Walking into the pre-show prep before Susan Alexandra’s New York Fashion Week event felt like familiar — and much-missed — before-times chaos. But then again, maybe not: Because true to form, the exuberant accessories brand, beloved by celebrities, influencers and the overall fashion crowd for its cheeky beaded bags, wasn’t doing fashion week the expected way. Owner and creative director Susan Korn decided (and down to the wire, apparently) to throw a standup comedy show, featuring the funniest, most envelope-pushing, and ultimately chic talent out there.
“I just started DM-ing everybody I know who's really funny and that's how I cast the whole show,” Korn, a longtime comedy fan, says as a flurry of makeup, hair and nail artists buzz around her. (“Can I go to the bathroom in these?,” she asks while observing her own silver glitter press-ons.) “These are people that I've literally not been able to get tickets to their shows.”
On the eve of NYFW’s official first day, the Susan Alexandra Comedy Hour featured 12 comics, such as Ziwe head writer and Shrill star Jo Firestone, “alt-comedy darling,” per Interview Magazine, and Celebrity Book Club co-podcaster Steven Phillips Horst, and Saturday Night Live’s Chloe Fineman, the master impressionist who’s spoofed Ella Emhoff — and then faced the VP’s stepdaughter sitting front row during the evening’s event. (It wasn’t awkward.)
A comedic lineup felt synergistic as a showcase for Susan Alexandra’s upcoming line-up, as the pieces certainly bring out one’s inner child. The styles include new bags in new fabrications, like the Marie Antoinette-referential satin, and statement-making apparel, like cute little capes, beaded crop tops, and tunic dresses for layering. Not to mention, Korn always makes a memorable splash at NYFW to showcase her vibrant Instagram-friendly designs. In February 2019, she threw a Bat Mitzvah fashion extravaganza and for Fall 2020, right before the world shut down, Korn staged a heartfelt original musical starring some of her bold-name friends, including award-winning A Strange Loop actor Larry Owens playing her dog, Pigeon.
Recently seen as sneakerhead Zach on Abbott Elementary, Owens triumphantly returned to the fantastical world of Susan Alexandra to MC the designer’s show at the legendary Comedy Cellar. “I love the tons of barrettes because my hair is really long right now,” says Owens, during pre-show glam, pointing to a profusion of beaded butterfly clips almost fluttering above his Euphoria-style under-eye jewels and intense orange eyeshadow. “I actually would like to bring this into real life for a special occasion. I feel really pretty and really confident, which is how I like to go on stage feeling: just absolutely ready for an audience.”
Owens is known to bring bags from his personal Susan Alexandra collection on-stage during his hilarious sets — not just for accessorizing, but also wielding fashion to take a stand. “It’s just so awesome to be in these spaces as a radical femme — as a queer voice in comedy — and walking on stage with my bag in hand, as statement, like, ‘Here I am!,’” he exclaims, while clad in a vintage sequined tangerine caftan from The RealReal. (Designer pieces worn in the showcase, and selected by Korn, will be available to shop on The RealReal on Saturday, September 10.) “And, honestly, [my bag] is a bit of a scene partner, as well.”
As a clever use of props, Owens modeled a series of purses from the new collection as he introduced each comedian, including Saturday Night Live’s Sarah Sherman in a rainbow Jelly Belly-esque mix of hair clips, crop top, and flapper-fringe belt (which also offered up some ASMR-like sound effects). Hannah Pilkes, meanwhile, went for full fairy tale satire in a Sleeping Beauty-like puff-sleeve dress accented with a whimsically beaded flower crown, fruit necklace, and a demure floral-embellished Bertin bag (a new style for Korn). She sent up princess weddings and rom-com fantasies, while joking about her own upcoming nuptials.
Korn and her team, as she puts it, “completely sculpted the looks” for every member of the talent. “It was a lot of fun to decide how to use their own personal traits to design the looks for them,” she says.
Prolific podcaster and 2022 Emmy-nominee Sydnee Washington, who discusses her relationship with fashion in her own comedy, happily connected with her playful pink look, complete with garden party-themed hair clips, a capelet with candy-like beading, colorful layered belts, and a bag completely embellished with rosettes.
“I'm very much like Barbie, but also relatable,” says Washington, almost workshopping her character pre-show. “She's a Barbie that will be in a pop of color, but she might be on public transportation. [Korn] understands that I'm extravagant, but also the everyday girl. The cape feels very much ‘girl around town’ and I really just trusted her with the look and I didn't have any notes.”
“She's like my most girly friend,” says Marie Faustin aka Reeezy, Washington’s BFF, collaborator and co-podcaster, as she finishes up hair and makeup. (Bring back their The Unofficial Expert podcast! And the duo’s 2018 spot on Matt Rogers’ and Bowen Yang’s Las Culturistas remains a fave.)
“Look at you!” says Washington, approvingly to Faustin, who’s formidably clad in head-to-toe black and sparkles, like the sartorial Maleficent to Washington’s Aurora.
“The arm candy, the nails, all the accessories make the look,” says Faustin, gesturing to her goth-meets-baroque fingerless gloves, thick choker, and gunmetal beaded capelet. The Vulture-approved comedian usually relies on her statement rings to support her standup routines — many of which she just impressively improvs in the moment. “You're seeing my whole body when I'm on stage. I'm holding a microphone. You're probably looking at my hands,” she explains. “So I just feel naked if I don't have [all my rings].”
But, tonight, a comedically (sorry, had to) oversize bag, with layers-upon-layers of flowing beaded fringe, is destined to be the pièce de résistance of Faustin’s look — while also offering comedic possibilities (and perhaps a distraction).
“They gave me this giant bag to hold,” says Faustin. “Maybe I'll hang it on the mic stand and I'll hold the microphone. I'm gonna get on stage and completely forget that I'm supposed to be doing standup. I'm gonna just stand there for five minutes and pace back and forth and pose.”
But, like the rest of us, the two are looking forward to returning to Fashion Week with a bang, whether on-stage, on the runway, or in the audience.
“I'm excited that it's back because I didn't go to any events last year. Sydnee and I were sitting in my apartment, and we were like, ‘How did we not get invited to any event? We are fashion,” says Faust. “This year, right out the gate, [we’re at] Susan Alexandra, and I love that for us.”