Smile and Get Ready to Be Inspired by Susan Alexandra
If the saying "you are what you eat" extends to fashion, then accessories designer Susan Alexandra is the perfect example of "you are what you wear" — and in her case, that can be described as joyful, vibrant, and truly one of a kind.
Since the inception of her namesake accessories brand, Susan has made maximalism both chic and accessible to all style sensibilities by fusing her lifelong love of fashion with a youthful aesthetic that in her words: "dazzles one's inner child." Even with this idea, Susan's clientele is diverse, and her candy-colored purses and jewelry have been spotted on the arms of 20-something style influencers to celebrity offspring. And while Susan's design influences are always evolving, it's her continued devotion to creating a style-first brand that has enabled the self-made designer to create pieces that appeal to a variety of age groups and demographics, but more importantly, bring all of these unique women together over a shared appreciation for creative self-expression. We saw hints of this camaraderie among Susan's team when we visited the designer at work in her bustling atelier in the Lower East Side earlier in the season. Like her pieces, Susan exuded a happy, welcoming invitation into her world which we chronicled for the Brand Assembly community in this exclusive studio visit.
Enjoy our visit with Susan below where the designer talked to us about fashion as a form of self-care, her industry tips for fellow local designers, and what signature Susan Alexandra pieces she'll be sporting all summer long.
THANKS FOR HAVING US, SUSAN! TELL US MORE ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF THE SUSAN ALEXANDRA BRAND AND HOW YOU'VE LEARNED TO LEAN INTO YOUR PERSPECTIVE TO INFORM EVERY ASPECT OF THE BRAND'S EXPERIENCE AND AESTHETIC. WHO IS THE SUSAN ALEXANDRA WOMAN AND HOW HAS SHE EVOLVED IN TANDEM WITH THE BRAND?
Hi, I'm Susan. I'm a designer based in Chinatown, NYC. Fashion has always been part of my identity. It's been a fascination, passion, and a world of escapism and fantasy.
It's hard for me to describe my POV because it's a very personal vision that I've always maintained. Literally, nothing in my taste level has fluctuated since I was very little. I've always loved color, pattern, sparkle, decadence in all forms. The Susan Alexandra woman is dazzling and bright. She is fearless and experimental in what she wears and what she does in life. She doesn't conform and dresses to delight herself.
EVERY PIECE IS MADE BY HAND (AND WITH LOVE!) HERE IN NEW YORK CITY. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE INITIATIVE, BUT WE'RE SURE IT'S ALSO BEEN CHALLENGING. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED WHEN NAVIGATING THE PRODUCTION SIDE OF RUNNING A FASHION BRAND?
Learning how to handle production has been one of the most difficult projects I've ever encountered. I had no idea what I was doing and where to go for help. A big lesson is to talk to everyone you know. Ask for help. People want to help, and sometimes they really can. Also, know that anything is possible. It might be difficult, but it's possible.
WITH SUSAN ALEXANDRA'S INHERENTLY HAPPY BRAND NARRATIVE, WE'RE CURIOUS TO KNOW IF YOU VIEW FASHION AS A FORM OF SELF-CARE? WHAT ROLE DO YOU THINK FASHION PLAYS IN OUR MODERN AGE BEYOND JUST PROVIDING BEAUTIFUL THINGS?
I really feel that there has to be something deeper than the surface level when creating items that fall under the category of fashion. I love that my bags give financial stability to women who are usually overlooked for jobs. I also feel really honored that so many people have said that my designs bring joy and excitement to their life (and wardrobe)!
SUMMER IS AROUND THE CORNER! WHAT SUSAN ALEXANDRA BAG WILL YOU BE SPORTING THIS SEASON?
Yay! I thrive in the summer, and the bags are truly summer babies. I will be wearing our new bucket style bags (all different patterns for each day of the week!) with pieces from my collaboration with Champion and Urban Outfitters. I will also be wearing pieces from my collaboration with the marvelous French brand, Maison Cleo.
BRAND ASSEMBLY IS ALL ABOUT PROVIDING A ONE-STOP-SHOP FOR EMERGING DESIGNERS TO LEARN AND CONNECT. WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR EMERGING ACCESSORIES DESIGNERS WHO MAY NOT KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN REGARDING BUILDING A NETWORK OF COLLABORATORS AND CONFIDANTES?
Reach out to anyone you know and admire — Take them out to coffee. Ask questions and LISTEN! I've been on many of these informational interviews where the person I'm meeting with spends time talking instead of listening.
Know that your problems are probably not unique — We've all been through this struggle, and we've all found ways to cope. I don't know if anyone has it all entirely figured out.
Remember that you are only one person and you can only accomplish X amount in X amount of time — Not sleeping doesn't help anyone, nor does you doing every single thing. Everything will work out! I promise!
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ASSEMBLE DAILY?
I decided long ago that although my brand falls within the category of fashion that I would refuse to play by the "rules" of a typical fashion brand. I don't tolerate cruelty, exhaustion, elitism, or other characteristics that define the fashion industry. I want to create a space for people to grow, learn, and expand, and by doing so, build a brand and a product that creates connection.
PHOTOS BY ALYSSA GREENBERG FOR BRAND ASSEMBLY