Back in 2007 Susannah (Suz) Khouzame gave up her first career choice as a lawyer, and put her heart and soul into designing shoes with the creation of fashion label “Billie”. Since then she has been creating trendy shoes for men, women and children for the Billie and Billini brands.
We had a chat with Suz in the following designer profile. Images are from the latest Billie and Billini collections and feature 2010 Australia’s Top Model runner up, Kelsey Martinovich.
How did you get started designing shoes?
Growing up I was whole heartedly obsessed with fashion and like most women had a shoe addiction. After recognising a gap in the market for fashion forward and casual footwear at affordable prices I was determined to use my extensive design and retail experience to launch Billie.
You previously had a career in law, how did the change come about?
Whilst studying law part-time I worked in the fashion industry for over 8 years and gained extensive experience in retail buying, design and product development. So, fashion was always a strong passion of mine but after all the blood, sweat and tears that that I poured into my studies, I decided to practice law.
After 12 months I realised that I needed to put my creativity to better use and pursued my dream in fashion footwear. I can confidently say that I made the right move.
Where did the brand names Billie and Billini come from?
Billie is the name of my niece and I fell in love with its unisex appeal. Billini is a feminine spin-off Billie.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I have long been inspired by the streets of London, New York, Milan, Tokyo (and of course, Sydney). I always take note of what people are wearing on their feet first! We keep a close eye on runway trends, A-list celeb’s and style icons. Our team also travels abroad on regular buying trips to source the latest footwear trends and tailors them to our target market.
How would you describe the ranges?
Billie fuses “cool casual” with “urban edge” to bring you unisex footwear that will take you from the beach to the streets to the club. Billini offers the latest women’s footwear that is effortlessly glamorous and instinctively cool. Price sensibility has always been a key to the success of both labels.
What are you wearing on your feet right now?
At the moment I’m totally obsessed with my new black Alexander Wang Aymeline Stiletto Boots. Simply amazing!
Who are the brands aimed at?
The Billie customer is aged between 15 – 35 years, is cool and original; values quality fabrication and design at an affordable price point. Billie Kids targets toddlers and kids.
The Billini woman is aged between 15 – 35 years. She is looking for something different and is not afraid to make a statement. This fashionista wants to maintain an up-to-the minute look so versatility and accessibility are key pull factors.
What can you tell us about the shoe design process?
The beginning of each season is always a busy and exciting time. We begin the design journey by heading overseas to source inspiration. Our aim is combine the latest street and high fashion trends and translate this energy into a design relevant to the Australia market. We pay particular attention to the last, sock, trims, lining and overall functionality of our designs. To bring the product to life we work closely with our suppliers, selecting high quality materials and unique colours. Aesthetics and comfort are equally important components for both labels. It’s extremely rewarding to see the finished product in the market place.
How are the materials selected?
Our design team has an extensive material library that is forever growing. As fabric is a key element to our designs, we spend a lot of time at fabric markets all over the world to source the finest materials and trims. We always use on trend fabrics and colours. This spring/summer season is all about colour so pop’s of pink, blue, coral and emerald are featured in our Billini collection.
Do you prefer classics or trends?
I believe it’s important to offer a mix of classic and on-trend footwear. Essential basics make up part of our collection that can be worn season after season. The other part is made up of trends to ensure that our customer has access to the season’s must have pieces as well as the classics.
What’s next for Susannah Khouzame?
We have big plans to expand our Billie Kids collection made for trend setting toddlers and kids. The same principles still apply – casual styling, bright colours, unique fabrics and affordable price points with all products under RRP$24.95.
We also recently launched online stores (www.billieshoes.com and www.billini.com) where the virtual Billie & Billini community can interact with the label and enjoy a fun shopping experience.
As a company we are expanding our presence in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter so we can interact with our fans and give them an inside scope into what’s happening and what’s new.
What does being a woman mean to you?
I recently joined the world of motherhood which is one of my most rewarding experiences to date. This alone has made me realise just how special women are and I feel so proud to be a woman. I am constantly inspired by strong women around the world and strive to be a good role model to those around me.