“Suzani,” which refers to embroidered hangings or fabric coverings, is the perfect choice for Suzani World Designs, an accessories and textiles business owned by Greenwich resident Susana Correa-Vial. We were introduced to her at her pop-up at Greenwich Polo Club and were immediately as impressed by her sunniness as by her vibrantly textured and colored wares. Recently, we had an opportunity to talk further with her about her business and its Central Asian inspirations:
The word Suzani is a perfect fit for your business, isn’t it?
“Yes, Suzani is actually a word that is used in all Central Asia to refer mostly to textiles. …I feel like life is a little like embroidery. Some things happen and you don’t understand why things come this way or that way. But if you see the back of the textile once everything is complete, you see the top of the embroidery and understand that everything had to come together for a reason. …Life in a way builds who you are, and why you are the way you are.”
How did Suzani start?
“I used to live in Turkey from 2007 to 2011, and then I had four children with another on the way, and I thought, well I don’t want to stay at home all the time, so I started going to the carpet shops. I found myself spending a huge amount of time there because I wanted to learn about the textiles and techniques and started bringing carpets to (my native) Chile. I got a few things I would find in the markets to complement the carpets. I wasn’t satisfied because I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know what was traditional and what wasn’t. After we left Turkey, I continued to go back there and looked for suppliers and people who could explain to me the handcraft. I had a lot of curiosity and found enjoyment of textiles and traditional weaving and ways.”
Where else do you find your inspiration for your products?
“I do a lot of research along with visiting different countries. I am always traveling to places like Chile, Mexico, Belgium, Morocco and Bolivia. I love it and go on a regular basis to choose what I want in my shop. I learn about things by doing a lot of reading and I go from there and say, oh, this is another way it could work and make it happen — even checking Etsy. Sometimes I spend a whole afternoon just going through it with one thing I have mind. I don’t browse without an aim. And I wait for inspiration to hit.”
How do customers access Suzani’s offerings?
“I have a room where I have everything showing and people make appointments if they want to shop from my house. But it’s basically wholesale and most of the shopping is online. I hold occasional pop-ups at home but am trying to keep it online. It’s better to reorganize everything and I want to incorporate more artisans and look for people in India, Madagascar and Colombia.”
What would you say your style is?
“I have friends that say to me ‘Oh this is so hippie’ and I don’t find myself hippie at all. What I’d describe my own style as is more elusive with a lot of personality and different color combinations and definitely flowy.”
What’s your favorite part of the job and being a business owner?
“The artisans who craft the products and interacting with the people who buy the products. Building that bridge between the experience of creating and you, the buyer in search of originality and charm. I love meeting people. It’s the best part of the job. But I extremely enjoy the discovery of going to places and seeing a new technique or color or dye or new idea and realizing how much richer some of these other countries are. I find a huge sense of purpose and belonging in their traditions. …They are very rich in the things that they see that we don’t see in the West.”
“Yes of course, doesn’t everybody? I think because I don’t have a formal training in fashion that’s a big regret of mine. I was a lawyer in my country and I feel like I should not have been afraid to do what I really wanted. Because when you get afraid you want people to like you and what you do so sometimes is you listen too much to what one person says and discourage yourself. You can’t focus on that or be afraid of not pleasing everybody, because you can’t.”
What advice do you have for people who are looking to start a business like you did?
“Don’t be afraid, go for it. If you are passionate about it, then do it. Live your life and put one foot in front of the other. Don’t try to focus on making it a success, Just go for it and let the rest come to you.”
For more, visit suzaniworlddesigns.com.