February 06, 2016 • Editorial / Process

The Signature Collection didn’t start out as “The Signature Collection.” It began with my first real collection - Spring/Summer 2014 - the first season I released a grouping of garments as one, with some sense of cohesion and relativity. I had always intended to produce clothing made-to-order and had no ties to the traditional fashion-calendar, so the desire I felt to carry that Spring Collection through the fall and well into the next spring wasn’t a huge surprise. What that collection eventually became, however, is astonishing to me. What I thought was a single collection of garments that we would carry for maybe a year, perhaps, have become the foundation of our entire business. They are your favorites (and mine), they have been tried, tested, worn and washed a thousand times.

The Georgia Tee and Dress, the Artist Smock and Dress, the Ryan Pant (which evolved into today’s Florence Pant), the reversible Marlena Tank and Dress - these garments from the Spring Collection of 2014 are still the core of our Signature Collection today. We have made adjustments and improvements to them over time, and continue to do so, but their essence remains the same. From each new season, we pull the hardest working, best performing pieces to add to the Signature Collection. Sometimes several garments make the cut, sometimes none do. Our Signature pieces have set their own standard, and that standard is high.

I’ve spent countless hours trying to determine what it is about these garments that makes them such a special and essential part of our brand. For that first collection, SS14, I was buried deep in the study of the meaning of clothing, and trying to determine what my place was in this industry. Functionality was an obsession of mine early on, and still remains a strong dictator of my design. I couldn’t stand to think of a garment only able to be worn one way. If I was going to create a product to put into the world, it needed to be worthy. Versatility and functionality serve to give clothing worthiness in my mind. I never want my work to be superfluous, vain, or extravagant - and single-wear garments are the epitome of waste to me.

The engineering of these kinds of garments is difficult - but that challenge feels invigorating, necessary even, to give meaning and value to what I do and make. Many of our Signature pieces are one-size, and designing truly versatile and flattering one-size garments takes quite a bit of thought and pattern work. Shoulder seams need to be fluid and sleeve length needs to be considered, so that the desired silhouette is retained no matter how broad the wearer’s shoulders. Fabrics need to be selected thoughtfully, so they are suitable for wear throughout multiple seasons. The ability to layer is essential - letting a garment live many lives, as a dress, a tunic, a vest.

Early on I was also incredibly inspired and driven by the role of clothing as a cultural artifact. Clothing is so intimate, so closely related and influenced by how we live our lives each day. There is much rich information and context that clothing can tell us about people - their lives, beliefs and values - of the past, but also about ourselves today. What we choose to put on our bodies repeatedly is both an expression of how we internally define ourselves, and simultaneously influences how we express those internal beliefs. I want to play an active part in shaping the story clothing tells about the modern woman. That we are powerful, intelligent, caring, confident, and above all, have personalities, desires, talents, and abilities that are only highlighted and enhanced by the clothing we wear. Clothing that enables us to live life fully, comfortably, without self-consciousness or doubt.

To create foundational, seasonless, versatile, well-engineered, functional garments that tell a positive story about who we are and what we believe - that is the aim of the Signature Collection. An aim that has developed over time with your support and guidance, and careful editing and restraint to not let this collection grow too quickly or too slowly, or to ever fail to meet its own self-set standards. Your encouragement and validation of philosophies that inspired a single collection have made those the philosophies that I now apply to our entire business, to everything I design.

These images make me confident we have taken large strides in the right direction to meet that aim. Seeing these beautiful, talented, strong women photographed in our Signature Collection - and how they each look so different but so completely at ease and themselves - solidifies my vision and direction for Elizabeth Suzann. Nina is a representative for a local fine artist and volunteers her time both locally for Nashville Fashion Week and internationally for Operation Smile in Mexico. She also has two grown sons, and runs every day. Kellie is a mother of one (about to be two) and works with Blood: Water Mission to fight HIV/AIDS and bring clean water to communities in Africa. Colette is an incredibly talented seamstress for Elizabeth Suzann, and she brings so much light and kindness to our team every single day. She is also a mother to an adorable two year old little boy.

They are women at different stages in their lives, with different aesthetics and tastes, different hobbies and interests. The loudest, clearest, most important message I get from these images is this: these are different women, and they are wearing these garments, not the other way around. Soft or severe, edgy or demure - the clothing allows for the subtlety and intrigue of their individuality and beauty to take center stage. They each highlight and showcase my work in an entirely different way, and that is the ultimate affirmation that we are making good things.

Photographed by Brett Warren for Elizabeth Suzann.