Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Designer Mary Symczak of Susan New York Design

All runway images by Simon Lau

Fond of this pic snapped on my  phone with
designer! I wore one of her looks that day.
Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career. 

My father was a painter and set designer, so I was encouraged to create from a very early age. When puberty hit, I guess my fascination with becoming a woman was explored through creating and combining clothing.  I continue to do this, to try to create and understand my identity as a woman today.

How did you learn your skills? If you studied fashion design where? If you are self-taught how did you hone your skills?

I started taking high school fashion design courses at FIT when I was 14. I got my BFA at FIT, where I split my time between their New York and Italy programs. I took a year off between my sophomore and junior years to intern full time at Oscar de la Renta and work on a cashmere goat farm in Chianti to learn about organic cashmere. During and after college I also interned at many other companies, including Calvin Klein Collection and The Row, Then having full time design jobs in the fashion industry really taught me the most.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

The flow of ideas for new designs presents itself most readily, but I am not the greatest seamstress.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

I am inspired by my daily life needs ( I wish this was longer, I wish I had more mobility in this, I wish I could wear this and not worry about getting stains on it) combined with diligent research about the changing role of women in society today, and what that means for how we represent ourselves in the world through our clothing.

Color is important to show cohesion or tell a story, but I abhor the idea of poisoning the world with more chemicals so that something matches a pantone. Since the fabrics I source are leftovers discarded by other designers at the end of their seasons, I prioritize fabric quality and how much of it there is on a roll before I worry about what color it is. Every color is a gift. 

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week. 

The name of the collection is "Difficult Women," inspired by an article about Frances Mcdormand. I had originally wanted to make the concept of the collection empowering and positive in some way, but that felt phony and pandering. So instead I focused on the realities of the day to day lives of the women I know and love and butt heads with on a regular basis. These are women who work day and night, are filled with passionate rage about everything from their idiot bosses to the current state of society, and they feel like they are losing their minds. So I broke the collection down into clothes that not only are physical representations of these women, but are also things a woman might want to wear when she is Tired, Angry, and Crazy. 

 The Collection opens with dark prints and blues that are cozy and comforting for these poor overworked women. It is followed by looks that are "office wear" but are streaked with stripes of angry red fringe, or cracking with errant seams, and with plenty of cargo pockets to be prepared for the daily battle. The show closes with representations of a woman who has finally lost it. Evening wear is mixed with sportswear ( because you have to stay fit, but be beautiful all the time!!!!!), ruffles are sliding off their bodies, and floral patterns are a frantic confusion of shapes and colors, much like her mind. 

Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

I think my favorite is Look #7. This is an example of the mix of sportswear with evening wear. The top is a sporty thermal-looking waffle cotton hand-dyed with natural dye. The dye pattern could come off as maybe an abstract floral, or faded bloodstains. The skirt is a classic and simple silhouette in a very "evening wear" silk charmeuse. I feel like this look really tells a story, and is also just incredibly comfortable to wear. The fabrics feel lovely on your skin, and for as covered up as you are in these designs, it is a very sensual feeling having the fabric almost floating around your body and having complete freedom of motion.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

The collection is available for pre-order on my website,, but there are also a limited number of styles available at a wonderful boutique in NYC's Lower East Side called Theory of Gaia, on 174 Ludlow Street.

What's next for you as a designer and your brand? 

I am currently struggling between my feelings on socialism and capitalism, and wondering how to continue growing this company while realizing that I just don't like "selling things to people" and don't give a damn if I ever make money off of this. I'm going to make clothes no matter what, until my fingers stop working. And if someone else wants to figure out how to bombard people's lives with demands that they buy things, they should call me.

Love this linen dress with hand-dye
detailing so was honoured she
allowed me to wear it one night.
Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your brand that isn't included above?

Every design is made with deadstock fabric, which is one of the most eco-friendly ways to source fabric. Pieces that are hand-dyed use only all natural dyes, and as sparingly as possibly, hence the "splash" technique. All designs are produced either in the garment center in midtown Manhattan, or by a seamstress in Philadelphia. Because of the limited nature of deadstock fabric, only about 12 units of each style can be made, making each piece "limited edition."

What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

What you create sends a message out into the world whether its intentional or not, so take control of your message, make it intentional, and think long and hard about its effect on people's lives and our time in history.

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