Sussi wears jacket vintage from Beyond Retro. Trousers Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci.

sussi is the new star of clubland

Scotty Sussman is living proof that the nightlife wheel is still turning, as fierce and fast as it ever did. On the morning after the night before, we meet the man behind the makeup.

by Paul Flynn
28 February 2017, 2:10pm

Sussi wears jacket vintage from Beyond Retro. Trousers Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci.

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The young New York nightlife denizen Scotty Sussman arrived in London in September 2016 with a specific instruction in mind, one only the twilit secrets of the underworld know how to pass on. "When you get to the top, leave," he says, only half-joking, sitting in the basement of a coffee shop on Lambs Conduit Street, a stone's throw from his Bloomsbury rental. Today, Sunday, Scotty is sporting daytime realness: a newsprint sundress over a black polo neck and checkerboard pants, clodhopping jackboots with his own Prince Charming buckle detail, an elasticated pleather corset from Camden Market, and a black blouson with piped gold trim.

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"I'm giving fake Vivienne Westwood and New Romantic," he explains. "That needs to come back. We're living in such a dark time now — and I did not expect to be doing this, I did not want to be doing this — but if this is happening we have to dress royal, in our romantic looks because we have to create the kingdom that we want to live in. I'm trying to dress like a leader." By 'this' he clearly means Trump, Brexit, the whole global backshift, out of the light. "I'm wearing a lot of headpieces," he continues, "and even though I'm wearing a lot of horns it still comes from a friendly place."

Shirt Topman. Tank model's own. Shorts vintage from Beyond Retro. 

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Last night Scotty was at Savage, the Cambridge Heath Road party at renovated pole-dancing club, Metropolis. Scotty's eyebrows are shaved. "They went on the first day," he says of his entrée to NYC nightlife six years ago, smuggled under someone's coat into a Susanne Bartsch party as a 15-year-old schoolboy, boarding somewhere on the East Coast midway between New York and Boston. "You can't work in nightlife if you don't shave your eyebrows. The only person who hasn't is my boyfriend, Harry. I'm making him keep his."

Scotty talks in waspish, clipped, and audibly ambitious sound bites. Street-cast, he has been shot by Bruce Weber and Steven Klein. His vernacular is recognizably learned from the door, bar, and dance-floor of the best basement discos. At 21, he is the young scholar of Big Apple luminaries; the grand dame Susanne, former WestGay proprietor Frankie Sharp, and Scotty's great hero, Ladyfag, the Toronto-born hostess who brought him to maturation under her auspicious wing at the epic ecclesiastical Chelsea rave, Battle Hymn on Sunday nights, and then at 11:11, the East Village log cabin on Fridays. (If you look closely at Scotty's Instagram thumbnails there is a picture of him with Katy Perry by 11:11's secret door).

Vest Ann Demeulemeester. Trousers Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood. 

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He is conversationally fun, smart, and focused. Of arriving in London, he says, "I needed to know who Princess Julia was, in person. I needed to meet her. I needed to talk to her. I needed to be with all of that." Now he is. "I love Scotty," says Julia later that night. For anyone waylaid by the night-time shutdowns that have pockmarked the capital these last two years, worrying about whether Floating Points will ever play Fabric again in a new London grid defined not by its nightlife personae but social media stars, a face like Scotty's is gratifying notice that the wheel is still turning, as fierce and fast as it ever did. He's the type who could, and does, go out five nights a week out of an emotional compulsion to work it.

He thinks social media might even be helping nightlife's grand cause. "It's my business card, my rolodex, my identity, my thumbprint," he says of Instagram. Scotty has a particular phrase he likes to use for the power of the night. "We call it The Vortex," he says. "Where you get wrapped up in the full fantasy, where you forget where you are and where you've been and what you're doing and it all begins to feel right. That's The Vortex. It's like the episode of Ab Fab where Eddie goes in the isolation tank. Turn everything off, tune everything out, turn the lights on and the music so loud that you cannot hear your own thoughts." This is Scotty's happy place. "Complete immersion."

Jacket Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY. Basque model's own. Trousers Dries Van Noten. 

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Scotty's history is short and colorful enough to warrant note. He was born in Venice Beach, by the pier on the Pacific Coast Highway, the son of Canadian dreamers who made their fame and fortune under the full glare of Hollywood's winking eye. His mother, Heather Hartt, was one of the first hosts of E! News. "She's very VHS," says Scotty, clearly enamored of the early glamour inklings in his gene pool. "She was such a drag queen. She was the blonde, the outfit, the whole thing, so for me growing up there was never a problem. They were fine with me doing my thing." His father, with whom he has partied at Battle Hymn, he says was "always bumbling about, doing business, signing something crazy. They loved a good Hollywood swirl. So that's where I came from."

His earliest indicator of what nightlife had in store was Lady Gaga, an artist about whom he now has mixed feelings, but whose triumphant early fanfare for otherness affected his young self hard. "She made us think about costume a bit more." He was 12 when "Just Dance" hit. "What she is doing now is not what she was doing before. Compared to that pink hat? I was so happy with what she was doing in the past. I don't want to make this about her but…" Does Scotty feel betrayed by Gaga's all-American reinvention? "Yes. Absolutely. I want an anthem again. And it needs to be hella gay because in Trump's America, she is the one person who needs to use her platform again. If she doesn't use her platform for good, fuck her."

Shirt vintage Comme des Garçons from House of Liza. Basque (worn over shirt) Alberta Ferreti. 

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This is nightlife thinking at its sharpest. Is Gaga's recherché Joanne era partly responsible for Trump? "All I'm going to say is there is a time for that. But we do not need an all-America album right now. We do not need a John Wayne fantasy. We are not in the right time for Americana. We don't need any of that. We need to be thinking about the future. When she first started with everything that she did, it sparked a queer culture that could develop toward the future. Someone had to do it. She was the one."

It should come as no surprise that Scotty Sussman has ambitions that supersede twirling under a mirror ball, busting a look. "Duh." He gave up painting on canvas at 15 and decided to use himself as the surface onto which to project his creative brain. Next stop, other people. "I was the hot glue queen," he says of his nascent adventures in the nightlife. "I loved my trash era. I had to do the garbage looks but there comes a point where I have to look editorial and I can't look like I come from nightlife. A lot of people who do nightlife look like they've been sitting in a club for 100 years. The makeup is still on from six days before. I'm going to look editorial, clean, and presentable, shake your hand and look you in the eye. At that moment I cannot be dripping in hot glue. There are so many people in the future that I want to work with but I want to work with everyone so I'm not going to name names. It'll all happen one day."

Read: Hanne Gaby Odiele shares a brave and empowering message for intersex people around the world.


Text Paul Flynn
Photography Clare Shilland 
Styling Bojana Kozarevic

Hair Roku Roppongi at Saint Luke's using Bumble and bumble
Make-up Rebecca Wordingham at Saint Luke's using M.A.C Pro
Photography assistance Rory Cole
Styling assistance Lula Ososki

LGBT nightlife
clare shilland
scotty sussman
the family values issue
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