Brand Profile: Elizabeth Suzann

In an age when the word “Amazon” no longer merely refers to an online retailer, but is more frequently used as if it was an economic theory (“the Amazon effect”), the concept of a 2-3 week ship window seems nearly archaic, an unfathomable inconvenience experienced by people of generations past. With free two-day shipping, overnight delivery, and even 1-hour windows available, why would we have any reason to wait more than 48 hours for a new purchase to arrive at our doorstep? Faster is always better, right?

Elizabeth Suzann would beg to differ.

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Perhaps the reason a company like Elizabeth Suzann can afford such a lead time lies in its design philosophy:

“We strive to create thoughtful, well-designed, and long-lasting garments.  By ultimately creating seasonless pieces that can be worn a myriad of ways, we aim to discourage the disposable view of clothing that has become increasingly pervasive.  Our hope is to return to the days of a minimal, functional wardrobe worthy of care and passing on.”

These pieces are meant to last. They won’t be heading to the donation bin as soon as the next trend rolls in, and they certainly aren’t the kind of clothes you sentence to a dismal life at the back of your closet. In fact, the intention of such classic and thoughtfully-considered design is to ensure these pieces persist. By refusing to follow trends, Elizabeth Suzann’s designs exhibit a type of longevity that is particularly elusive today. This brand doesn’t need to churn new merchandise out around the clock because there’s no rush, no time crunch: their styles will be just as valid two weeks (or years) from now as they are in the moment you click to confirm your purchase.

The irony is that the fashion industry used to rely on this made-to-order model exclusively – there was no other way to create clothing. Before clothing production became the highly automated process it is today, everyone knew what it was like to have clothing created just for him or her, to have measurements taken, to select fabrics and findings – whether this took place in a dressmaker’s shop, the atelier of a couture house, or standing on a step stool in the middle of the kitchen.

After confirming the details, the waiting period began: it took time to create clothes. The fashion industry today is obsessed with shortening lead times and increasing the number of deliveries to stores, squeezing a system that doesn’t have much left to give. We may be able to communicate instantly with people on the other side of the world and travel thousands of miles in just a few hours, but sewing a shirt still isn’t possible without a human being sitting at a sewing machine, adjusting the dials and stringing the thread with their own two hands, moving forward stitch by stitch.

When I think of what it must be like to sew a dress at Elizabeth Suzann’s Nashville studio versus a garment factory in a country whose biggest asset is its cheap labor, the differences are drastic. In one place I imagine hunched shoulders, stale air, and droning machines, a place where one day runs into the next and life is lived under the burden of never-ending quotas. Then I think of the other option and instinctively exhale a sigh of relief. I imagine space – both to move and to create. I imagine collaboration, encouragement and support on the road to achieving the company’s goals and working out its mission, and a perspective that includes more of the future than just the end of the work day. This is what a 2-3 week lead time allows space for. Space to actually be makers: to design, plan, and create. To tackle challenges and celebrate the little wins along the way. To try something new and leave the status quo far behind.

I encourage you to take a look at Elizabeth Suzann: experience what it’s like to buy something worth waiting for, to open up a box with a handwritten note and a beautiful garment carefully wrapped inside, and to know that garment was made specially for you. I have a feeling you just might be hooked.

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