When we describe The Thrift Shop series to other people, we say that we seek to interview women who are just as colorful as their closets. Sue Williamson is the living embodiment of that quote. When we arrive at Sue's Brooklyn apartment, snacks are carefully laid out on pink tableware and her adopted chihuahua Owen scrambles around the apartment freely. Sue is the editorial director at Milk Makeup, the high-color and socially conscious line of makeup made with self expression in mind. Her closet is a wild melange of colors that somehow seems as if it was all made with Sue in mind. Wild blonde hair flowing in cascades, Sue starts pulling pieces and we immediately realize this will be one of our favorite features.
How'd you get to where you are now in life?
I started out assisting stylists nine years ago when I was in college. I thought I wanted to be a stylist, so I spent lots and lots of hours in fashion closets and at magazines. I was freelance writing for Refinery29 and styling for Nylon when I realized that writing was something that I really enjoyed doing that you can do alone, whereas styling was a bit more social. I liked having that balance. From there I went to W Magazine and was a digital associate. I worked my way up there to be an editor and then switched to Teen Vogue. Teen Vogue was doing a little bit of everything; print, web, beauty, fashion. I really loved that, dream job. But slowly I became more and more interested in Milk Makeup after it'd launched. When they approached me, I was like I have to give this a try. It was a total leap of faith, they were less than a year old but I just knew I was going to learn so much. I loved their brand values, it felt very similar to what we were trying to do at Teen Vogue in terms of inclusivity and diversity. So I went there and worked with them to develop a brand voice. We've worked on redoing the website, building our editorial platform, and just learning a lot of stuff on the brand side that I wouldn't have learned anywhere else.
What are you really excited about at Milk?
I'm really excited to be working for a company whose first instinct is to do something that maybe isn't selling products. They want to make films that impact people's lives in a positive way. We did a glitter stick earlier this year that benefited the LGBT Center. Those projects that help other people are what makes me really happy.
You're originally from Tennessee - how'd you decide on New York?
I came here for college. I went to Pratt. I grew up in the tiniest town, had a farm - very rural. Here in Brooklyn was really nice and quiet, we had a campus, it was a good transition. It was definitely different, but not as different as New York City. Even now when I go into the city, I'm like , 'there are so many people'.
What was your first memory of vintage?
When I was a little kid we used to go to this beach town on the Mississippi gulf coast and there was a store called Paper Moon. They had crazy dresses, I was probably eight or nine years old and the shopkeeper used to let me dress up in all the clothes and that was my fun thing to do. Then in high school there was this store in Memphis called Flashback. To this day I think it's the best vintage store. I was always an outcast style wise, I never had the same clothes as anybody. I feel like the crazy vintage clothes that I started becoming attracted to were saying, if i'm going to be weird, I might as well be weird in a way that's going to shape my aesthetic, weird in a way that was over the top. I'd wear crazy things to football games. Now as an adult, you start thinking I need to be sustainable, I don't want to be buying things that I'll just throw away, or buying things that use this much water, or things that are impacting the environment in a bad way. You see how many items of clothing are shipped overseas or donated in not the right way. I try to be more conscious of that, and that kind of drove me back to vintage. When I was working in magazines, I wanted to be wearing new stuff and following trends but now I'm coming back home to vintage.
What are your style inspirations?
I get a lot of my inspiration from movies. All the clothes in Suspiria are amazing. I love Brewster McCloud. I love Elvis' style. I love old country singers. Movies are probably the main inspiration.
Is there a decade you relate most to in fashion?
The seventies. I like the fifties and sixties, but I think the seventies are more chill.
What are your top vintage stores?
Collections in Bushwick
Screaming Mimis in NYC
Wild Oleander has a cool vintage rack
New York Vintage
L Train Vintage (pro tip: the Park Slope L Train's are really untapped)
Fox & Fawn
What tips do you have for first time vintage shoppers?
I'd recommend starting with a smaller place. Also figuring out what can be taken in. Having a good knowledge of what's actually achievable and how much money you're willing to spend on getting things altered is a good idea. I'd also suggest starting with smaller price points because you're still figuring out what you like.