Lilian sumner 400x400 Lilian Sumner

Lilian Sumner

Occupation Director/Writer/Model

Hometown Aotearoa, New Zealand

Current Residence Lower East Side

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You may know Lili Sumner best for her work with fashion’s biggest players. She’s walked the runway for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent (under Hedi Slimane’s helm), Miu Miu, Céline, Lanvin and Marc Jacobs, among others, and fronted the cover of magazines including Numéro, Vogue, Purple, and Document. Lili is also a bourgeoning film maker and has most recently collaborated on a short with New York designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh called Angel Song. Here, the New Zealand-born creator shares her go-tos in NYC.

WHAT CAN’T YOU TRAVEL WITHOUT AND WHY? 

My silver bracelet. I always kiss it for good luck.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY?

Hiking to hot springs in the mountains of New Zealand. The forest talks to you.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON IN NYC? 

Hmmm, it’s early autumn and there’s a new chill in the air. I put coffee on and go back to bed with a book. I have the New Zealand late-night radio playing in the background. After satietiating myself with reading and coffee, I put on my camel overcoat and wrap my head in cozy cashmere. I walk out my door and the streets feel good and happy. I go in search of a cinnamon bun. I either go to Cafe d’Avignon in Essex Market or I go to the little Balthazar bakery. I eat it out of the paper bag while I walk towards Washington Square Park. I sit down on a bench and watch people for a while. I talk to an old man about the love of his life who died and he shows me the envelope of creased pictures and notes he keeps with him. I bid him well. A dog slobbers on my coat but I smile and I sort of enjoy it. The light is already starting to fade. I walk downtown to catch a movie, preferably a Cassavettes or Altman or Lynne Ramsey… or something I’ve never heard of. Walking home I grab a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza. It’s a good Sunday.

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ONE PERSON TO SHOW YOU “THEIR NEW YORK CITY,” WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

If I were welcome, I would wander through the forests of Manhattan Island in 1600 with the Lanape people. I would like to walk the little soft paths of where Times Square will one day stand.

WHAT OR WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU RECENTLY AND WHY?

Edna O’Brian, Sinead O’Connor, Tolstoy… And most of all, the women of Iran.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE NYC RESTAURANTS? WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE?

Dumplings at Cafe Himalaya. A grilled cheese and tomato soup at Fanelli’s. Any kind of fish dish at Cervo’s.

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO SPOT IN NYC FOR DRINKS?

Gem Wine for a juicy glass of whatever’s on the menu that day. Or a French 75 with my best friend Thistle at Lucien. Sake at Satsko on 7th. And Madhufalla on Mulberry for green juice the morning after.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE NYC BRUNCH SPOTS; WHAT DO YOU ORDER WHEN YOU GO?

My friend Shanny recently opened an amazing cafe called Betty. Everything is delicious. The fermented bagel with lox. French toast with peaches… yum.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR ART FIX IN NYC?

Depends what’s showing. I loved Deanna Lawson at The Guggenheim. Marlene Dumas at Zwirner. A solo day at The Met is always a treat.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ARTIST?

I can’t settle on one but currently I feel inspired by Sinead O’connor, Andrew Wyeth, Violetta Para, Charlotte Bronte.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE LATE-NIGHT HANGOUTS IN NYC AND WHY?

The cocktails at Dr Clark are perfect, especially if Jaie is behind the bar. My favourite venue for music is Warsaw in Brooklyn.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNDER-THE-RADAR MUST-DO RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NYC VISITORS?

When I’m showing someone new around town, I quietly walk them to the Earth Room on Wooster street, ring the bell and I walk them up the stairs. We stand there in silence. I’m always curious to see how it makes people feel.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE NYC STORES AND WHY?

Quality Mending for jeans. Codex for book shopping. Crystal’s Garden on East 10th Street for plants and palo santo. High Vibe for health and beauty products.

WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO THESE DAYS? WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIANS?

This time of year, I’m listening to a lot of folk: Sandy Denny, Joan Armatrading, Cowboy Junkies, Mary Margaret O’Hara. And in contrast, lots of UK garage/electronice /dance like SL2, Underworld, Dizzee Rascal. I like to dance.

WHAT ALBUM OR SONG WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR PERSONAL SOUNDTRACK TO NYC?

“Manhattan” by Cat Power when driving at night with the girls. “Misty” by Erroll Garner when waking up alone. “Big City Bright Lights” by Spacemen 3 when ready for trouble. Chet Baker when in love.

WHEN YOU THINK OF NYC, ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR EMOTIONS OR MEMORIES THAT IMMEDIATELY COME TO MIND?

Right now I feel a little sick about New York. I fear for women in the US and worry about the constant descent into heartless standards and laws. And the ever growing divide between people and their love and understanding of each other. New York has always been lauded as a place where you can be anyone, safely. I hope that sticks.

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