LSU Alumna Writes a Book About Her Life and Career
Designer Suzanne Perron has had many one-of-a-kind opportunities sashay her way — including working side by side with Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera and other fashion icons—but the one she didn't see coming was an offer from LSU Press to write a book about her career.
"My designs are most influenced by my clients and their events. I am fortunate to work with clients who posses great style and taste. With every gown, I am pushed to grow creatively and to create yet another exceptional and unique piece."
"Designing in Ivory and White" captures Perron's journey, from her first Singer sewing machine to her success on Seventh Avenue to her post-Katrina move to a city in need of "something beautiful," as well as her design technique and meticulous craft.
What resulted was "Designing in Ivory and White," a behind-the-scenes look at the business of designer couture.
"Author" wasn't a title Perron ever thought would be on her resume. In fact, the first time she was approached by LSU Press, she thought the idea of writing about herself was so ridiculous that she turned them away. After the idea steeped a while and LSU Press came calling a second time, Perron realized she might have something to offer readers.
"The process of custom sewing is a dying art and the relationship between designer and client is unique," said Perron. "The opportunity to document this process and to feature so many of my clients, and all of this being in Louisiana, was great motivation to see this project come to fruition."
In her book, released in March 2012, Perron shares stories from her life and career—like the time she did a fitting for Vogue magazine's famed editor, Anna Wintour—as well as an in-depth look at her design process. Sixteen of her designs are featured, including more than 260 detailed photos and sketches.
Although the experience was a new one for her, she approached writing in the same methodical way that she does dressmaking, starting with the outline and then filling in the intricate details as she went along.
"I did write almost exclusively from memory," said Perron. "I had a huge three-ring binder with section dividers, text and thumbnails of images. I was constantly arranging and rearranging to come up with the best organization and flow. My binder was a great tangible reference to mimic flipping through the pages of the actual book."
Perron's career trek emerged at the ripe young age of five, when her mother and grandmother taught her to sew, and she began making her own garments. While they set her journey in motion, she's had no shortage of mentors through the years, ranging from her LSU instructor Yvonne Marquette to designer Vera Wang.
After more than a decade in New York City's famed fashion industry, her Louisiana roots beckoned her home in 2005. Feeling homesick and wanting to offer something beautiful to a city that had just been devastated, Perron opened her own shop, the Suzanne Perron Studio, focusing on garments that embodied celebration: bridal, debutante and Mardi Gras gowns.
"I focus on clients who cannot shop traditional retail," said Perron. "A gown suitable to a New Orleans Mardi Gras queen is not available in any retail setting. With such a variety now available in bridal retail, I primarily work with brides seeking something truly unique such as a gown to coordinate with an antique family veil, a nontraditional color or detailing, or with a specific fit or design need."
While the pageantry of New Orleans offers creative inspiration, its proximity to LSU opened the door to other resources, including a steady source of interns, a couple of which Perron has hired full-time, and a strong show of support from the LSU community.
"That's the whole value of being back home: the support of your alma mater, of your friends, of your family is priceless."
"Designing in Ivory and White" is available at www.lsupress.org.