Meet Suzanne Macbale, she was the Associate Vice President of Design for lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret, she is now the founder and CEO of LoveSuze, a custom lingerie line that combines sexy and beautiful with comfort and wearability. LoveSuze has gained recognition as the lingerie brand that is designed with the ever-changing woman’s body in mind. Its innovative Flex-Sizing™ fits every woman’s shape to move and stretch as she does.
Who is Suzanne Macbale? Define yourself
If I had to describe myself, I would say I’m emotional, ambitious, creative, and innovative. I use my emotion to make me a stronger woman and leader. I crave innovation and change, and I need newness in my life. Most people fear change, but if I don’t constantly have something fresh, I get anxiety. I love thinking outside of the box and coming up with exciting new ideas.
How were you as a kid?
I grew up in a loving family, but my parents were very strict. What we watched, who we saw, what we wore — everything was carefully monitored. For years, I was only allowed to wear super plain, cotton bras and panties. The most basic versions you can imagine — no lace, no fun colors, definitely no prints, nothing remotely interesting or exciting. It drove me crazy. My friends had all these cute styles, prints, and colors — undies I could only dream of. I started sketching what I would buy when I was an "adult." The fanciest lingerie you could imagine — or at least that my 14-year-old self could imagine. When I left for college, I was finally free to shop for myself. There were no boundaries. I spent entire paychecks on only lingerie. It’s an obsession that’s deeply rooted and still going strong.
You hold a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) Fashion Merchandising Management at Fashion Institute of Technology, why did you choose that course of study?
I started my education at SUNY Albany. I majored in business and communications until I was old enough to pay for my education on my own. I later transferred to FIT when I was able to afford it, and that’s how I made the move to New York City. After that, opportunities started to happen for me. The fascination I had with lingerie at such a young age inspired me to go down this path in the fashion industry. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to help women feel empowered and confident.
You were the former Merchandiser at Calvin Klein for three years and Associate Vice President of Design at Victoria's Secret for 12 years, how did you jump from that point to find your own company LOVESUZE?
Earlier in my career, I had an interaction with a customer that planted the seed for LoveSuze. She told me how she had different bras and panties that she wore at different times depending on the natural fluctuations of her body. The styles that she felt the most attractive in were not the most forgiving, so when she needed more comfort, she felt less confident in lingerie because she had to sacrifice style. Why should anyone have to choose? What if the styles that made us feel sexy and confident also fit comfortably?
“I want women to feel confident. This philosophy, providing a foundation that supports confidence, is genuinely the heart and soul of LoveSuze”
Can you explain, what is unique about LOVESUZE?
Each of my collections feature my trademarked Flex-Sizing ™ material, which makes every piece fit each woman’s unique body flawlessly and flexibly, while allowing her to move throughout her day with comfort and confidence. While women may share the same size, their bodies are vastly different, and they’re changing every day. With flex-sizing fabric, women can feel and look their absolute best. One of my goals in creating my brand was to create a something that truly embraces a positive body image and empowers the wearer. I want women to feel confident. This philosophy, providing a foundation that supports confidence, is genuinely the heart and soul of LoveSuze. We look at every decision we make as a company through this filter.
You have more than a decade of experience in the lingerie industry and have worked for leading companies in the field, and you have gained recognition with LOVESUZE as the lingerie brand that is designed with the ever-changing woman’s body in mind. What´s the recipe for your success?
I believe it’s so important to surround yourself with other powerful, successful women. You make amazing connections this way. You need to have great listening skills because you never know where the next best idea is coming from. It could be your intern, your assistant, or the guy you’re buying coffee from. Listening skills are so important if you want to succeed as a business leader. Lastly, it’s important to know your competition. It is vital to know what else is out there and where you stand against your competition.
What does a normal workday look like for you?
Every day is different. It depends on where we are in season. Usually I’m fitting garments, meeting with lace suppliers, working on photoshoots, updating my website or assigning colors to a new collection. In this industry, you’re constantly working on more than one collection. You could be finalizing one collection and beginning strategy on another.
Since COVID, a lot has changed. We’ve lacked the human interaction aspect of the industry which was always so important. There have been less events which was also really hard to adapt to. I used to go to museums in New York to get inspired and travel internationally a lot, where a lot of inspiration came from.
“You are constantly opening yourself up to criticism. In an industry as fiercely competitive as fashion, it’s intimidating to share your designs and ideas. In a way, sharing your work is like baring your soul. The creation of art is personal, and there is a serious vulnerability in the sharing of that art. It takes a lot of courage to overcome that fear and push forward”
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
Creativity takes courage — Henri Matisse
Why courage? Because being a designer takes an element of fearlessness. You are constantly opening yourself up to criticism. In an industry as fiercely competitive as fashion, it’s intimidating to share your designs and ideas. In a way, sharing your work is like baring your soul. The creation of art is personal, and there is a serious vulnerability in the sharing of that art. It takes a lot of courage to overcome that fear and push forward. Reminding myself that “creativity takes courage” has helped me block out all of the noise. Whenever I was afraid of how people were going to respond to a concept that I designed, this quote empowered me. It motivated me when fear of rejection made me doubt myself.
It’s tempting to look at successful designers or artists and believe that they’re just better — more talented, disciplined or whatever has attributed to their success. But that’s not necessarily the case — they just found the courage to try.
What do you love most about your job? & What is the most difficult part?
My favorite part of my job is being inspired and seeing new things. I love looking for the most innovative products and the next best way of doing things. I also loved the travel aspect of my job. The most difficult part of my job is that it’s really hard to make decisions for your own company versus working for someone else. You have to think through each decision much more thoroughly than when you’re working for another brand.
What is one strategy that has helped you to grow your business?
Perseverance. Every no brings me closer to a yes. Take each no as constructive criticism and move forward. Plan your next meeting and don’t be afraid of rejection. Next time it may be a yes.
“Take each no as constructive criticism and move forward. Plan your next meeting and don’t be afraid of rejection”
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
The movies, “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” and “Pretty in Pink” really inspired me to get into the fashion industry.
What meaning does lingerie have for you, beyond the utility use?
I view lingerie as a way of empowerment. It can inspire the kind of self-love and confidence that makes women feel empowered. No matter what a person’s individual style is, one fact remains true for everyone: our confidence—our individual power—comes from feeling good about ourselves. Self-love is the foundation for confidence and with clothing, and especially with lingerie, the better the fit, the better you feel. We pride ourselves on being the first thing a woman puts on when she gets dressed—the foundation of her style. It sets the tone for her whole day. If you feel great and look amazing, you are ready to take on the world.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend my spare time with my kids and my family. I love taking my kids to exhibits and getting them inspired as well.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you have kids, I don´t know if you are married, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
I think you need to have whatever makes you happy—and that’s different for everyone. Some women thrive when they have a successful career. Some women thrive when they have a family. Some women thrive with both. Everyone should do whatever makes them happiest.
“We shouldn’t measure our own success based on someone else’s failure. We need to find success within our own merits”
What are your plans for the future?
We already see fashion brands utilizing technology such as virtual try-ons and fittings. AI algorithms can not only predict trends but also cut and sew. It’s going to keep getting better and better and the sky is the limit. The world of lingerie is only going to grow from here and I am so happy to be here for the ride.
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented with the glass ceiling? If yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
I’ve been in so many situations in my career where people in higher positions than you belittle you or talk down to you. I remember being at my first company dinner in my leadership role at a major company. I started talking about my opinions on changes we should make within the company, and I thought it went really well. After the dinner I was called into an office and was told “If you’re at a dinner with someone like me, you shouldn’t speak.” It made me angry, and I wanted to quit.
What tips can you give to young girls who want to become an entrepreneur like you in the fashion industry?
The fashion industry is constantly changing. You have to figure out how to embrace the change and use it to fuel your creativity. For me, that means always looking forward to new seasons — getting excited about new colors, fabrics, styles, and trends. I have traveled extensively throughout my career, and I’ve drawn inspiration from new people and places. Runway and magazines can definitely be inspirational, but I find my most rewarding ideas are drawn from experiences like travel. I’m also lucky to have some amazing women in my life that are an endless source of inspiration and the perfect sounding board. Create your village and hang on to them tightly.
I think in your position many people may have the wrong idea of who you are, and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Suzanne and what´s not?
What I am is ambitious and passionate. If I love what I do, the sky is the limit. What I’m not is competitive. This industry can get really tough and mean so I’ve always tried to help other leaders succeed. There’s so much room at the top. There is a change we can make happen and I think the only way it can work is if we help each other. Most of the women I used to work with are now my competitors, but if they called me for advice, I’d help them without hesitation. It shouldn’t be cut-throat. We shouldn’t measure our own success based on someone else’s failure. We need to find success within our own merits.
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
My mother. She taught me how important it is to work hard. She came from nothing and put herself through beauty school while working 3 jobs to give us everything. She’s always been my role model and is the hardest working person I know.
What else do you want to add or share with us?