) in support of AIDS charities. She has also been responsible for a renaissance in New York nightlife, hosting spectacular events at popular nightclubs such as Savage and Palladium.
  • She enabled the cross-pollination taking place in the late 1980s between the worlds of fashion, nightclubs, art and music.

View inside! A selection of spreads from Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch 


Exhibition Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch opens at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York on 18 September 2015.

Valerie Steele is director and chief curator and Melissa Marra is associate curator of education and public programmes at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.


Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch by Valerie Steele and Melissa Marra is available from Yale University Press.

susanne bartsch

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