RUN, don’t walk—a new project is not just a must-see for vintage fashion enthusiasts, but a fascinating insight into what it means to be a muse and a collaborator. Writer and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn came into her power, professionally and personally, in the 1990s when she found herself in circles with other ground-breaking and inspiring female creatives. One such figure was multi-faceted artist Susan Cianciolo, whose 11 seminal RUN collections from 1995 to 2001 cemented her as a cult-status fashion designer. Together, they also created many pieces together while progressing in their perspective careers and now, Goldwyn is ready to release the garments and art back into the world. Launching today, Liz.Run is a “labor of love” created in tandem with gallerist Bridget Donahue that serves not only as the home for a two-week auction, but also a lasting digital archive of a bygone New York and the 1990s style that prevails. We caught up with Goldwyn to hear all about it.
Is there any significance to the timing of the project? Why did now feel like the right time?
We’ve been developing this for almost two years. There’s lot of layers to it! We think people will be excited, because it’s such a treasure trove of audio, visuals, video, and contemporary art. As for why now, I’m in a very reflective period of my life. I’d written a personal book, which came out in the fall. It’s really been a time of reflecting and letting go, so it felt like the right time for these pieces to find new homes.
Is this project the first of its kind for you?
I started out in the auction space, at Sotheby’s, so it’s a full circle moment. I’ve done some charity projects. Back in 2014, I teamed up with Karen Elson for ‘Vintage Vanguard’ on Moda Operandi [to benefit Dress for Success] but I’ve never specifically collaborated with one designer. This has been so personal. Special Offer are incredible web developers—the site feels a bit like a ‘chose your own adventure’-type video game. They just kept coming up with more ideas! You’ve got my audio on there, talking about that time in New York, these garments, and there’s a conversation between Susan and I, so users can toggle between everything.
Where have the clothes that are being auctioned been all this time?
I’m, like, a crazy vintage collector—I’ve been collecting since I was 13! I keep everything at a climate controlled facility in Los Angeles. My dream is to have something like the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris…but it’s nothing like that! Because I’ve collected for so long, I have a sense of what’s going to become collectable. Due to how people currently feel about the ’90s and ’00s, it feels like a good time to part with these pieces in a way that’s contextualized. Susan also stopped making fashion a long time ago, so it’s impossible to find her stuff anymore, which also made it really felt like the right moment. I was such a different woman back then; we reflect a lot in our conversation on that. How we were both looking at dressing and our sexuality. It’s all very tied into why I was ready to look back on this period of life and let things go.
What do you think it is about the 1990s that people are yearning for so much?
I think it’s two major things. One, it’s pre-social media. Before everything had to be documented within an inch of your life. It’s also pre-9/11, which changed so much about New York and America, and pre-the first dot com crash. I think we have a nostalgia for the time when we were more innocent and free. Now there’s a whole generation of people raised post-9/11 whose lives have been informed by social media. They’re looking back to a time when you really had to discover things for yourself. Even in that time period, I was definitely into collecting things. I couldn’t afford Yohji Yamamoto or Commes Des Garcons at the time, but I would go and buy things at sample sales. I was also collecting pieces from the 1920s and 1960s because that’s what was around at the time.
Tell us about the clothes that are being auctioned!
There’s a lot of things, ranging from deconstructed t-shirts—my favorite is an ‘I love New York’ one—and custom suits and evening dresses, which were collaborations between me and Susan using pieces from my archives, like 19th century glass buttons. There’s a burlesque costume she made while I was making my first film, which has a certificate of authenticity. And there’s a lot of denim skirts, as she was so known for them. One of the first pieces she made me was a denim skirt, which is in the permanent collection of The Met. What’s cool with the site that Special Offer has done is that they’ve really celebrated that relationship between her and I. When I worked on auctions, like the Marlene Dietrich sale, you get such an insight into a life. Clothes are so personal. People will tell you stories: ‘I met my husband in that dress!’ or ‘I was broken up with in this dress!’ When I look back, I get emotional. You can hear the memories as you go through the site. One bodysuit that I see in the pictures, I remember my ex-husband saying it was too sexy to leave the house in!
Sounds like something we should definitely bid on then! Was there a reason you wanted to make it an online experience?
It’s always been important to me to make things accessible. Working in the fashion department at Sotheby’s, I realized fashion is an entry into collecting for people—it’s not as expensive as art. An auction is an elitist concept, so how can you make it inclusive? The site will also live on as a digital archive of her work. I wanted people from all over to be able to access this. We weren’t planning the auction as a money maker, it’s more been a labor of love over the last three years. There are a lot of people who collect Susan’s work, especially in Japan, so I wanted people from anywhere to be able to join. There are also art pieces in there: barbie dolls she made me, sketches, and perfume bottles…all starting at $111.
What’s the reception been like in the lead up?
I heard yesterday from Special Offer that a lot of people have already signed up. And I can’t say anything yet, but there has been museum interest too!
How did you and Susan meet?
We met in London London through Aaron Rose of Alleged Gallery. I was probably about 19 when I met her. I had such a girl crush on her! She was bit older than me—you know when you meet someone and think they’re so cool and you obsess over what they’re wearing. She had the coolest deconstructed skirt, and then she made one for me. That’s the one that’s in The Met. We just had this instant connection and platonic love affair. What was really cool about her world back then is that there were so many women in her orbit: musicians, designer, actors, poets, all sorts of women supporting each other like an art collective, when that wasn’t necessarily the case for the fashion and art world back then. Things have gotten better in the last few years, but it was not the most encouraging thing to be a female artist back then. I treasure the time I got to spend in that community.
Something that also seems to underpin her work, which wasn’t as much of a non-negotiable back then, is sustainability.
It wasn’t [as much of a priority], but this was all very much pre-fast fashion! You didn’t have a proliferation of high street options. Susan was considered part of the deconstruction movement going on back then, with Ann Demeulemeester and Margiela. But yes, a lot of her pieces do also contain pieces of older garments. It was all kind of ‘sexy academic deconstructionist!’ [Sustainability] is also why I’ve always loved vintage. I used to get my allowance from recycling—my mom was very early on that train.
How are you feeling as the launch is about to happen?
I didn’t think I’d be so emotional. Writing the book felt so vulnerable and was a real process of letting go, so maybe it prepped me for this. But it feels really freeing. It’s beautiful to hold a space in my heart for it all, and also bitter sweet. There’s so much love and amazing parts in this time of my life. Overwhelmingly, I feel really proud of what we’ve been ale to do. At that time, I could never have envisioned where my life would be [now], and I think that that period was so formative to be around other people, particularly Susan, a female artist a decade ahead of me in her career who was really promoting an anti-authority, punk rock attitude especially around fashion.
Liz.Run is live at 3.33PM EST today—find out more here!
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