Miami, FL – November 22, 2016 – The legendary Susanne Bartsch brought her nightlife magic to El Tucán for an over the top cabaret extravaganza, titled, “Bareback Follies.” Guests enjoyed eclectic and eccentric acts by guest performers like Amanda Lepore, Joey Arias, Boylesque, Dirty Martini, and more. Susanne Bartsch is New York City’s patron saint of transformation and inclusion. The parties she’s thrown for three decades—from Paris to Tokyo—have provided a venue for countless creative souls and “creatures” to express themselves, come together and forget the hum-drum of the everyday. Susanne has become notorious for the beautiful, strange, and outlandishly dressed people who flock to her events.
World Red Eye caught up with the nightlife starlit, who gave us a closer look into how she began her career in the entertainment industry and what goes into all of the incredible, over-the-top costumes and performances.
WRE: You’ve been coined as a New York nightlife icon, how did you first get involved in this industry?
SB: I owned a fashion store selling clothes that were designed by young people from London, which was where I had moved from. There was a thriving nightlife culture in London and it had an element of dressing up that I felt New York was missing when I came here. So, I decided to throw a party that had that element – bright lights, high energy music where people go see and be seen in their finery.
WRE: How did owning this boutique play into your nightlife career and looks?
SB: I started the parties as a cross-promotional tool for the boutique, and I think it played into my nightlife career by launching me into the fashion world becoming known as someone in the fashion business. Also, the first big event I produced was a fashion show for my store at the Roxy, showing the designers what I sold. It was a big, fabulous, chaotic revelation and I think I definitely said to myself, “Wow! I think I’m onto something here.”
Expressing your self freely with fashion is really just having a visual conversation with the world.
WRE: What should someone expect to experience when attending one of your parties?
SB: I always encourage people to come in a “look”…that doesn’t mean you have to have a birdcage on your head, but putting energy into what you’re wearing is step one for YOU to have a great special time, at least for me. I also think the guest list is much more interesting if it’s a mix of people. For music, I love it to be festive and happy. I’m not really into dark, druggy, droning thumping, depending on the event as well. There may be performers doing things throughout the night. I prefer to spend my decorating budgets on say, one girl in a latex bodysuit sitting on a ladder and knitting a sweater rather than on balloons, but ideally the budget allows both.
WRE: How do you come up with these various looks? Do you have help creating them?
SB: The looks are usually a collaborative effort between the designers and myself. I style myself mostly along with the hair and makeup I work with. I’m inspired by everything!
WRE: Why is it important to you that your guests can express themselves in however they please?
SB: It makes me happy to see people expressing themselves. I also think there’s a certain liberating sense of freedom that comes from wearing something outside of the norm. Dressing up is a high! It really is. If I feel worn out and a little low energy and the day of an event I’m like, “Ugh, how am I going to get through this?” I know that if I just show up and go through the process of getting dressed up, that I will feel better and have more energy for the party.
WRE: Why was El Tucán the perfect spot to bring your show to Miami?
SB: El Tucán is an absolute jewel of a space. The owners really created the perfect supper club with a show. The show I brought to El Tucán was sort of a remounting and retooling of a show I first developed called “Cabaret Rose” for Dom Perignon. It was basically my version of a classic variety cabaret from the days when that was actually something that people went to for entertainment, but I gave it my own modern twist. El Tucán is very throwback meets now, executed impeccably.
WRE: What are you hoping people take away from your parties?
SB: A renewed sense of the joy of living.
WRE: What do you think it is about your parties that have been such a big hit and keep people coming back for more?
SB: The energy. That is something that you can’t really explain or quantify but you know it when it’s there. Also, seeing things you’ve never seen before.
WRE: Why do you think this culture of being able to express yourself freely is becoming increasingly popular?
SB: I’m not sure why, but I think it’s only going to grow. What this question does make me think of it is the concept of community and tribes. Expressing your self freely with fashion is really just having a visual conversation with the world. If you wear something that is out of the realm of “pedestrian” you are really saying, “I have something different I want or need to add to this conversation.” It’s like everybody walking around wearing fig leaves and then all the sudden somebody shows up in a gorilla suit. Why are you wearing a gorilla suit? Well because that person wants to talk about the idea of evolution from primates as opposed to the accepted notion of Adam and Eve. Well that gorilla suit definitely shakes things up! It’s a bad example, but a basic one. Fashion can be a real catalyst for moving the culture and for shaking things up.
WRE: Tell us about what it was like having your own exhibition at The Museum at FIT?
SB: It was surreal, nerve-wracking, and wonderful. I didn’t “design” the clothes on display, a lot of them were a collaborative effort. I was very happy to be able to show stuff that a lot of my friends through the years designed, but it was also bittersweet because not all of the people whose designs were in the show are still with us. Having the clothes properly displayed in an exhibition kind of brought them and the time back to life, more so than when they are just in a box in storage. It was also an amazing, moving experience for me, and such an honor.
WRE: Where do you see yourself and your brand 10 years from now?
SB: Either six or two years into my new job as the first female president. I think that we’re going to be needing to inject a little fun into the world!
I prefer to spend my decorating budgets on say, one girl in a latex bodysuit sitting on a ladder and knitting a sweater rather than on balloons, but ideally the budget allows both.