Stood Back in Awe

Tell us why ballet is such a big inspiration for you.

There is much to ballet that is connected to my childhood. I always wanted to be a ballerina and had all the desire but, sadly, none of the application. So it was never to be. But I always held ballet dancers up as these mythic creatures that could perform feats of enormous grace and dignity, defying gravity, that would fly through the air into my heart!

As a young girl, I started by watching the Ballet Russes and being entirely mesmerised by the costumes and the music. I like to sit close to the orchestra pit and be overwhelmed by the music and write down the colour combinations of the costumes. I am, of course, influenced by the costume designs of Diaghilev and Cocteau and Picasso, probably too much, I expect!

What was your first experience of watching ballet and why did it make such an impression on you?

Ballet is a collision of all the things I love. The mind-blowing colour combinations of the sets and costumes, the high drama, the gravity-defying athleticism of the dancers, the dignity and grace, the sheer power of it all and of course the music. For me, there is no other art form that is so totally consuming as classical ballet.

What is your favourite ballet and why?

I love the classics, of course. Swan Lake, La Bayadère Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker. I love the radical and unabashed sentimentality of them that runs so contrary to what the rest of the arts seem to offer.

What have you always loved about the thought of ballet dancers wearing your designs? Eg. Do you see a synergy between the movement and silhouettes?

Ballet exists beautifully and defiantly within tradition, and I respond very much to this in my own design work. My designs have a subversive femininity that I see in classical ballet. Great classical ballet comes to you new and refreshed as a presentation of pure emotion, resisting newness for its own sake. As a direct influence in my own work, the contrasting of high and low colours and textures has a huge impact—shining gold and silver against drab browns, shot with royal, purples, emeralds and pinks. Gorgeous stuff! Oh, and the colours of the silk ballet shoes are enough to make you weep!

What, for you, makes a great dancer?

Drama, strength, dignity and charm. 

Why have you chosen these particular styles for the ballerinas to wear?

I asked the dancers to choose what they liked! I wanted them to feel happy and comfortable! I just stood back and watched…in awe!


Susie for British Vogue