Australian-born clothing designer Suzie Kondi, who “basically grew up on the floor” of her mother’s fabric store, first started making tracksuits for herself. She’d wear them to her kid’s school drop-off — blousy, boho sweatpants and sweatshirts with a bit of a “disco twist” — not thinking much of them save that they were comfortable, soft and easy to throw on.
“I made the tracksuit so I could go to school, then go to the office and then meet somebody for lunch and then go to dinner — all without having to get changed,” says Kondi, who sailed into New York Harbor on a vacation over two decades ago and has called the city home ever since.
“I hate the idea of changing for an event,” she continues. “I think I’m a lazy Australian. And that’s where the idea came from.”
Almost immediately, her daughter’s friends and their parents took ample notice.
“They’d be like, where’s mine? They pressured me into making more of them,” quips Kondi.
Launched in 2018, Kondi’s eponymous label has since ballooned into one of the most coveted brands of “elevated lounge wear,” with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Sofia Coppola flocking to the line of “1950s, ’60s and ’70s inspired” tracksuits, dresses and jumpsuits in fabrics ranging from velour to terrycloth, corduroy and cashmere and washable silk. The brand can be purchased at such online shops as Net-a-Porter and Goop, as well as its flagship store in Amagansett, New York.
“Girls” actor Jemima Kirke, up next in Hulu’s limited series “Conversations With Friends,” was one of Kondi’s earliest fans, and remains one of its most dedicated. She now owns “14 pairs” of the label’s signature tracksuit, touting the “high-waist harem pants” for their chic yet sexy allure.
“Not all sweatpants are created equal,” says Kirke. “They are the sweatpants that’ll get you laid.”
Oscar-nominated actor Naomi Watts, now starring in Glendyn Ivin’s drama “Penguin Bloom,” credits Kondi with essentially outfitting her for the whole of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just when I was giving up entirely, Suzy brought the cozy velour jumpsuit out of oblivion and saved my wardrobe from what can only be described as ‘If a mother dresses up in a pandemic and only her kids are there to see her, is she even dressed at all?’” says Watts. “Her roll-out-of-bed, cozy-to-chic jumpsuits are the season-less wear-anywhere pieces that I can dress up or down with just changing my shoes. If the pandemic had a uniform, this would be it.”
To wit, if this past year has taught us anything, it’s that sweatpants are the go-to pandemic essential. Not just for movie stars — but for every woman.
“You can wear these sweats if you’re 4 years or 80 years old,” says Kondi. “You can pair them with a blazer, or heels.” And that’s a trend, she posits, likely to stick around long past the vaccine roll-out and the film biz’s slow and steady re-opening. She’s even launched kids and men’s lines.
“We’ve found a way to feel cute, chic, whatever you want to call it. It really is a new way to uniform dress, and it’s totally here to stay,” says Kondi. “A head-to-toe monochromatic look is just so flattering and easy.”
When it comes to clothing design, Kondi is also keenly focused on sustainability. She’s now partnering with Bionic Yarn to develop a fabric that repurposes coastal and marine plastics. She’s also focused on color.
“For our brand, we love color,” says Kondi, whose spring/summer collection is inspired by the work of famed Mexican architect Luis Barragan.
“I just love how he uses color,” she says. “And since with the pandemic, we still can’t travel as much as we used to, the collection sort of transports you to wherever you want to be. It’s about the color and the comfort.”
Other aesthetic inspiration includes the Cotswolds, from when Kondi “lived in London,” and Italian hand-knit cashmere.
“It’s been fun to grow the line,” says Kondi. “We did Lurex jumpsuits. We have corduroy overalls. But the core of the collection is definitely the tracksuit in different fabrics.”
The brand has become so popular that Kondi is now exploring the possibility of adding a brick and mortar store in Los Angeles and maybe a pop-up shop in London.
“Our tracksuits stand out, that’s what our clients often tell us, that they don’t feel like a regular sweatsuit,” says Kondi. “Like, an oversized hoodie is one thing, but you can’t really wear that to the ballet. Not that any of us are really going to the ballet right now. But when this pandemic is over, we will be.”