Style Spotlight: Susan Bender Whitfield

With an inimitable eye for style, it’s no surprise Edward Enninful made Susan Bender Whitfield a contributing editor at Vogue. Here, she shares more about her personal style – including shopping tips, favourite pieces and her biggest fashion influences.
By Elaine Lloyd Jones /

My style is best described as eclectic. Let’s say I like to keep things interesting: on the one hand I like to be smart and polished, but there’s also a part of me that likes to show a bit of skin and be a bit sexy. I’ve been embracing more colour in the past year as well – before that I was very much a monochrome and neutral girl. 

The 40s and 50s are a big influence on my personal style. Everything about those eras was so precise – the attention to detail, the fabrics, the colours. It was all so beautifully done and so precise.

I’ve been buying vintage since I was about 14 years old. Around that time, I would often go down to Portobello Market. I still go to Portobello now, but I also love Annie’s Ibiza, and whenever I’m on holiday I try to track down a second-hand shop to have a good rummage. Rellick (is also one of my go-tos), as is ReSee

Whenever I’m on holiday I try to TRACK DOWN A SECOND-HAND SHOP to have a good rummage.

This spring/summer, I’ve been wearing a lot of pyjama sets, both in the house and when I go out. Yolke and Olivia Von Halle are favourites.

At the moment, it’s mostly art and photography on my wish list. I'm definitely more into contemporary art. I'd love to own works by artists Adébayo Bolaji, Hugh Hayden, The Connor Brothers, and photography by Noémie Goudal, James Barnor, Hassan Hajjaj and Chris Levine

There have been a few key women who have influenced my style. I love the way Nina Simone dressed. It was eclectic and experimental, and she didn’t conform. Eartha Kitt was fantastic, and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was so classic. She had the kind of style that’s easy to replicate. 

My favourite pieces in my wardrobe are by Alaïa. I have a viscose knitted polo shirt set with a top that buttons all the way down and matching shorts. I also have a white cotton minidress that comes out every year. It has a drawstring waist and a tiered skirt – very short and very classic. 

I love the way NINA SIMONE dressed. It was ECLECTIC AND EXPERIMENTAL, and she didn’t conform.

When it comes to favourite designers and brands,  I love Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent,  Alexandre Vauthier, Balenciaga when Nicholas Ghesquière was the creative director and now Demna Gvasalia's creations for the brand. I also really enjoy what Pieter Mulier is doing with Alaïa. 

The only place I shop on the high street is Uniqlo. I love the t-shirts and I live in the brand's heat-tech pieces in winter. The JW Anderson and Jil Sander collections have really impressed me.

Smaller brands I love include Lisou, Metier, The Kneed, Taller Marmo, Ilta Studio and Jakke – it does great waterproofs and puffers. Shu Shu Tong is another great one; I like the separates, and it has a real Japanese kawaii feel to it. The fabrics, the embroidery and detail – it’s all very contemporary. 

I would far rather invest my money in sustainable brands. If you’re doing something great for the environment and it’s not just greenwashing, then I’ll be loyal. Marfa StanceStine GoyaBite Studios and Baum and Pfergarten are some of my favourite sustainable brands. I also collaborated with the Savile Row Tailor Huntsman on a collection designed with versatility, longevity and luxury in mind.

If I REALLY WANT SOMETHING and it’s very expensive, I’ll MAKE MYSELF WAIT a couple of weeks.

I am quite disciplined with the way I shop. If I really want something, I'll go and have a look at it – touch it, feel it – and then go home and think about it. If I really want something and it’s very expensive, I’ll make myself wait a couple of weeks. Or, if I happen to sell something on eBay or Vestiaire, I'll give myself permission to buy something. 

I loved the Preen look from this shoot. I felt most myself in it – it’s more reflective of my rebellious side. It’s a grey blazer with appliquéd details, and I wore it with a sleeveless polo and a very short nylon skirt. That’s very me – a bit conservative on top and sexy on the bottom. 

There’s a danger in becoming TOO FIXATED WITH TRENDS – you can lose your CREATIVITY AND INDIVIDUALITY.

Because of my job, I have to be aware of trends, but I wouldn’t say I follow them. There’s a danger in becoming too fixated with trends – you can lose your creativity and individuality and end up feeling uncomfortable in what you’re wearing. You have to be able to make it your own. 

There are a couple of style rules I swear by. I always take one thing off before I walk out the door, and I always take a pair of sunglasses with me. In summer, I take a bikini too. I know that sounds a bit strange, but you never know what might happen. I love Hunza G and Eres – the latter is very expensive, but the pieces last a lifetime. Also, invest in a good tailor to alter and repair your clothing.

Follow @Kitty_Su on Instagram.

Makeup: Michael Gray using Grown Alchemist Skincare and Ilia Cosmetics.

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