Friday, September 14, 2012

Inside Suzanne Rae Pelaez's Bushwick Space

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Suzanne Rae Pelaez lives and works in Brooklyn, designing clothes that not only speak to Brooklyn’s current love of craftsmanship and local specificity, but also to a more timeless idea of beauty through evolution. Inspiration has come from sources as varied as Aldous Huxley, William Blake, Francesca Woodman, and Brooklyn street-art. Educated at both Bryn Mawr and Parsons, with a background in art history and the NYC gallery scene, Pelaez moved six years ago into a live-work space in Bushwick that proved to be an energizing change from the tiny Soho apartment she had been living in, which only fit a twin-bed.

“I didn’t know too much about Brooklyn culture at the time, and, in truth, part of me was apprehensive to leave Manhattan. But I quickly grew to love Brooklyn’s chill, laid-back attitude. It was good for me... more my vibe, and it has enabled me to engross myself in my work and philosophy more honestly,” Pelaez tells us. Looking around her Bushwick home-studio, we can see exactly what she means. Light floods the space through huge, uncovered windows, and the lofty ceilings and gallery-white walls are the perfect physical canvas for Pelaez to design and construct her line. Racks of her clothes are arranged around the perimeter of the room and single pieces are suspended from metal rods, as perfectly integrated into the space as any other work of art. Bookshelves line one wall, and the haphazard way the volumes are arranged makes it evident that Pelaez actually reads and references and lives with her books—no color-coordinated, sterile stacks for her.

In fact, that might be the most definitive thing about Pelaez’s home. She lives here. There is nothing overly designed or artificial in her space, even while so many things are artfully arrayed. Whether it’s a fur throw lying across the back of a tufted, white Chesterfield sofa or a tangle of dolls piled on the velvet cushions of an antique chair, things are arranged both for utility and, it seems, inspiration. One of the things Pelaez responds to the most right now is “the Brooklyn street-art scene. It’s reflective of the times and right there for the people to see and reflect on. I like that accessibility.” Her appreciation of accessibility seems to be incorporated perfectly into her home and studio because the living and working spaces flow into one another, reflecting the relaxed vibe Pelaez espouses. “Living here I somehow feel more removed from the race of New York City, which enables me to be more honest with myself, my work, my philosophy. I feel encouraged to be an individual with a strong mind and strong will. I don’t feel as affected by what others think than I think I would if I lived elsewhere.”

Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World
Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World

Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s Brave New World

By ysa perez

Click to View 25 slides

As an advocate of the local garment industry, Pelaez practices what she preaches. “If garment production left Brooklyn or New York, it would be a very sad day. Independent designers are the future of American fashion, and if the local manufacturers were no longer here, neither would be the designers and therefore American fashion. It’s too expensive to produce overseas for most small businesses, not to mention that it takes away from the art and craft of it all. The inspiration and the creation would be gone.” Seeing Pelaez’s work space, with patterns spread out across tables and an ironing board set up beneath a window, it makes perfect sense that an artist’s work should, and does, reflect where that work is generated. Pelaez crafts exquisite clothes, the products of personalized attention and detail which would be impossible to attain from garments manufactured in some overseas factory. It is the essence of the current Brooklyn ethos of keeping things local and specific.

And at a time when there’s so much attention—some might say too much attention—on Brooklyn’s creative community, how does Pelaez feel about being a part of that? “Everyone wants a piece of Brooklyn—fashion, music, art... everything cool. It feels good, but I don’t want it to blow up so much that it goes away. Brooklyn as it is now is sort of perfect: nice areas, sketchy areas, lots of character everywhere. Lots of culture too. There’s a real earnest vibe, and I’m riding that wave and totally digging it.”

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About The Author

Kristin Iversen

Kristin Iversen

Kristin Iversen is the Managing Editor at Brooklyn Magazine and the L Magazine. She has been described as "a hipster buzzword made flesh." This seems pretty accurate.

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