July 14, 2017 • All / Meet the team

Our team is incredible. It is like a wonderful soup, full of talented, passionate individuals with different flavors and perspectives. We all share some notes, there’s a common thread among us, but there is also a real richness and depth to this group. I have been craving a way to connect you all more deeply with the entire team that brings Elizabeth Suzann to life - the people whose hands cut and sew your clothing, the ones that answer your questions, the ones that tell our story and cultivate this thriving digital community.

Our "Meet the Team" series will highlight the ES squad, one member at a time. We’ll give you a glimpse into the personalities and minds here and also paint a more detailed picture of how we do what we do. It is my hope that, through this feature, you’ll find a deeper connection with the makers of the clothing you love and also learn something new about how we operate through the unique lens of our crew.

Third up in our "Meet the Team” series is Carissa, my Executive Assistant. She is my right-hand lady, and I don't know how I ever managed without her! She keeps my day organized, my projects on track, and my energy high. She's a fantastic listener and cheerleader, and she stays calm and collected no matter what's going on. Carissa also has an enviable vintage collection (and shop!), excellent taste in fragrance, and does crazy things like goat yoga.

Meet Carissa!

Can you describe your role at Elizabeth Suzann?

I am the Executive Assistant to Liz—the mastermind and Ship Captain at Elizabeth Suzann. My role is a little hard to define because it encompasses so many different responsibilities. The way I often describe my role is that I help Liz with whatever she needs. As the CEO of a business, she has so many things on her plate from morning until night, so I take pride in knowing that I do everything in my power to help take things off her plate and let her get back to the things only she can do. This means I work on a lot of admin tasks, I run errands, and I facilitate her office running smoothly. If Liz is busy with meetings or working off site, I act as her liaison and relay any information to her or to the rest of the team. I’m also a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, and a different perspective whenever it is needed.

Why did you choose this role and what about your job do you enjoy the most or find the most fulfilling?

Actually, I think this role chose me! I never had that driving clarity of knowing what to pursue in school. All I knew was that I wanted to work closely with people in some sort of helping role. In college, I pursued a Bachelor’s in Social Work but quickly realized that field wasn’t quite what I was looking for. After several years of working in retail, a friend took a chance on me and hired me as her Assistant even though I had no prior experience. I learned how to be an assistant through several years of experience with her and it’s what has led me here.* Being an EA is exactly for me. I am highly organized and enjoy multi-tasking. I am very calm natured and I also weirdly love admin work. Being an EA is so much more than that though. I so dearly love working closely with someone who is pushing forward with a sole purpose. I find so much purpose in helping someone pursue their dreams and being a supportive role.

What draws you to clothing? Is there something in particular that drew you to clothing at Elizabeth Suzann?

Clothing is such an interesting form of self-expression. I love seeing how other people dress because you get an inside view of how they think about the world and themselves. We have to get dressed, and I really like seeing how people do that. Clothing has the power to make you feel incredibly confident, but it can also make you feel incredibly insecure. Clothing has made me feel both ways, and I’m always on the journey of honing what makes me feel true to myself. This wasn’t always the case though.

In high school and college, I experimented with different styles, trying to personify a different character. I tried to alter who I was through clothing to fit into other people’s molds. My little experiments never lasted. Throughout my twenties, I shed that self-consciousness to dress for other people. I now feel the freedom to be exactly who I am, no extra frills or distressing needed. This is why I’m drawn to Elizabeth Suzann. Liz puts a lot of thought and work into designing clothing that is functional, beautiful, and timeless. I can be exactly who I am wearing her designs.

On top of all that, clothes are just fun! I love the beauty in silk and the ease of linen. I love the ease of dressing in Elizabeth Suzann and the fun you can have with mixing in vintage pieces too.

What does your typical day look like? Do you have any routines or rituals you find important?

One of my favorite things about my job is that I don’t have a typical day! There are certain things Liz counts on me for on a daily basis, but every day is different. If I absolutely had to break down my day, I guess I would describe it in this way…

I spend most of my day floating between computer work and hands-on projects. Part of my job entails email management and calendar management like scheduling. So, I spend time checking emails for both myself and for Liz and tending to anything that is urgent. I fill Liz in on anything she might need to be prepared for that day or week. We might also work on a project together or meet to discuss future projects and how I can help. If she has a photo shoot or is working on designing all day, I step in wherever I can and make sure she has what she needs. I also act as a liaison for Liz if other members of the team need information or anything else from her, and I help facilitate that in whatever capacity I can.

And I do have one ritual. On my first day at ES, Liz showed me a special incense she keeps around the studio. Now, I burn it every morning when I arrive to work. It smells great and gets me in the zone.

When do you feel most successful or proud of your work?

I feel the most successful when Liz and the team have accomplished a goal. Since I am not physically making garments or talking with customers directly, I have a really great bird's eye view of the business. I see Liz come up with an idea and then see it play out on each team. It’s really great seeing projects come full circle like that. I feel successful when Liz feels successful. I get so much joy when her dreams come to life and also seeing each team accomplish their goals. Knowing that I have a special part in this process is incredibly gratifying. 

Is there anything most people get wrong about your job, or is there something that might surprise customers to learn about your job?

I find that most people don’t exactly know what an Executive Assistant is. I like to joke with Liz that I am actually her boss! I do everything I can to keep her on track with small tasks and big projects. I help facilitate her calendar to run in a way that enhances her work day. She makes it easy on me, though, because she and Chris, her husband, have fostered an incredibly smart and hard-working team.

Aside from the jokes, the EA position is incredibly important in any business because the type of work I do allows the creative to keep focusing on what’s important and leave the rest behind. My role so far has gone beyond administrative work though. The relationship between an EA and her boss is incredibly special. I am often with Liz when she hears exciting news about a project for the first time or feels the disappointment of a project not working out. It’s a partnership that I wouldn’t ever trade.

What is one thing you want others to know about your work here or Elizabeth Suzann in general?

Being Liz’s EA is incredibly special, and I take it very seriously. I work closely with her and see so many behind-the-scenes moments. During my time here, I’ve learned that Liz and her husband, Chris, are so passionate about what they do. They both approach their job with excitement and curiosity, and this clearly flows throughout the whole team. They are very eager to be great leaders and teach each team member how to lead with an entrepreneurial spirit. This instills in each one of us a deeper sense of pride in our work no matter what our individual roles happen to be. Our studio is a joy to work in, and I am beyond thankful to work with a group that is supportive, creative, and fun!

Do you have any tricks for staying focused?

There are two things I watch out for while I’m working. The first is my environment and senses. I mentioned earlier that I’ve created a ritual of burning incense every morning because it smells great and sets the mood for me to focus. Turning on the right music (or maybe turning off music) can put me in a really focused state too. If I ever need to buckle down and get some work done, I have one album I turn to every time. It’s called Shine Your Light by Gap Dream. I’ve been listening to it for years and, when I hear it now, it’s like a light switch in my brain. A glass of water is also so important to me. It’s simple but staying hydrated does so much for the brain. When I need to get work done, I just need to have some water nearby!

The second piece of advice I have is to learn how to stay in tune with yourself and what your body is telling you. This is really so, so simple. If I’m feeling anxious, I pause and ask myself what’s causing that anxiety. Maybe I need to take a few deep breaths or change the music. If I’m feeling really sleepy, maybe I just need to walk around, stretch, go get some fresh water, or make a cup of tea. Staying energized while having a desk job is all about staying in tune with yourself.

You just moved to the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood in Nashville with your husband and pup. What about your new digs most excites you?

I’ve lived all over Nashville for the past 20 years, and I can honestly say Wedgewood-Houston is one of my favorite neighborhoods! It’s so close to everything I enjoy doing. My husband and I really enjoy walking to Dozen, our local bakery, on Saturday mornings for fresh croissants. We can zip down the street and eat at our favorite Ramen shop-Otaku South. And we’re within walking distance to some really great bars. Are you noticing a theme here?! Over the last 10 years, this neighborhood has also grown into an artists’ hub. There’s a monthly art crawl and several places to catch a live show during the week. Honestly, my favorite part about the neighborhood is that we're within walking distance to the Nashville Flea Market. I always find treasures there, and it’s one of my favorite things to do every month!

You really have an eye for finding vintage pieces! How did you become interested in vintage fashion? Do you have any tips or advice on spotting pieces in thrift stores or estate sales?

First of all, thank you! My love for vintage started in college and grew slowly. I originally started going to thrift stores to find “new-to-me” clothes with a small budget. Back then, I was just picking whatever I liked and didn’t give any thought to creating a vintage wardrobe. Over time, my style and whole philosophy on clothing changed. I started noticing how clothes from fast-fashion companies deteriorated so fast. Even if I bought something new, it would still fall apart faster than my vintage pieces that I thrifted! This led me to keep an eye out for more vintage pieces at second-hand stores. If clothing from the 50s or 70s could last longer than something that was made brand new today, then I needed to drastically change how I spent money on clothes. At the same time, I was becoming more and more interested in the environment and how fast fashion negatively affects the air we breathe, the water we drink, and overall human life. It was so satisfying to reuse clothing by thrifting it versus buying something new. As I narrowed down my search for vintage, I would come across amazing pieces that I loved but didn’t necessarily want to wear. This is what ultimately led me to open a vintage clothing business. I love spending hours at second-hand stores and estate sales hunting for hidden treasures. I think I have a pretty good eye for realizing what someone might love to wear, so I fill my shop with all the vintage treasure I come across but don’t want to keep for myself.

I have so many tips on finding great pieces at second-hand stores! First of all, don’t let a huge thrift store intimidate you. It helps to have a mental list of what you're looking for. Many stores are organized by type of clothing and size so let this guide your search. Fabric is a huge factor for me when I’m searching for new pieces. I touch everything. Is it silk or a synthetic blend? Is it cotton or is it polyester? I only go for the good stuff.

Another piece of advice is to remember that buying at a second-hand store is not a big risk. If you want to experiment wearing a color or style outside your comfort zone, then go for it! I’ve surprised myself many times by these experiments. It’s led me to expand what I thought I could wear and also clarify what I needed to pass on.

Lastly, (this one is just too good!) one of my top tips is to always go visit the men’s pants section. I’ve found some of my favorite trousers this way. For the best fit, find a good leather belt to cinch the waist or take them to a tailor.

Do you have a favorite time period or decade of clothing? If so, what is the gravitational pull towards that era of fashion?

I have two! My favorite time in women’s fashion is the 1930s. The drama, the glamour, the femininity! The silhouettes created with wide billowy trousers or long silk gowns at that time look so classic and mysterious. There are also some pretty fabulous hats that made women look so put together.

That said, while I really enjoy admiring fashion from that time period, my favorite decade to draw inspiration from on a more personal level is the late 1960s and into the 70s. It seems like there was such an ease to dressing during that time. I think of myself as a hippie at heart and love peasant blouses, vintage Levi’s, jumpsuits, wrap dresses, and a free spirit to match. I’ll pass on the polyester, though, thanks!

Collecting and selling vintage fashion means having a diverse eye for style. How have you been able to hone your personal style? What drives your personal taste in fashion and getting dressed every day?

This has been such a journey and part of the reason I started my shop! As I mentioned previously, I went through several phases of experimenting with different styles. I really love so many different styles, colors, and patterns in clothing but don’t always feel confident in everything that I wear. I started my shop as a way to offer the pieces I find to others who would love those things. For my shop, I model everything and take my photo wearing every single piece. This has given me a different perspective of what I think looks good on my body and what I think I can wear or not wear. It’s given me an incredible amount of confidence in my own style and how I wear clothes. Bodies can be weird. There is no one perfect body. Taking the time to find clothes that actually fit you and make you feel good is so worth it - whether it's new or vintage!

At heart, I’m a really unfussy dresser. If I could wear blue jeans and a white tee every day, I would. But I also like to play dress up and infuse variety in my closet. So, what drives my own personal taste is first, comfort, and second, how I want to feel. Sometimes, I want to feel like a tomboy. Other days, I want to amp it up with a dress and a poppy-colored lipstick. I always try to remind myself to not think about it too much and to go with my gut. I also err on the side of being a minimal dresser. Less decision making is better in my opinion. So - even if I adore something - if there is any hesitation about keeping it, I usually list it in my shop. Thankfully, I haven’t regretted selling anything yet and am always happy to see my finds going to a new home.

You have quite the knack for staying organized yet adaptable. Do you enjoy implementing new systems in the moment, or do you tend to stick to methods that you know are tried and true?

I’ve learned some really great tricks over the years of working in retail and being an assistant. While I can adapt to many situations, I do have a couple tools in my back pocket to carry me through anything. The first is a simple saying or mantra. “Let it be easy.” Like many people, I tend to over think and over analyze. In that process, I can make things way harder than they need to be. Take a step back and whisper, "let it be easy." In any situation, this helps me circle back around to the priorities and zero in on the small actionable steps that need to be taken to achieve whatever I need to in life or business.

Another tool I learned from someone very dear to me helps when I'm faced with a difficult issue and feel stuck. When I don’t know how to do something in business or in life, I ask myself, “…but if I did know, I would do…” and fill in the blank. Maybe I need to ask for help. Maybe I need to research. We are faced with decisions on a daily basis, and some of those things are really hard to deal with. It’s okay not to have the answer to everything. In times of feeling overwhelmed and defeated, I find this tool the most helpful.

Lastly, when you find you have a full plate of to-dos and are feeling overwhelmed, stick to the priorities. What absolutely needs to be done right now or today? What can wait until tomorrow or next week? Again, let it be easy.

What is one thing you will always find on your desk on any given day?

I like keeping a few sentimental things on my desk like a special note or a framed photo of my family. I don’t like a cluttered desk, so I just keep one or two things to warm my heart throughout the day, and I’m set.

You and your husband recently spent a lot of time traveling. Is there one destination that stands out from the rest?

Oh my, just one?! We went on a three-week road trip from Nashville to Canada and back. Honestly, we were looking for a new place to live, but for many reasons, we decided to stay in Music City (which is still a fabulous city to live). Seattle is my favorite. I love how, in one place, you can see the mountains and water at the same time. My husband and I both love bigger cities, and Seattle is our top spot because it's not too big; it's relatively clean and is a lot more open-minded than the southern part of the country. Plus, who doesn't love the Pacific Northwest? It's just gorgeous up there!

My second favorite spot we visited on our trip was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We only passed through on our trip, but I felt like I walked onto a different planet. I can try to describe it, but it won't do it justice - it's amazing. The Badlands are like a weird alien world that you can't believe is real. I'd almost compare it to the Grand Canyon. There's just nothing else like it.

I love to travel because it makes me feel closer to nature and more in tune with this planet we live on, and it also broadens my world view. This past year we also went to Rome, Italy, and I officially decided I was born in the wrong country!

Last but not least, what is your favorite ES garment and why?

My all time favorite ES garment is the Georgia Midi in Silk Crepe. I have a past season rust-color piece, and it's one of the things I'd grab if there was a fire. There are so many reasons why I love this piece. I love its versatility. It looks great on anyone dressed up or dressed down. The Georgia Midi is easy to wear, and it makes you look instantly put together. The silk is billowy and beautiful in any color. I also have a sentimental tie to mine because I bought it at a sample sale with my main gal pal a couple years ago. She no longer lives in Nashville, and I feel connected to her every time I wear it.

View all of Carissa's ES favorites here.

Follow along with Carissa on Instagram.

Carissa wears the Petra Crop in Linen Gauze with the Bel Skirt in Linen Gauze, the Mara Jumpsuit in Silk Crepe, and the Harper Tunic in Midweight Linen with the Clyde Trench in Midweight Linen.

See all of our other Meet the Team features here.