For many fashion designers, moving to New York City and designing for some of the biggest names in the industry is an almost unattainable dream; for Suzanne Perron, it was a not only a reality, but a stepping stone to a career that transported her from the runways of New York Fashion Week to her own design studio off Magazine Street.
“I started sewing as a young child and wanted to be a fashion designer since I was 5,” Perron says. “I fell in love with fashion back when fashion was about exceptional artistry, construction and vision. I would marvel at the works of Vionet, Dior and Valentino, to name a few.”
Her passion for the creativity of the fashion industry led Perron to enroll in the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City after graduating from Louisiana State University in 1991.
While at FIT, professors, advisors and critics alike all recognized Perron’s talent, and she was awarded the Bill Blass Commencement Award at her graduation in 1993. However, the most pivotal moment during her time at FIT may have been when her eveningwear specialization class’ industry critic approached her and offered Perron a position to work alongside her; the industry critic was Carolina Herrera.
“My first job was with Carolina Herrera, then Anna Sui, Chado Ralph Rucci, and my last four years in New York I worked for Vera Wang. In all of these positions, I worked directly with the designers in their design rooms. I lost count of how many New York Fashion Week shows I was a part of. I was an integral part of making their collections.”
During her time in New York, Perron’s designs were featured on runways, magazine covers, red carpets and on multiple celebrities, known to be fashion icons.
“While working with designers in New York, I dressed Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lopez, Holly Hunter, Katie Couric and Anna Wintour, to name a few,” Perron says.
After her more than 15 years working on New York’s famous 7th Avenue, she decided to move back to New Orleans, the city she loves.
New Orleans is her home. She says she wanted to design and create beautiful and unique gowns for the women in her city.
“One of the motivations to start this business was to locally create gowns on the level of quality and design of any of the designers I worked for in New York,” she says.
As to why she chose gowns as her specialization, she replies, “Once-in-a-lifetime gowns for brides, debutantes and Mardi Gras royalty present the opportunity to create unique, labor-intensive, beautifully designed works of art.”
When not designing, Perron enjoys spending time with her husband, Will St. Paul, and their 18-month-old twin boys, “climbing over baby gates and sitting on the floor.”
Mentor: There has been no shortage of mentors, starting with my mom and grandmother as a child, to my LSU professor Yvonne Marquette Leake, to designers including Vera Wang. It wasn’t just the designers in New York I learned from, I also learned so much from everyone I worked with – from other design assistants, skilled sewers and cutters, to experienced drapers and pattern makers. Judy Cobb was also great local inspiration as Mardi Gras queens become more and more a part of my business. The role I have now in New Orleans of both designer and dressmaker rarely exists in the industry. It is very unique today to be able to come up with the design and have the ability and knowledge to literally make the garment. I am now happy to be a mentor to numerous local design students by offering internships.
Defining Moment: There has not been one defining moment in a constantly evolving, creative journey. Mrs. Herrera recognizing my talent as a student; seeing my first bridal client walk down the aisle in a gown completely designed and made under my own label, nine months after Katrina delayed my plans – I was to have moved home on Aug. 31, 2005; seeing my gowns being the standouts alongside those of Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera at Mardi Gras balls.
Advice to Young Women: Define a niche, and be malleable as how to fill it. Be sure it is something you are passionate about, gaining quality hands-on experience before stepping out on your own is invaluable.
Goals: My goal is to serve the needs of clients that cannot buy from traditional retailers, particularly those in New Orleans –Mardi Gras queens, debs and brides with specific needs. I am often intrigued with designing and producing a collection for retail sales. With such great developments in the NOLA fashion industry as NOLA Sewn, production may be possible for me right here in New Orleans. I am kind of holding steady for right now as my highest priority is to keep my workload manageable as to allow me to be Mom to my boys.
Favorite Things About What I Do: Seeing a client beaming in their gown and being the radiant center of attention at their special event. I love that, unlike in the fashion industry, the client takes the bow, not me! It is her show.