Photo credit Olivia Decker

The Jewish Foods That Inspire Susan Alexandra’s Whimsical Art

Memories of Jewish deli and summer watermelon have influenced the brand's colorful art and jewelry.

Food has always been central to the Susan Alexandra brand, known for quirky, colorful, beaded accessories so covetable they’ve reached cult status among the it crowd. The first piece I fell in love with was a pair of earrings, unlike any I’d seen before. From an almost invisible silver hook dangled a lemon wedge the color of sunshine just above a shrimp, whose pale pink, orange and white were the colors of a Florida sky at daybreak.

These now-iconic Shrimp Cocktail Earrings ($155) are one of Susan Korn’s, who founded the brand in 2011, favorites, too. They “capture one of life’s most delightful treats in beaded form!” she told me, with characteristic joy and enthusiasm. 

And while shrimp cocktail is decidedly treyf, Korn has lots to say about Jewish food:

“One of my favorite foods is my dad’s chopped liver and, of course, pickles. Deli cuisine is by no means my favorite, but it represents such a connection to my roots, my past. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and forever carried extreme anxiety about food scarcity. When she was at a deli, amongst the foods of her family, she was able to feel safety. That’s the power of food.

“The memory of the Rascal House in Miami, which was my grandmother’s favorite haunt,” alongside Katz’s Delicatessen and Moishe’s Bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, rank high on Korn’s list of favorite Jewish eateries. 

Including aspects of Jewish identity in her work comes naturally to Korn, who once hosted a fashion week showing at a bagel deli

“I do a lot of soul searching and consider what means enough to me to devote months of my time,” she said. “Because Judaism is so much a part of my framework, I’ve done several shows that speak to that… I am still learning so much about Judaism and have found within it endless inspiration.” 

So, as Evelyn Frick wrote for Hey Alma, “it never seemed like a matter of “if” Susan Alexandra would debut a Judaica line. It was always a matter of “when.”” 

The beautifully crafted Judaica line launched in late 2022, around Hanukkah, featuring intricate mezuzahs, fruity dreidels and a watermelon menorah. 

“I have always absolutely loved the motif of watermelons and what they represent: summer, warmth, joy,” Korn said. “The Watermelon Dream Bag… was the first bag I ever made.”

Therein lies Susan Alexandra’s charm: An ability to seamlessly blend Korn’s passions — from watermelons to her Jewish identity — in an entirely unique and charming way. 

“With everything I do and create,” she said, “I try to come from a deep place of authenticity. Diving into Judaica was a natural step for me; something I really felt passionate about and knew deeply. I grew up in a Jewish household — not Orthodox, or even close, but observing the major holidays and rituals. Jewish holidays were really special (not just because we got a day off from school!) because it represented a time for story telling, togetherness and family. I loved the process of creating and expanding the possibilities of Judaica.” 

The brand’s most recent Judaica drop centered on Passover fine tableware. 

“We worked primarily with blown and fused glass artisans which is in no way part of the SA wheelhouse,” Korn said. “I happen to adore beautiful glassware and couldn’t wait to try my hand on it. The medium presented MANY MANY challenges, from connecting with new artisans to shipping, to pricing. Some of the pieces have been in the works for three years!” 

Photo credit Olivia Decker

The Queen of Fruit Bowl ($1,200) exemplifies the celebratory luxury of this collection. Made of hand-blown glass, with each piece unique, it stands 11-inches high on a stem glittering with jewel-colored whole glass fruits that extend outward, as if to form an offering. The Pond Seder Plate Set ($1,448) is a 19-inch-long platter of blue glass topped with five luscious, chromatic pink lotus flower ramekins, plus one adorable green frog ramekin at the edge. The frog, a longstanding symbol for the struggle for liberation, pops up as a repeating theme throughout the collection, bringing additional meaning to the designs. 

A prolific host at the best of times — she held a Shabbat celebration for press and friends of the brand in 2022 — this April, Korn co-hosted a Passover Seder, featuring pieces from the recently launched Passover collection, with the Jewish Food Society. The menu included a delicious eggplant tachin (Persian baked rice with eggplant) prepared by Orly Elyashar and a decadent coconut macaroon layer cake by Natasha Pickowicz. 

People who love Susan Alexandra really love it, breaking into smiles and declarations of love at the mention of the brand. This isn’t everyday behavior in the tough, tight-knit fashion circles of New York City. And it isn’t just about the shiny, pretty things Susan Korn creates, but, beyond that, a response to the warmth and welcome she exudes to everyone around her. It’s a very Jewish warmth and welcome, and she’s made the world a better place by offering it.

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