I met Suzannah during London Fashion Week - she had a showroom at the Metropolitan hotel (along with William Tempest, Noir) . If she didn’t have a presence during LFW I might not have met her. There are so many great designers out in the world and it’s still so hard to find them. I really liked Suzannah’s designs. I’m a dress girl who doesn’t like to change looks from day to night - maybe just the shoes and an accessory or two. Suzannah’s dresses can be dressed up or down and they have a vintage timeless quirky feel to them that I adore!
Could you tell us about your fashion background?
SC - I have 13 years experience in the fashion industry, working as a designer, senior designer and design manager for brands such as Karen Millen, Whistles, Oasis and Esprit. At Karen Millen I really turned into a dress specialist. For the last 4 years I worked for M&S in charge of trend forecasting for the direction of womenswear, and also in charge of the design and production of their ‘statement press pieces’ and styling for their look book and press shows. I have an enormous amount of design, manufacture and sourcing experience and contacts from over the years in the industry.
What inspired you to start your own label?
SC - I was so passionate about dresses and beautiful Italian cloth, and craved to tailor the most beautiful cloths without being restricted on styling and price for the high street .I really started to work on the stand more, and play around with cutting inspired by vintage couture (my absolute passion in life) ,…and so I began with a tiny collection of 10 ultimate posh dresses. I sold the collection immediately to KJs Laundry, Gill Holland in Dulwich ,St Cassein in Wimbeldon village , Duck Egg Blue in Austrailia, and De tout Facon in Athens. ….A really good friend and brand advisor, persuaded me to buy Suzannah.com (which at that time was a snip to pay out for) ,..and I also started (admittedly) a very dodgy website which has now flourished,… not perfect yet mind, but is building to be my best tool for the brand. - Until I get the money for a small but charming and beautiful flagship store.
How many collections do you do each year?
SC - Two, but looking to inject a small collection of ultimate party dresses pre Christmas and sexy Ibiza holiday frocks at high summer time. However the webby gives me the ability to add in dresses to keep the site fresh constantly. I also want to be able to provide quick response to my wholesalers.
How important is having an online presence to your business?
SC - Hugely, I really believe in on-line, and am becoming an expert in all aspects of e-tailing. I have realised my inner geek! Its an absolute mine-field though, and a lot of ‘experts’ offering help (not for free of course) , but I’ve just connected with a great company, an awesome consultant and I have a very talented web designer at hand.
You had a show room during London Fashion Week at the Met, how was that for you?
SC - It was great. The Met were really helpful, and helped Clare Collins (from Violet May) and myself out with the room price. They also allowed us to host a customer and VIP guest night on the Saturday night, so that we could invite our customers to enjoy the experience, look at our new range and give them a lovely discount too! It all helped with the cost and extra brand visibility.
How important is PR to you?
SC - Enormously, especially because I am establishing a web aspect to the brand. How would people get to know about you otherwise? It is so important to get press from the correct ‘brand’ of press for your brand.
What advice do you have for new designers?
SC - Gosh, I feel like such a new designer! haha but I guess I’m in my mid thirties, so I can’t be that new. You need good contacts, and sound knowledge,…about pretty much everything! BUT, there is a lot of help out there. Network, meet friends and peers who can help and advise you along the way!. Be honest, pay your bills. Deliver on time. Before you start, draft an accurate business plan….and save some money! My business has been entirely self-funded up until this point, and it isn’t cheap! Do your costings, your home work, research who you are selling to and how. Get those contacts and keep them!