In July 2008 I was frustrated; I’d been designing for many of the top fashion companies in New York for years, but I felt boxed in and stagnant. I needed the freedom to design my vision, and I definitely needed a challenge. My experience told me the best beadwork was produced in India, and I was dying to go there, so in the depths of the sub-prime mortgage recession, I purchased a ticket to India and took a huge leap of faith that is now Suzanna Dai.
By visiting Delhi and Mumbai, two centers of beading manufacturing, I narrowed a large list of producers down to eight, visited each, culled the list further, and ultimately asked two to make samples. One delivered the samples while I was still in India, but I had to wait until I got back to New York to evaluate the dependability and quality of each side-by-side. I continued designing my first collection, and when all the samples finally arrived, I realized something most designers are reluctant to do . . . I had to sell!
The only way to find out if my collection would sell was to visit stores, show it to buyers, and gauge their reactions. Cold-calling stores is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it became my mission to call as many people as possible, hopefully find some friends along the way, and ultimately sell my designs. The first store that picked up my line was Sucre, in the West Village. I was thrilled when I landed an appointment with the buyers at Bergdorf Goodman, and ecstatic when they placed an order the very next day! Soon after, Calypso St Barth placed an order, and in May 2009 Suzanna Dai was officially incorporated.
Landing on the first floor of Bergdorf Goodman was the real launching point for Suzanna Dai. Everyone shopped there; it was like having my very own showroom right on Fifth Avenue, and Suzanna Dai got priceless exposure. I was contacted by PR agents wanting to rep my brand, as well as buyers from other stores in NYC, around the US, and internationally. Most notably, Takashimaya and Henri Bendel, two legendary boutiques on Fifth Avenue in NYC, picked up Suzanna Dai (both unfortunately have since closed).
Stay tuned for more stops along the ten-year journey of Suzanna Dai in the coming weeks!