The World of Sue Kreitzman

Sue features in the new book by East London Homes by the Hoxton Press

East London Homes details the alluring interiors of 29 homes in London's most creative neighbourhoods; providing an enthralling insight into the lives of the creative minds who have chosen to call this area home.

With the rise of lnstagram accounts like Decor Hardcore, New Age Cocaine, 70s Dinner Party and The 80s Interior are we failing back in love with "bad taste"? What's the definition of bad taste and, more importantly, who decides whether something is or not? Is our move towards questionable taste a reaction to "good taste" being a little bit mainstream, a little bit safe and - worst of all - a little bit beige? Artist Sue Kreitzman, writer Raven Smith and designer Emily Forgot sit down together in Sue's house to discuss the notions of good and bad taste exploring its intrinsic links to class, culture and design history.

DEBIKA RAY: All of us work in fields where we're making aesthetic judgements all the time, putting ourselves in the position of arbiters of taste in some way or another. So, I wonder whether all three of you would describe yourselves as having good taste?

SUE KREITZMAN: What the hell is good taste? I did a painting that says, "Good taste is overrated," and I also have a tagline, "Ghastly good taste." So, for me, the idea of good taste is nonsense. The epitome of good taste is a little black dress and a discreet string of pearls. You put me in that and I would die. I'm 78 years-old, avoiding that kind of ghastly good taste is what keeps me young.

DR: Good and bad taste, are they the wrong words then?

EMILY FORGOT: Yeah, perhaps. Bad taste doesn't exist because having a point of view is probably the most important thing and wherever that comes from should be celebrated.

SK: It's about not being ashamed of what you love. Don't let the taste police make you be something you're not while secretly inside you're exploding to be else entirely. What surprises me in the fashion industry here and in New York is that all the fashionistas wear black.

I went to a fashion show a couple of years ago and I was invited to sit in the front row where everybody was wearing black. Hilary Alexander was there taking pictures of everything and in the paper the next day she had a picture of me.

She said, "Oh, fabulous colours at this fashion show yesterday," but I was the only one in fabulous colours, and she made it seem like everybody else was too. It does make a great impression! Sometimes people are appalled and think you are ridiculous, but that's fine. I'll be ridiculous. I will be what I want to be no matter what.

DR: Do you get a sense that people are ever laughing at you?

SK: There's a theme of insistence on doing things a certain way, especially as you get older. There's a certain way an old person is supposed to look but because of An Seth Cohen and his Advanced Style blog older women can do anything they want and they will be worshipped for it. I've had people say to me, "A clown dresses that way," or "Did anybody ever tell you look like Edna Everidge?" That hurts. People have said stupid, idiotic things, but I don't care. Those people are not worth my attention.

DR: Do you like standing out, being known for a certain style or type of taste?

SK: I would be very happy if everyone started to look like me. I love to go out on the street and see people dressed in colour. I don't need to be unique. Once a month my friends and I have a colour walk where everybody is dressed in colour and the more the merrier. I dress this way because I love it and a lot of my friends do as well. Let me just say a word about beige. Beige could kill you.

RAVEN SMITH: What you're talking about are those expectations - of what old people should do and wear. Beige is bad because old people are expected to wear beige and blend in, disappear. But, for someone younger an all beige outfit is a statement of taste.

"There is something about velvet isn't there? It makes me feel like I'm going to kiss someone who tastes of cigars."

EF: I wish had worn beige today. It would have been worse than wearing all black like I have.

SK: It would have been very hard for me to even let you into the house because I have a real phobia about beige, it makes me ill, it makes me frightened and scares the hell out of me. I just can't.

RS: I have beige trousers, actually they're biscuit.

SK: Yes, but you have an orange t-shirt on so you're good.

DR: Do you feel that with the homogensation of the high street and global trends travelling so quickly it's difficult to find individual pieces and mark your own taste/style?

SK: I make everything myself, I make my own jewellery or friends make things for me. We have this community of artists and In a very satisfying way, everything has meaning, it has to have a story. I'm an artist and I collect the art of my friends. You can see from the way I live the when I leave the house I can't bear to leave it behind, so I wear it, I put it on my back. Everything I wear is a work of art and has a story and has a meaning and has a personal connection to me.

DR: Grayson Perry said that taste is an expression of your class Would you agree with that?

SK: Visible manifestations of wealth are the epitome of bad taste. People who buy these watches that cost £10,000 or more, why would you do that? And when people say, "Well, what else are they going to spend their money on?" I'll make you a huge list of things to do with that money.

EF: What's bald taste then? What Is kitsch?

SK: You know It when you see it. Kitsch is very bright colours. Kitsch is stuff that is out of fashion but you learn to love again, Kitsch used to be ember-raising and now it's s badge of honour, I adore kitsch! Each generation has their own idea of what kitsch is, and each generation embraces the kitsch that they love.

DR: Does Ideology plays a part in taste? Would you Judge someone's taste as being more refined if they have some kind of thought process behind it for example.

SK: It's not always immediately obvious, and that can be fleeting as well, like the current trend for sustainability. I like to see people wearing vintage stuff that is maybe a little shabby, so long as it doesn't smell of somebody else's perspiration.

EF: Good vintage is sustainable, there are so many fashion designers now who would just take a vintage item and remake it in a cotton instead of a polyester and it's new. All of the inspiration for trends at the moment comes from the past.

DR: Does that mean bad taste doesn't exist anymore because as soon as someone tries to do something different it gets re-integrated into the mainstream and then it's no longer rebellion?

RS: If you look at big fashion houses, they deliberately make stuff that's bad taste and shocking and one-linery, Like platform Crocs, for example. They deliberately make us all smile and they're created to make us share images. There's an irony to it but they are essentially bad taste.

SK: Wait a minute, platform Crocs are bad taste?

EF: Are there a pair in the house?

SK: Not platform, I think I might have a pair of Crocs.

DR: I'm interested in Sue's opinion on norm-core.

SK: Oh my god, is norm-core still a thing? I don't understand norm-core, it's ridiculous, it makes me break out in a rash.

EF: It's rebellious in a way, isn't it?

SK: It's boringl It's as bad as the plaid shirts and the beard oil, the Lumber-sexual. What's the point of it? Are they Canadian? Do they live in the woods? What the hell is going on here?

DR: It seems to me that so much of what we envisage to be good taste is defined by this kind of western European idea. Is good taste a Western-centric notion?

EF: Not anymore, but historically in the UK it would have been Western people who travelled and brought back objects to introduce people to different cultures. The Horniman Museum is the collection of a tea merchant. He would travel and bring back these objects that would give us an idea of being human. So, in that traditional sense, taste wasn't about consuming things it was learning from things. I wonder what we're learning from the Kardashians?

Click the photo above to buy Issue 11 of Riposte (Opens in a new window)

And below, Peter Watts features Sue's home in his article for The Telegraph...

"We are all individuals, one size does not fit all..."

Sue Kreitzman describes her love of personalisation, and stars in the O2 'Customise Your Plan' Advert 2019.

Behind the scenes...

Sue Kreitzman is featured in the new book 'Bolder - Life Lessons From People Older and Wiser Than You' and was interviewed at The AllBright Mayfair. Click the photo above to be taken to Sue's YouTube channel and watch the video. (Opens in a new window)

Sue was interviewed by emerging film-maker Katie Alcock. Click the image above to view Katie's Vimeo account and watch her groundbreaking interview with Sue at home. (Opens in a new window)