About

GET TO KNOW ELIZABETH SUZANN STUDIO

My mission is to make clothing that feels like home.

To create clothing that brings you comfort, that helps you feel whole, that makes getting dressed delightful.

To encourage you to indulge in the sensory magic of clothing: fabric that floats softly around you as you move, skims the curves and planes of your body with delicious kindness, colors that speak to your heart and calm the mind, fibers that connect you with nature.

To provide you the opportunity to engage with the art of how clothing is made. Whether it’s made responsibly here in Nashville or you make it yourself, I prioritize and celebrate the joy of building a garment from scratch.

When you feel at home in your body and in touch with what clothes it, you are free to focus your energy on what matters most.

Hello!

I'm Liz.

"Elizabeth Suzann Studio" is the second chapter of my design story. I have a passion for making things with my own two hands, and I love helping people find comfort and peace in their bodies through clothing. I am extremely introverted, and happily spend most of my time at home with my husband and two dogs, Odie and Oscar. When I'm not working, I'm most likely tending to my garden or cruising Netflix. You can stay in touch with me by joining our mailing list, or e-mail liz [at] elizabethsuzann [dot] com to connect with me directly.

Guiding Principles

Well-crafted, beautiful, and functional products.
Because products that you love are products that you keep, care for, mend, and use for years. The most sustainable garment is the one you use often and for a long time, and I try to make things that will encourage you to do just that.

Responsible materials.
I am committed to reducing the social and environmental footprint of our material choices. I use natural fibers for my garments which are biodegradable materials that are produced using renewable resources. They require far less chemical engineering to produce, support traditional agricultural practices across the globe, and are safer to produce and wear than synthetics. Beyond the choice of the raw fiber itself, I am working towards improved transparency and responsibility throughout the supply chain. Moving towards low impact dyes is my next focus. Fabrics like Climate Beneficial Wool and Upcycled Cotton Canvas are big wins, and I am excited to keep innovating.

Responsible labor.
Our clothes are designed, patterned, and cut right here in my backyard workshop by me and my assistant, Lydia. Every garment is sewn by me, or one of a handful of skilled local contractors. Because of our low overhead and small size, when I need help from a contractor I am able to offer competitive, per-piece pay. After construction, everything is washed, trimmed, packed, and shipped by me and Lydia from my workshop.

Small environmental footprint.
As a business that produces new physical goods going out into the world, it is my responsibility to ensure I make every effort to minimize and mitigate any harm caused by our operations. I analyze the entire lifecyle of our products, and make improvements to extend usability and reduce waste wherever I can. My goal is to become a Zero Waste studio.

Inclusivity and accessibility.
I strive to make everyone feel welcomed and celebrated through our imagery and marketing, our size range, our variety of fits and styles, and our purchasing options. Our clothing cannot be all things to everyone, but I aim to support as many folks as possible with our products.

Culture of teaching and redistributing resources.
Teaching others to create is an honor, and it's a wonderful way to connect people with the process of how physical goods are made. Understanding all that is required to make something from scratch is the first step towards making more informed and responsible consumption decisions. Additionally, my limited production capacity and higher price point (although justified) makes my work inaccessible to many, and teaching and creating access to my design work through sewing patterns is a way to mitigate that. As an individual and business with signficant privileges, it is imperative that I share information, access, and money with others that don't have those same advantages.

Commitment to my personal vision as an artist, and aligning my mental and physical health with my work.
When I uphold my own values, vision, and boundaries, my well-being--and subsequently my work--flourish. I believe I will impact the world most positively when I tend to my own needs with just as much care as I tend to the needs of our colleagues and customers.

Our Process

Here's a peek behind the scenes.

Sourcing

Before the patternmaking process begins, I source a variety of material options to experiment with. There are several vendors that we order our mainstay fabrics from, but I’m always researching and looking for new and innovative materials. I often develop custom materials or colors to meet our exact specifications.

I use all natural fibers with no synthetic coatings, and I aim to source organic, low-impact, Climate Beneficial, and/or recycled materials when I can. I look for certifications like Oeko-Tex, GOTS, or BlueSign.

I order sample yardage of all the materials I’m considering for a new style, and sometimes it’s immediately clear if a fabric is the right fit or not. Final contenders get wash tested and wear tested so I can see what works best with the pattern in question. Once a material is selected, I order production yardage which often takes several months to arrive, longer if it’s a custom developed fabric or color.

Design

With several fabric options selected, I begin the pattern making process. My design process usually starts with one specific element—I will have a certain sleeve in mind, or neckline, or I may see a garment in a particular color. I sketch out a ton of different interpretations of the idea, then I narrow it down to a few strong options, making sure I have a clear concept of what the 3-D structure of the garment will look like.

I always draft my patterns flat, as I’m not as skilled at draping. Often I’ll start with an existing style to use as a block, and I always draft the first pattern for a new style in my own size so I can fit on myself as I’m working. I draft patterns both digitally and by hand—if it’s a more complex style, I‘ll draft by hand because it’s easier for me spatially. If I am still trying to decide on a final fabric, I’ll try the pattern in each of them and do some fit and wear testing. The pattern and material both speak to each other to inform the finalized style. Finishing techniques and construction methods are finalized at this stage, but they do sometimes change later in the process.

Rough costing estimates are part of the design process as well—I need to determine if a style is practical to produce based on the amount of fabric it takes, the material cost, and the labor it requires. I get an idea of what the retail price will be, and decide if feels appropriate and if the style can move forward, needs to be re-worked, or scrapped altogether. It can take anywhere from a few days to a month or so to get my base pattern polished enough to move onto grading and fitting.

Grading & Fitting

Grading is the process of taking a base pattern (a pattern in a single size, often the first pattern that’s created for a given style, usually in the middle size) and creating other size options of that same pattern.

All of our styles are graded into our full size range, meaning everything we sell is available in all sizes. I decided early on that I would not segment the product line—if I’m going to sell a product, it needs to be available in all sizes. This is a challenge because getting a garment to have the same intended fit across all sizes requires that the patterns themselves actually change quite a bit. It’s not as intuitive as it might seem; simply scaling a pattern up or down does not result in the same “look” across sizes. To achieve a consistent fit, all garments have two separate digital pattern files, with XXS-L in one file and XL-4XL in another. Each of those files have their own “base sizes” (Small and 2XL respectively) and grade rules in order to achieve a visually consistent fit on bodies across various sizes. Each style is fit tested extensively, a single garment may go through 4-7 fittings before finalizing a pattern. I fit a style on both base sizes (our Small and 2XL) and continue making adjustments until they’re both right. Then I grade those base patterns up and down into the full size range. After grading, it’s time to fit test the end of range sizes—XXS, L, XL and 4XL—to ensure that the grading was successful and that I maintained fit integrity across the board. I typically do *another* round of fit testing at the very end with new fit models so I get to see everything again on different bodies and can identify if I need to change anything.

I do all of our grading digitally. If the initial base pattern for a style was made by hand, I have it digitized before beginning grading and fitting. Sometimes, a style doesn’t make it past this stage. If I’m unable to create a garment that works for all the sizes we offer, I don’t release it.

Once grading and fitting is complete, I create production patterns for all of the fabrics and colors the style will be offered in. Production patterns have to account for the fabric’s shrinkage, since I cut each garment from unwashed fabric and then wash the garment after sewing to pre-shrink it before it ships to you. I find this incredibly important—I design with the look of washed material in mind and want the garment to arrive in its final state. It also prevents unexpected shrinkage from occurring that could alter the fit, and makes the garment machine washable.

I determine exactly how much each fabric and colorway will shrink in length and width when washed. The fabric is tested several times (each color individually, since different colors of the same fabric can shrink different amounts), and once I’ve determined a consistent shrinkage rate, I apply that to the digital pattern. This set of shrinkage patterns is what I use to cut from until a new shipment of fabric arrives, which will be tested and have its own corresponding shrinkage patterns made.

Photography & Product Release

When I am confident a style is ready to be released, it’s time to photograph it. Zachary Gray shoots all of our product and editorial imagery, and I am so grateful for our creative collaboration over the years. Zachary has been photographing my work since 2014, and his eye brings it to life. Together we approach product imagery as so much more than simply showing you the front, back, and side of a garment. The images on our website are the only way to engage with our product before purchasing, so I try to communicate as much as I can through them. I want to capture the weight and movement of the fabric, how a garment might make you feel, the lyric and poetry of the silhouette.

Over the years we have perfected our lighting strategy so that colors and textures are accurate, we've honed our shot list planning to ensure that we show a balanced mix of style and color pairings, and we've dialed in our shoot preparation and coordination so that the day is smooth and fun for everyone on set (which absolutely shows up in the energy of the photos). It has also taken years to connect and develop relationships with all of the models we’ve photographed, and we treasure those relationships and treat them as long-term. While I am always open to new faces, having a consistent and diverse group of models to work with regularly allows customers to get to know their style and body type, and it allows our models to get to know me better and connect more deeply with my work, which ultimately results in more authentic, dynamic imagery.

After a new style or collection is photographed, I create product listings on the website. This includes writing detailed product descriptions, care instructions, and compiling garment measurements. I take care of any backend work like generating SKUs, finalizing costing and pricing details, creating tech packs and documenting the garments' construction process, and updating our spreadsheets and logs.

Marketing around product releases is very simple, and I just communicate through our mailing list. A simple announcement is typically all I do.

Cut & Prep

While photography and launch prep is happening, I will simultaneously be producing the inventory to be released. I cut everything in our workshop in bulk and spread out multiple layers of fabric on the cutting table in a stack (only one color can be cut at a given time due to differing shrinkage rates). On top of that stack I lay out a marker, which is essentially a large paper template that has all of the necessary pattern pieces printed on it. My cutting table is 12 feet long, which means I can fit a few sizes of a single style on one marker. The markers are created digitally, and they are printed on a plotter which is a large printer made just for this purpose. I make each marker with the appropriate shrinkage patterns and aim for the most efficient use of fabric possible to minimize waste. This means I cut through the paper marker and the fabric stacks all at once using electric scissors or a larger electric cutting wheel, depending on the number of plies. Any darts or notches are marked.

Once the pattern pieces are cut out, I compile all the components for each garment and bag them up. I include any necessary notions like tags or elastic. Every garment is in its own little bag, ready to be sewn. This is one of the most satisfying parts of the process to me, getting everything organized and prepped!

Construction

Those cut garments are then ready for construction. Everything is sewn either by me or a skilled local contractor. If I’ll be sewing, I do it right here in my workshop. If garments are going to a contractor, I pop a bin out on my front porch (often with a few fresh veggies from my garden :) for contactless pickup, or drop it off myself. A few ES alumni expressed interest in sewing on the side if the opportunity arose, so when I have extra work it’s a win-win for both of us.

Each piece of clothing is constructed using three pieces of equipment: an industrial straight stitch machine (also called a lockstitch) which sews the straight seams that join pattern pieces together; a 3- or 5-thread industrial serger (also called an overlock) which finishes the raw seams; and a boiler iron which is used for pressing seams throughout the process. I have a few specialty machines for things like inserting snaps, but for the most part everything can be made with those three pieces of equipment. All of the specifications for how a garment should be constructed and finished are determined in the design stage, so sewing is all about adapting the recipe to suit your preferred working style, getting into a groove, and developing muscle memory for the various techniques that are used. Bringing a three-dimensional, wearable garment to life from flat pieces of fabric with your own two hands is pretty magical, and I try not to forget that. The basic assembly process for most styles is to piece together the seams, finish the seams, topstitch seams where necessary, insert tags, insert elastic if applicable, add bindings, and finish hems, pressing throughout. I use a few special techniques like French seaming on our silk garments, which totally encapsulates the raw edges of seams giving a beautiful polished interior and rolled edges which are a real trick to pull off on curved hems, but look beautiful.

Finishing & Fulfillment

Fully constructed garments are inspected in my workshop to make sure they meet quality standards. Any mistakes or repairs are corrected, threads are trimmed, and everything is washed and dried. Each garment is pressed, inspected again, and spec'ed to ensure that it shrank up to the correct measurements.

Everything that passes muster is packed up, labeled, and inventoried to be added to the website. Garments that don't pass make the cut are tagged as "Seconds" and added to the "Seconds" section of the website at a discount.

Once a garment has been purchased through the website, it's pulled from inventory (I have a storage unit a few blocks away that houses my fabric and finished inventory), packed, and shipped out to you from right here in the workshop.

Resell, Repair, & Upcycle

Once a garment has shipped out, the process isn't over. I want to ensure that everything I make has as long a life as possible, and that it can be turned into something new when that functional life comes to an end.

Items that have become damaged or are experiencing wear and tear can be sent back for repair, and used items or items that have reached the end of their functional life can be sent back through the upcoming "Take-Back Program." Used items are cleaned, repaired, and resold at accessible prices, and heavily damaged items are deconstructed and turned into entirely new, "Upcycled" products.

Support & Feedback

In between it all, we provide support and assistance for folks who need help making a purchase or existing customers that need to make a return or resolve an issue. I’m constantly looking for ways to incorporate feedback so I can improve my products. The first-hand experience customers have with my work directly informs my future design decisions, so it's a real circle of life process.

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