September 27, 2017 • Behind the scenes

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.

Next up in our "Meet the Team” series is Chelsea, our Sales and Marketing Team Leader. She directs our Media and Customer Relations Teams, ensuring that we are engaging with our community the right way and telling the story behind our products - through the content we publish and the conversations we have with you. She is dedicated, hilarious, and has an infectious laugh, and she is always down for tacos. She’s level-headed and not afraid of a good debate, which has proven invaluable over the past several years of working together.

Meet Chelsea!

Can you describe your role at Elizabeth Suzann?

I am our Sales & Marketing (SAM) Team Leader! Our goal is to clearly communicate the mission of Elizabeth Suzann by executing Liz’s vision for creative content, as well as, customer experience. Our hope is to successfully tell the story of our clothing, to foster a connection to Liz, and to empower our community of customers.

Our Media Team takes care of creating our brand's visual content! This includes planning photoshoots, designing newsletters, taking photos (like the photos for this feature!), creating website graphics, coding and publishing blog posts, packaging design, and preparing for and executing online product launches. We also coordinate our in-person events!

Our Customer Relations Team handles our everyday interaction with our people! We primarily talk with our customers through e-mail, but we are so excited to expand our communication channels in the near future. Our Customer Relations Team Leader, Emily G., recently FaceTimed with a customer in Australia, and it felt like a tiny peek into our future!

Both teams are heavily rooted in relationship building and education. Our customers add immense value to our lives as team members at ES, and we want to only add value to theirs in return.

What about your job do you enjoy the most or find the most fulfilling?

It seems three things are tied for first place.

Firstly, I feel at my best when our team feels healthy and synergistic. Maintaining our vision for company culture takes keen attention and teamwork. I am currently training for a race, and I discovered a new parallel between my body and our team. Although my body feels healthy and agile, it doesn’t mean I could run a marathon next week. It simply means I am able to train; I am able to increase my distance each week. Then, two months from now, I could complete 26.2 miles in one stretch.

The same is true for our team. When our team feels at its best, it doesn’t mean we’ll double our efficiency next week; it means we are able to train—to learn, to push ourselves, to set higher goals. Learning, growing, and confident goal-setting will beget our success. And, the willingness to do these things begins with a healthy team. Right now, our team feels more banned together than it’s ever felt, and our doors are wide open to receive new knowledge. It’s incredibly empowering.

Secondly, I feel emotionally and intellectually recharged when I am able to interact with customers face-to-face. We are an online company, so we have to proactively create settings in order to see our customers. We recently had a Q&A here at Elizabeth Suzann for 50 customers. We gave them a full tour then answered each other’s questions over donuts and coffee. Our customers are creative, intelligent, and driven. They are fighting all that is upsetting about our current clothing industry. They embody what it means to seek a life of betterment in all that they take part. Seeing them face-to-face… My cup overfloweth, indeed.

Lastly, there is a direct correlation with my fulfillment and influx of new knowledge. The more I learn in a given week, the more fulfilled I feel come Friday afternoon. I am currently learning so much about leadership. At first, I believed others are simply born to be better leaders. They are more futuristic than I. They are more natural orators than I. They are more extroverted than I. I soon threw these thoughts out the window! Great leadership skills can absolutely be learned. Absolutely.

I recently listened to a talk by Lou Holtz, and he said, “What you say isn’t as important as the tone with which you say it, and your tone isn’t as important as the look on your face as you say it.” I pay very close attention to minor details day to day such as my facial expression as I give feedback. Giving feedback to someone with a smile on my face and optimism in my voice goes much further than the contrary. Small, educational tidbits really excite me! When I witness them work in real time, I internally raise the roof!

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

What draws me to clothing is its ability to communicate the subtle, the quickly fleeting. In this way, clothing is less akin to the car we drive or the home we buy; these communicate something more substantial. Clothing is more akin to the way we look at someone, the way we speak to someone, the way we touch someone. Indeed, it is most powerful non-anatomical tool we can use to convey a belief, an emotion, a desire, or a need.

When I want to teach my niece something, I look her in the eye. When we play, I look at her surroundings. Where I choose to look communicates something unique. Looking her in the eye communicates that I want her to hear me, to remember the words I’m sharing. Looking at her surroundings communicates that I’m feeling protective, that my antennae are searching for protruding tree branches or busy sidewalks.

We can take this concept to a more subtle, more intimate level.

When I share a hug with my husband, Jared, where and how my hands land on his back communicates something unique. Hugging him quickly, from the tops of my shoulders to the ends of my wrists communicates something very different than if I were to hug him from the fullness of my torso, through my shoulders, and out the ends of my fingertips.

One step more subtle, and one step more intimate.

When I get dressed each morning, I’m not choosing between a Christmas sweater or denim overalls. I’m choosing between buttoning my oxford top to my neck or forgoing most buttons altogether. Do I want to fully cover my chest? Do I want my torso to show if I raise my arms? Am I feeling quietly vulnerable, or am I feeling beautifully confident?

Clothing has the ability to communicate the most subtle, intimate, and complicated messages about us. It may be the only thing, besides the look in our eyes, the tone of our voice, and the pace of our breath that can do so.

Enter Elizabeth Suzann.

It is quite simple. The versatility of each piece means I have more ways to communicate the subtleties. There are no frills or ornaments. My Elizabeth Suzann wardrobe is merely an extension of my anatomy. It is my toolbox for communicating bursts of strength, stretches of shyness, and most importantly, a life-long celebration of womanhood and creativity.

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

Each day begins with a huddle with my Leadership Team followed by a huddle with my Sales & Marketing Team. Our huddles include a quick, “Hey! How y’all doin’? What’s going on today? How were sales yesterday?” They are intended to keep us on track day to day. Proceeding my morning huddles, each day is completely different.

My ES rocks on Mondays include our company-wide meeting and one-on-ones with Emily G. and Lauren.

On Tuesdays, they include my Sales & Marketing meeting, my Media Team meeting, and a one-on-one with Emily T.

Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week. I’m settled into my week, and my ES rocks include a 7:00am one-on-one with Liz, my Leadership Team meeting, a one-on-one with Chris, and my Team Leaders meeting.

Thursdays and Fridays are spent on my ES pebbles and sand. These include any action steps required to move forward current projects or departmental needs. Currently, we are preparing to relaunch our Signature Collection in November, hiring a new Customer Relations team member, and carrying forth smaller ventures and launches. Thus, one may find me planning our Signature Collection product shoot, conducting model research, reviewing newsletters and website imagery, touching base about a packaging update, overseeing the launch of our latest Knits Collection, or interviewing candidates for Customer Relations.

Regarding rituals or routines, I am by no means ceremonious in my daily work. Things change too quickly around here to be beholden to a strict routine. Wink! I drink a cup of coffee each morning. I try hard to run at least three times per week before heading into the studio. I try to never miss one-on-ones; they are hugely important to me. We dig in, open ourselves up to improvement, feedback, and celebration. In fact, I’ve taken two week-long vacations this year, and we had our one-on-ones via FaceTime. Our relationships are much stronger because of them.

Caffeine. Running. Relationships. I’m set!

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

I also feel most successful when my mind is most utilized. Although I love to work with my hands, I feel proudest after resolving a challenging concept. Peeling back the philosophical layers of an idea can be extremely cathartic.

What do you struggle with the most in your work, and how do you combat/overcome it?

I am most aware of my patience and flexibility each day. This tells me I struggle most with the pace at which our day-to-day moves and changes. Oftentimes, days of the week can feel like sprint after sprint, and I find myself craving an hour at my desk to be with the quiet of my own mind. I believe without a shadow of doubt, however, that our stamina has gotten us to where we are today, and slowing down may have implications I am unwilling to accept. Onward!

I overcome this challenge by simply using reason. We have huge goals for Elizabeth Suzann, and it means we must stay on our toes. We must train.

Optimism and humor go a long way during busy times, as well! At the end of any long day, there is an internal voice cheering, “It’s ALL good. We are all good. Let’s keep working hard because it is darn satisfying to do so.”

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

It takes a village to market Elizabeth Suzann. Marketing to us is synonymous with storytelling and relationship building; it is by no means left up to one department.

Every team member markets who we are. The way we speak to each other, the way we carry ourselves, and the goals we set market who we are.

Every garment that leaves our building markets who we are. We obsessively check each garment for errors upon completion. One small error in construction will disqualify it from being sent out. This level of pride in our product markets who we are.

Our customer markets who we are. When she is traveling in her Clyde Pant, writing her dissertation in her Georgia Dress, pushing her child on a swing in her Harper Tunic, she is saying something about who we are.

We, our team and our customers, are a fierce force reconsidering what it means to celebrate womanhood. We are reconsidering how our clothing best represents and celebrates us. Then, we are putting action to thought by purchasing responsibly, sharing our experiences with one another, and fearlessly chasing higher standards for the clothing industry and ourselves as empowered women.

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

That’s a great question! I admit I’m unsure of how others perceive my job. It matters most to me that others trust I’m working hard. Awareness of granular details themselves matter less. That said, I am happy to answer any and all questions about my job. Anyone who is curious is completely free to ask in the comment section below! Hit me!

That said, there are a few fun facts that others may not know about our Sales & Marketing strategy:

We do very little paid advertising. We only boost our Facebook posts to those who already like our page.

We focus mostly on current customers. For example, we prefer to have ten customers interact with us ten times than for 100 customers to interact with us once. Relationships > meet-and-greets!

Our Sales & Marketing Team does not operate independently of Design, Finance, and Operations. We stay in strict control of sales (units that must be produced) due to our made-to-order business model.

Our marketing is grounded in education—not impulsion. Our customers are wildly intelligent, and we wholeheartedly believe in corresponding with them as they deserve.

Our content is not planned far in advance. We oftentimes receive an idea from Liz, give legs to the idea, and launch a finished project within a matter of days. Our Diversity Campaign—from idea to finished campaign—happened within 45 days. There are, of course, exceptions to this. We are approaching our Signature Tour with utmost thoughtfulness. It’s going to be SO GOOD, and more often than not, good things take time.

Has your love for photography influenced the way in which you perceive yourself?

It took me some time to fully understand this question. It is a good, good question. How has my love for photography influenced the way in which I perceive myself? Mental gymnastics... Commence!

I perceive myself as one who feels most satisfied when creating, learning, and growing. Photography encourages me to do all three through one venue. I value doses of creative freedom, and the act of taking a photo in the quiet of my home gives me a small but mighty sense of independence. I am married with two animals, and I work amongst a busy team of (nearly) 30. It’s important to me to express myself outside of anyone or anything else, and photography allows me this opportunity. It also feels synergistic with my work here at ES. I have learned much about photography, lighting, Photoshop, and Lightroom because of this hobby. I am learning and growing as an artist of my own, and in turn, I am learning and growing in my role here at ES.

Perhaps more importantly, this question made me realize how deeply confused I am about the intersection of passion, identity, and perhaps a cultural pressure to entitle everything as something. At what point does one who loves to take photos become a photographer? A certain level of love or passion? Consistent practice? Payment for work? I am not sure. I also run, cook (sometimes), and try new restaurants often, but I don’t consider myself a runner, chef, or foodie. What makes someone something? It isn’t as obvious as one who pursues law or medicine, for example. One may receive a diploma upon graduation, a medical license, and a white coat. These things more obviously denote a title, an identifier.

Can we please have coffee and dig into this? Anyone?

You photograph everything from abstract selfies to beautiful architectural images to dramatically sunlit objects. Do you have a favorite of these to photograph? What is your process for taking a photo? Does it start with an idea, a subject, some kind of inspiration, or a certain time of day?

I absolutely love to photograph inanimate objects: homes, buildings, artwork, flowers, books, and more. In addition, I pursue dramatic lighting. Harsh sunbeams, sparkling shadows. I recently learned of the Japanese word: komorebi: the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees. It’s a beautiful word and an even more beautiful relationship.

My process is quite spontaneous. I have very little structure or time dedicated to photography. I will oftentimes take my camera on a walk with my pup or on a weekend trip with husband. If I am in the right place at the right time, I’ll experiment.

Also, “abstract selfie” may be the most millennial term I have heard to date, and it makes me so happy.

You post a lot of inspirational imagery on Instagram and have quite the dreamy mood board in your home. Are there any big themes or compositions that drive your inspiration? Do you have a current muse?

Lighting is the major thematic driver of my inspiration. Lighting, lighting, lighting! Color trails behind lighting, and shape quickly follows.

My ever constant muses are the women in my family—specifically my mother. I ask her on occasion, “How did you do it? How did you do it?” How did she and my father raise a family, work full-time, grocery shop, dress beautifully, read often, and mow the lawn? The list goes on and on. Some days, remembering to water my plants feels like an accomplishment. My mother will forever inspire my approach to combining motherhood and hard work. I believe she inherited these qualities from her mother, and I will find few greater joys than carrying them forward as far as I can.

My sisters—Amy and Sarah—are also superwomen. My younger sister gave birth to her daughter as a 19-year-old, and she has taken on single motherhood with beautiful abandon. She is finishing college, working part-time, growing a small garden, and raising the neatest child. Somehow, she makes time to answer my FaceTime calls and visit often. My older sister is my designated familial safe place. She is encouraging yet realistic. She is protective yet unassertive. Both sisters make me feel heard and normal on days I feel unsettled and lost. They celebrate my highs and cushion my lows—in the most appropriate way possible.

My grandmothers—Sarah and Trudy—are two of the hardest working women in my life. As a 27-year-old, I often think, “Dang. I am so lucky to have grown up near my grandparents!” It’s a luxury that once felt expected and common. Nowadays, I have to talk my grandmothers into calling me! “Gram, you can call me! I’m not too busy! I promise!” They each text often, and it fills my cup each time they do.

Lastly, my great aunt—Elizabeth (“Aunt Betty”)—is someone who deeply inspires the way I grow personally—in age, in intellect, and in heart. She has never stopped learning, reading, or thinking. She pays close attention to her heart and mind; she epitomizes what it means to grow gracefully. She is also my greatest style muse. She is a real-life Katherine Hepburn meets Julie Andrews. We have a monthly phone date that we each look forward to. It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and we try hard to  never miss it. In fact, we were shooting our Signature Tour in New York last month, and I walked from our hotel to Washington Square Park while on the phone with her. She could hear a saxophone playing in the background, and our conversation turned into a verbal love note to New York. I will never forget it.

Many others inspire me in addition to my family. My husband calls me a “People Collector” because I am so easily moved by the women and men around me. I admire a characteristic or two about several different people. I so value Steve Jobs’ creative impact on our world, Agnes Martin’s disciplined approach to painting abstractly, Frank Lloyd Wright’s harmonious fusing of structure and nature, Elizabeth Pape’s (Hi, Leez!) marriage of artistic design and entrepreneurship, Joanna Goddard’s and Erin Boyle’s online presence, and Lucia Zolea’s haircut and vintage collection.

If you could spend a day with your camera anywhere in the world photographing anything or anyone, where would you go and what would you capture?

If I could photograph anything, today I would choose to travel to Los Cabos, Mexico to photograph Mar Adentro. I would stop to photograph Georgia O’Keefe’s home at Ghost Ranch on my way. Then, if I happened to win the lottery upon arriving in Los Cabos, I would buy an around-the-world plane ticket to capture any space designed by Zaha Hadid, Luis Barragán, J. Mayer H., Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry.

If I could photograph anyone, I would choose to photograph my late grandfather on his farm. He walked on this past December, and I have very little imagery of him on his land, driving his combines, or working in his barns. His fingertips were oftentimes shadowed in oil from mechanical work; his shirts were faded in the same sweat-laden areas. After a long day’s work, he would remove his hat, his hair beneath charmingly tousled, before sitting down for dinner. He lived a long and healthy life, and I could have made time to photograph him. Perhaps Elon Musk will soon invent a time travel machine.

You graduated from college as a biology major. Has your background in science and philosophy influenced the way in which you work and problem solve today? Has the way in which you approach problems changed over the years?

I am asked this question often! My answer is, “YES!” Of course! My education and life experience influence all that I do. My time in college shaped so much of who I am. College is such a neat concept, right? We take an 18-year-old who is eager to learn, provide them with somewhere to live and a cafeteria, give them classrooms and experts on a topic of his or her choice, and VOILA! He or she is then left with something that is nearly impossible to ever take away: an education.

Majoring in biology simply honed my obsession with detail and systems. I can appreciate a detail only after understanding the system in which it thrives. The Scientific Method is hugely useful in the way I approach problem solving today, as well. As a Sales & Marketing Team, it’s imperative that we are data driven; we’d love to dive even deeper into facts and reason when making decisions that seem simple.

My approach to problem solving matured during college and has matured further since. It’s important to zoom out before delving into any issue, to understand the paradigm through which we are problem-solving, and then focus on the details from there.

You have an admirable set of systems for keeping your work and home life on track and focused on what is most important to you. What are the tools you use to accomplish this? Are there any books or mentors that have helped guide your current life philosophy?

I use Google Calendar, OmniFocus, and Evernote. I use Google Calendar to manage my time, and I use OmniFocus and Evernote to manage my ideas—goals, travel plans, meeting topics; you name it!

Chris has heavily influenced my approach to organization. He recommended authors like David Allen and Stephen Covey to me, and I felt onboard with their teachings immediately. In addition, Essentialism by Greg McKeown and Manage Your Day-to-Day by 99U were heavily influential! I definitely recommend each!

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

THE FLORENCE PANT! It is incredibly comfortable. It elongates my height with its high waist and wide leg. It leaves room for food babies.

View all of Chelsea's ES favorites here.