– By Leena Sanzgiri –
“I want it to be as if there is a free gift with your purchase when you buy my clothes—something you discover within the garment that surprises and delights,” says Susan Woo, the fresh-faced, pint-sized designer who is as vibrant and energetic as her collections. This mantra is very much apparent in her Fall 2012 line, where athletic luxe meets urban sophistication and intriguing details like neon seams, utilitarian pockets, and leather quilting are the “free gifts” that elevate pieces from staple to statement.
I caught up with the designer in a hip Brooklyn photo studio where she and her team were shooting the lookbook for the upcoming season. Rocking out to a trendy playlist with endearing effervescence, Woo described the very personal evolution of her relatively young namesake label. Debuting in Fall 2011, Woo drew upon her years of corporate experience in luxury retail to develop a brand for the modern woman on the go. Her intense clarity about her target customers has truly focused her mission. “I think limitations and defined ideals foster more out-of-the-box creativity,” Woo notes. For her, this translates into a principal objective of promoting eco-friendliness in all aspects of the design process—from the fabrics chosen, to the labor processes endured during production, to the cosmetics used for shoots. “The concept of environmental consciousness in luxury is still so new, that I always have my eye out for innovative practices in manipulating sustainable fabrics to keep it exciting.”
With that in mind, Woo’s instinctive directives for Fall 2012 were to use these techniques to convey comfortable elegance, strength, and color. The key to the collection is effortless dressing with high-end tailoring that will likely trademark Woo as her career progresses. T-shirts are made of cashmere, with quilting at the shoulders to emphasize athleticism. Black silk shirts are punched up with accents of neon yellow lining and stitching. Charcoal wool jackets have black leather sleeves in an upscale twist on the classic bomber jacket. “I think young women prefer increasingly nowadays to have special pieces that aren’t immediately recognizable as to who the designer is,” Woo remarks. “I hope my collection has that effect for my customers.”
Through the course of the shoot, Woo retained firm, poised control of the styling of each look with admirable vision and level-headedness. “I’ve found the industry is increasingly hungry for new talent and young designers. When you get that kind of support, you have to have a very good sense of every aspect of the woman you are dressing—where she’s going, what she will do throughout her day, what will make her feel she’s at her best. The importance is in making a strong statement about a lifestyle that your customer wants to embody, and I think each piece does just that.”
Another free gift that we are happy to accept.
Woo chose to collaborate with Tarte cosmetics for this shoot because of their similar philosophy of creating eco-conscious products. Tarte make-up is free of unnatural ingredients such as parabens and is packaged with recycled (and recyclable) materials. The goal for this look was to accomplish a dewy, sun-kissed glow. Anthony Ballard, make-up artist onsite, utilized hues of gold and rosy pink to achieve this. “The standout ingredient here is the Cheek Stain,” he said. “It should be applied with the fingers to the apples of the cheeks, the center of the lips, and very minimally to the eyelids. I then used a gold highlighter on the cheekbones, along the browbones, and in the inner corners of the eyes to invoke the healthy glow from sunlight.” Ballard finished with a light coat of mascara and a slick of lip gloss. “It’s a goofproof look that’s both accessible and lasts all day—perfect for the Susan Woo customer.” We agree.