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Iraqi Designer Susan Szatmáry Offers a Glimpse into Her Life of Style and Purpose

Susan Szatmáry in a Tibi jumpsuit and sandals. Photographed by Elisabeth Toll

Harnessing creativity

Born in Baghdad, Iraqi accessories designer Susan Szatmáry moved to Sweden with her family at the age of 13. She inherited her talent for sketching from her engineer father. “I always loved painting and playing piano, and my dream since I was a kid was to be a high-profile painter. I also loved Arabic calligraphy and drawing,” Szatmáry shares. Her mother nurtured her creative appetite. “She used to sew new outfits for us before Christmas; she was always working on a project,” she recalls. “My mother has always been a great inspiration for me. She never left the house without lipstick, perfume, and matching her shoes to her handbag. I always loved looking at all her accessories and clothes that my father bought for her during his trips abroad.” In the same studio where she grew up watching her mother do ceramics, Szatmáry began experimenting with leather materials.

Szatmáry’s designs are distinct with clean lines, inspired by the art deco movement and its architectural forms. “My vision is to create high-end accessories with a unique identity; a line of timeless accessories with a feminine touch and devotion to detail.”

A collection of Szatmáry’s antique treasures. Photographed by Elisabeth Toll

Before launching her brand, Szatmáry enjoyed quite a career trajectory. “Working at Alexander McQueen was the most amazing experience in fashion for me,” she recalls. “We did shoes and handbags for men and women – 12 collections and four shows a year and many other collaborations,” she says of her years working under the guidance of the late Lee McQueen. “It was hard work with many late nights and early mornings. Everything happened in the studio, so I got to learn the creative process of developing a collection, translating it from the inspiration board to sketch, and finally to production.” She was later scouted by Celine, Paco Rabanne, and Elie Saab. “At the French fashion houses, there was a different way of working – more organized, I would say. These experiences shaped my way of being creative and managing my time,” she says. Since launching her eponymous leather goods label in 2018, Szatmáry’s designs have been worn by Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden. “The woman I envision while designing is fashionable, classic, and chic. She’s looking for a signature bag with a hidden logo,” says the designer. Handcrafted in Italy from calf leather, the bags feature sharp hardware between cool silver and warm gold in symmetrical shapes and are sustainable designs that stand the test of time.

In a vintage jacket in her studio. Photographed by Elisabeth Toll

Szatmáry notes that her personal style reflects the ethos of her brand, particularly in colors and silhouettes.” I love a mix of modern and vintage, like a timeless jacket with modern pants and accessories with character,” she says. Pragmatic with an extra shot of refinement, Szatmáry’s dress sense strikes a balance between minimal and refreshing. “The Scandinavian style demands all kinds of functionality. You can find that in the strap of my bags that you can change and wear in three ways,” says the designer, dressed in a crisp Tibi shirt, pressed Arket trousers, and Lanvin sneakers. Her collection of denim and her black vintage Yves Saint blazer that she bought in Florence are a true definition of her wardrobe’s foundation. As for fall, she’s looking forward to rich chocolate tones, cool shades of gray, and silver accessories.

A collection of shoes and bags, including her collaboration with Byredo and a bamboo handle bag made from vintage jackets. Photographed by Elisabeth Toll

Geometric mood

Jewelry design was a natural step, she says. “I love designing the handbags’ hardware. I wanted to translate that into something I can wear around the clock,” she explains. Hugging her index finger is her silver Triomphe ring. She often grounds her day and night looks with the Dupleix cuff bracelet – a gold halfmoon, straight edge bracelet featuring a flicker of black resin. As for her personal collection, a 24ct gold necklace that belonged to her mother and a pair of her grandmother’s earrings – gifts on her wedding day – are sentimental pieces.

Wearing a Busnel cape, H2ofagerholt jacket and boots, Uniqlo pants, Ahlem sunglasses, and a bag of her own design. Photographed by Elisabeth Toll

Garden to table

“I enjoy cooking and gardening,” says Szatmáry. She experiments by combining ingredients from different cultures into one dish. “I like to take the best parts from each country. For example, mixing Hungarian paprika with Moroccan argan oil, Albanian olives, Italian cheese, and fresh garlic from my garden.” The designer is currently exploring making fresh pasta and homemade ice cream. “After a long day, I feel like the kitchen is still a creative place where I can express myself and just experiment with food.”

Rest assured

Szatmáry gives her day a motivational boost with self-care practices. “I always start my day with stretching and 30 minutes of yoga,” she says. She finds moments of comfort through swimming, running, or connecting with nature. “I try to exercise once a day and make a conscious effort to avoid scrolling through social media until lunch time, since it takes away so much of my attention,” she grins. Szatmáry balances a challenging workweek with relaxing weekends. “I like having a long breakfast, great naps, spending afternoons in the garden when the weather is warm, and later, a movie in bed,” she shares. To beat the winter blues, Szatmáry turns to infrared LED therapy treatments. “It’s useful in the wintertime since we have fewer sunny days in Scandinavia. I also love Centralbadet in Stockholm, where I enjoy the spa and swimming pool.” She credits positive thinking as a driving force, sharing, “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

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Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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