Suno Takes a Leap With This Wide Sargasso Sea -Inspired Collection


Suno design duo Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis are known for making bright, richly patterned clothing, displaying a vibe has described as “a kind of offbeat practicality.” All of those elements remain accessible in Suno’s fall 2015 ready-to-wear collection, but we’re also taken in a darker, more more distinctly feminine direction by the designers’ muse, Bertha Mason—the “madwoman” in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, as reimagined by Jean Rhys in her 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea.

Jean Rhys, who was herself born in the West Indies, spent nearly two decades breathing life into
“Antoinette,” the young Creole woman who would later become Bertha Mason. Wide Sargasso Sea is a masterpiece of postcolonial literature that shifts the narrative of Jane Eyre, redistributing power back to the dehumanized mass of threatening, exoticized female sexuality who served only as a brief foil to Jane’s trembling white innocence. Antoinette’s descent into madness is written as one extended act of violence by Rochester and, by extension, the British Empire; much like any colonized nation, she is commodified and stripped of her identity, helpless to pick up the fragmented pieces.

In this collection, Beatty and Osterweis construct a fluid exchange between the floral patterns and loose silhouettes of the Caribbean and the dark, formal, masculine shapes of the haute bourgeoise. Black is used consistently, which is unusual for the brand; the color red, a recurring symbol in the book, also plays a large role. This is not the bright, easy Suno of seasons past, and it’s harder to love—but with so many designers, season after season, trotting out vague references to “dualities” and “contradictions,” Suno manages to stand out with this impressively subtle, faithful interpretation of a female identity under fire.

The first trio of looks gives us the collection’s most perfect formulation of “descent”: a boxy black coat evolves into a sleeveless black dress—also buttoned-up, but with thick ribbons of red bursting out from the bottom in a more organic take on the never-ending fringe trend; the clothes fully relax their grip on the woman in this third look, a patterned silk shirtdress with racy sheer lace panels.

Throughout the collection (the rest of the looks are not depicted in order, and some are not included), Suno plays with ideas of constriction and freedom by mixing sheer and opaque, solids and patterns, loose and form-fitting silhouettes.

Elsewhere, we have entire looks that fall on the far end of the “madness” spectrum—patterned, body-grazing, sheer, instinctual. The ’70s-esque flowers seen below are not something I’d choose to wear on my body, but there’s something very Bertha Mason about their childlike boldness.

Stripes are also a big presence in the collection, some invoking the various flags of the Caribbean; the far right, one of my favorite looks, glides the colors of the Rastafari movement onto a slick, form-fitting turtleneck dress.

A few pieces seemed a bit lost in the collection, adhering more firmly to the Suno DNA of past seasons. That said, the look below is my favorite—it reminds me of a quote from the beginning of Wide Sargasso Sea, where Antoinette’s mind wanders towards the connection between land and the collective imagination: “Watching the red and yellow flowers in the sun thinking of nothing, it was as if a door opened and I was somewhere else, something else. Not myself any longer.”

Images via Getty

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