The Art of Fashion
Susan Barrett launches Barrett Barrera to bridge the gap between fashion and art.
It was a leap of faith—and impeccable timing—that led to Susan Barrett’s launch of Barrett Barrera, an art-meets-fashion consulting company that will facilitate the efforts of design “in-betweeners.” Although she’s entering a fairly new category in the art world, the former director of the World Chess Hall of Fame has never been one to turn down a challenge.
Inspired in part by her involvement with “A Queen Within,” the groundbreaking exhibition held at WCHOF last year exploring the fusion of fashion and chess, Barrett has taken on the mission of showcasing conceptual fashion designers on a fresh platform. Her close relationships with designers and influential industry experts, such as Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology Valerie Steele, designer Azzedine Alaia, his assistant designer Hideki Seo and fashion curator Sofia Hedman, have helped move Barrett closer to her ultimate goal of placing unconventional fashion artists in galleries, museums and private collections across the globe—much as one would for a traditional artist.
With her hand-picked team of art experts and curators—including “A Queen Within” assistant curator Kelly Peck—she is confident that Barrett Barrera fills an underserved niche in the growing art and fashion movement.
ALIVE: How do fashion designers you work with differ from traditional artists?
Susan Barrett: Fashion artists are in this in-between space. It’s not necessarily wearable fashion, but it’s still art, it’s still sculpture, it still has to do with the body, humanity, identity—and that’s the most powerful form of art and expression. My idea is to pull together these “in-between” artist-designers to showcase them in the same environments. We will be trying to get them into private collections, museums and gallery shows.
ALIVE: What’s your plan to make it happen?
SB: It’s very similar to art curation. “A Queen Within” opened so many doors—I got an immense number of phone calls and emails from museums and institutions all over the world, and they want to know what’s next, what they can do with this fashion-meets-art movement. I think that —especially for a city like St. Louis—it was an eye-opener to showcase fashion the way we did. You went into it thinking, “I know what this is about,” but it was more than that—you came out of it transformed. The entire thing was a leap of faith.
ALIVE: You describe the fashion art world as a movement. What began the surge in interest of this category of art?
SB: After [Alexander McQueen’s] “Savage Beauty” became a huge phenomenon in New York, it opened the door for this type of art and pushed the boundaries of conventionality. All of a sudden there was this perfect storm in the art world of museums wanting to explore fashion and designers wanting to explore art, and there isn’t really a comfortable placement for it. The concept is pioneering change.
ALIVE: What do you see as your role in the movement?
SB: I was fortunate enough to come in contact with the young designers and artists who are doing this. Right now, they don’t have the same affordability and entry that traditional artists do. That’s what I would like to bring to the table—not only for the designers, but also for the benefit of the collectors, curators and traditional audiences to understand and embrace.