'F Is For' An Interview by Jeanne Theresa, October 12, 2016 November 22 2016, 0 Comments
This past Monday, I was meeting a friend for coffee at a darling little cafe (Little Zelda) in Crown Heights after work and was running a little early. (Anyone who knows me knows this is generally the case with me, having been raised by people who drilled into me the "if you're not early, you're already late" ethos from a young age.) As I was walking down Franklin Avenue, I slowed when I got near the boutique next door,l. Lots of cute and stylish pieces caught my eye and I assumed that it would be too pricey for me--most of the time, places that cool are--but I headed on in anyway.
Suzette LaValle Boutique Brooklyn immediately draws in the shopper with stylish designs, approachable fashion and really great displays. The clothes had a definite cool factor going on and it was a little like shopping in your hipper, more together best friend's closet. (You know the one: She has one of those curated wardrobes where everything goes together in the best, most stylish way and she always looks fabulous and never too trendy.)
A black scarf with bright crimson red horses immediately caught my eye. There had been a similar one in mustard and crimson with elephants on shoedazzle.com (of all places) two years ago that I'd been obsessed with, but never purchased before it sold out. I searched for the price and didn't see a tag, so I asked the women behind the desk. "$24," she said, " and scarves are buy one get one half off."
"Great deal!" I thought to myself.
Not wanting to indulge my #FOMO (fear of missing out) any further, I picked that one up and pretty immediately found another that was navy with lighter blue birds to buy with the first. As I was checking out, I started chatting with the woman behind the desk. Turns out, she was the owner of the boutique and had been a stylist in the fashion industry for more than a decade prior to that. (The maker of the scarves, a local textile designer, was also a stylist, it turned out.) I asked if she was interested in being profiled here on F is For and Suzette became my third #W(BO)CW. (Woman (Boutique Owner) Crush Wednesday).
JT: When did you open your store? And when did you get involved in the fashion biz?
Suzette: My shop has been open for close to two years now and I've been in the industry for about 25 years. After a very brief modeling stint, I realized getting a 'real' job would be more gratifying and less damaging to the psyche, so I began working for a company that sold wholesale fashions and had the very tiniest shop on the Upper West Side, as well. I worked mostly selling the wholesale collection until my boss told me one day that I was headed to Paris on a buying trip. I was very young, but that one trip led to several monthly and we expanded into having three shops before I left and began my styling career.
JT: What inspired you to start the store?
Suzette: ...I spent so many years, buying, styling, and merchandising for others that I was determined to one day open my own shop.
JT: How has it changed since opening?
Suzette: As I approach my second year, I'd have to say I'm more more relaxed and confident with my business decisions.
JT: What makes your shop unique? Describe your aesthetic.
Suzette: I wouldn't so much as to say that my clothes, individually, are so unique, but rather the selection of what I chose from season to season appeals uniquely to a broad audience. And the novelty pieces I select are just tame enough to be approachable for those who are feeling a bit more adventurous.
JT: What inspires you to keep it going year after year?
Suzette: My great love of fashion and a deep sense of "cool factor". During my 14 years of styling, I was locked in a world that was driven only by fashion. I went to sleep and woke up every day with fashion dictating every job, every shoot, really, every move I made. I formed a love affair with nearly every style of dressing. Classic, conservative, rock & roll, punk, designer, bohemian, The list goes on and one. So I would have to say my style and the shop's aesthetic will now and forever be a combination of all of those styles combined. If it's cool, I think women should wear it.
JT: What can women look forward to about your store?
Suzette: Change. I love change. Fashion is ever-changing and re-morphing every single day, every minute of the day . Fashion requires the influences of art, culture, music, youth, politics and personalities. And fashion couldn't exist without these influences or the fluidity of style.
JT: What's your favorite look for this season?
Suzette: This season I think it's all about layering and combining the unexpected: Look for contrasting prints, colors and textures.
JT: What's your favorite current trend?
Suzette: I'm still very much in love with Western accessory pieces: Layering lots of them on all styles of sweaters. It's so much fun. I'm also in love with capes this season.
JT: What trend could you do without?
Suzette: I think some of the new sunglasses designs that have surfaced within the last two years are hideous and not truly flattering on anyone, which reminds me of something I have always disliked: following any trend just because you see a celebrity in it. So many bad trends have stemmed from this tendency in our culture to blindly follow the famous.
JT: Who is your ideal woman/customer?
Suzette: I have the most fun dressing women who have always enjoyed fashion as a unique way of expressing themselves.
JT: What's your favorite part about what you do?
Suzette: Helping a woman discover or introducing to her a new style or a look she would have never considered. And having her become very excited about it. I love being the gateway for women to authentically express themselves through fashion.
JT: What's your least favorite part?
Suzette: I sometimes miss the high intensity of my styling days. Retail's a little more laid back.
JT: Where can I find your clothes?
For now I have one store location and you can shop on my website (though I only usually have about 25% of my total inventory online at any given time). Suzette LaValle Boutique Brooklyn is in Crown Heights at 726 Franklin Avenue. Hours are M, W, Th, F 1pm - 7pm; Sa 10am - 7pm and Su 11a - 6pm. The store is located off the 2,3, 4, 5 and C trains.
JT: Anything else?
Suzette: I also still do styling. Check out my website for my contact info. And since you're a queer blog, I wanted to mention that we're a really safe space for our trans sisters to explore feminine style. I love watching any woman find her personal style, but it's especially gratifying to see trans women embracing cool style and finding their self expression through clothing.
Shop at Suzette LaValle Boutique Brooklyn before December 31, 2016 and get 15% off all fashion and 20% off combined fashion purchases of $200 or more if you mention "F is For dot com". Also, they're having a fashion show on October 27. RSVP to shopsuzettelavalle at gmail dot com and tell them F is For sent you!