Style — Fashion


United States

Mood of Living  /  Oct 3, 2014

Susan Kay Beischel, a designer and entrepreneur, founded the luxury brand Skin in 2003. Drawing inspiration from the natural world amidst a fast-paced life in Manhattan, Beischel’s brand achieves timeless fashion that allows each woman to feel comfortable and confident in her skin.

Born in Palymyra, Wisconsin, Beischel attended UW Madison Wisconsin before moving to Chicago, IL to obtain her MBA in entrepreneurship. Whether it was securing an athletic scholarship to pay for college or using her 401K to finance her business venture, Beischel’s path proves that she is both ambitious and daring.

Q & A with Susan Beischel

Susan Beischel

Susan Beischel

Mood of Living: What is your occupation?

Susan Beischel: Founder/Creative Director/President

MoL: Occupation Description?

SB: Conceive and execute brand concepts and products that promote a comfortable way of living.

MoL: Before your current occupation you were?

SB: Fashion buyer and manager for luxury retail operations.

MoL: In 10 years you will be?

SB: As happy to be alive as I am right now.

MoL: What inspired you to become a business owner?

SB: I was starting small businesses since I was eight years old, creating backyard carnivals and charging admission and selling tickets for games, raffling prizes, selling greeting cards door to door and forming clubs for my friends to join and charging dues etc., you get the picture. Somewhere along life’s way, we seem to forget what we were naturally drawn to, and we start looking externally for the purpose of our lives. After going down a few paths, I finally remembered what I was here to do. I was fortunate to be able to listen to that original voice, and remembered that entrepreneurship was my passion. I had the most experience in the fashion business, so I went with what I knew best.

MoL: Where did you learn your craft?

SB: All along my way. I worked for other people since I was 15, and my first job was in a fabric store, selling fabrics. There I sewed a new outfit for school every week. Through college I put myself through school on an athletic scholarship, and earned extra spending money selling clothes at a department store. Upon graduation, I worked several years in retail for a large national department store, managing several different departments. I worked in retail management and buying until I moved to New York, and then I switched to the wholesale side of the fashion business. Getting my MBA in entrepreneurship also gave me a good sense of the financial side of running a business, and exposure to making a strategic plan. I always feel that you are at the perfect place at the perfect time, so I couldn’t be where I am now, without having taken all those previous steps. I learned everything I know along this path so when my entrepreneurial idea presented itself, I could clearly recognize it.

MoL: What makes your product unique?

SB: The way it feels. I have never worn anything so comfortable in my life. The fabrics caress you. The styles are nearly seasonless, and each piece serves many wardrobe functions.

MoL: Where do you look for inspiration?

SB: I don’t really look for it….it just comes to me. I do tend to feel a little overwhelmed with fast fashion, social media, internet everything, [and] a fast paced city, so I actually tune most of it out. I try to keep my channels clear and uncluttered, so the right messages have room to come in and settle. It truly works that way for me. I get my best inspiration when I am in moving mediation, which means, yoga, pilates, running, climbing, walking. Physical movement clears my mind. I have had to get up from my yoga mat to go write down an idea that I didn’t want to forget. I also get flooded with ideas when I am 38,000 feet in the sky flying. Something about leaving the earth seems to have the same effect of unloading stress and racing thoughts, to create space for new ideas!

MoL: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you could really do this?

SB: I had initially almost entered into business with four men. I had gone out and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of my first collection with the understanding that one of these partners was going to be financing the production. I called the factory a month before I was supposed to deliver the merchandise to see how the production was coming along, and the factory said “what production?!” The partners had never paid the factory to start the production. I was in serious shock, I got up from my desk and needed some air, was about to walk outside, when I fainted. I literally woke up on a cement floor and someone standing over me asking if I was all right. Right then and there, I picked up the phone, cashed in my 401K and proceeded to call every buyer who had placed an order. I set up face-to-face appointments so I could explain to them in person that I was going to be two months late with their delivery, tell them the truth about what happened and ask them if they would still take the merchandise. Every account but one, without hesitation, wanted to keep their order in place, even if it was late. I took the money from my 401K and advanced it to the factory to get the production moving. It was then, that I knew, there was no turning back. I had the guts and the integrity to carry this through. I found by being honest, telling the truth up front, even the most intense and notably challenging buyer personalties, couldn’t resist honesty and authenticity. I have continued to operate this way as well.

MoL: Do you have a hobby?

SB: I have several passions, but I pretty much have to incorporate them into my way of doing business. Running a business at this stage takes everything I have. Therefore, I incorporate the things I love into my work: intelligent one-on-one conversations, creating an environment where other talented individuals can make their mark, beautiful serenely decorated environments, rooms with a view, traveling to chic places, bringing my pets to work, devouring information about health and environmental issues on the internet and getting out in nature as much as I can.

MoL: What do you keep on the bedside table?

SB: My computer, my cell phone, a candle, some incense and a spiritual book

MoL: What is your favorite quote?

SB: It’s today, my favorite day! It’s from Winnie the Pooh.

MoL: What was the most important moment of your life?

SB: Being in the room, holding my parents hands and witnessing them pass away. I am grateful for this experience; it helps you to understand the complete cycle of a full life and to not be afraid of anything.

MoL: What makes you laugh?

SB: Jimmy Fallon, my puppy dog, my own mistakes.

MoL: What makes you cry?

SB: Animal abuse, and talking about my parents who are both gone.

MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life?

SB: Sorry, can’t name just one. All of my family members, mother, father, brothers, sisters, have had an influence in my life. I grew up in a family where independence was valued, where we were expected to be who we were, and where we learned to trust ourselves and our own sense of life. Not to sound so cliché, but each person I encounter has arrived in front of me for a reason. I always appreciate those lessons.

MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

SB: “Suffering is wishing what is, to be different.” I don’t know if anyone told me, I think I read it somewhere. It has made me able to not have to dwell on things very long at all. I learned long ago to either accept it, change it or move on.

MoL: If you could have a conversation with any living person, who would it be and why?

SB: It would be with the Dalai Lama because he is so funny and light. I can’t stop smiling when I see his smile. I imagine him to be smart, witty, worldly, knowledgeable and to have a deep passion and compassion for every thing we are surrounded by.

MoL: What is something you know now that you wish you knew before?

SB: Laugh every day, don’t take it so seriously!

MoL: Words of wisdom?

SB: Don’t look for the answers outside, look within.

MoL: Where do you go for peace of mind and spirit? Do you have a photo you would like to share?

SB: Every day I go to the sauna and to a quiet place. For vacations, I need to go to an ocean, an island, where the air is clean, and the water as warm as a bath, and nothing but the sounds of wind, waves, and tree frogs.

MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle. Do you spend much time creating a beautiful home? Do you entertain? Do you cook?

SB: I love to have friends over for a meal. I absolutely love to set and arrange a beautiful table. I like to use beautiful china and silver, and have flowers and candles and music. My creative time beyond that is all given to my work. I like to live in sparse environments, but my bed is lavish and must have 100% cotton everything.

Fall 2014
MoL: What advice can you give anyone interested in starting his or her own business?

SB: Do something different, find a reason for being, and do what you are good at, because it will take most all of your time to do it well.

Lunch on the terrace
Photography courtesy of Creative Director: Kate Moodie
Creative Consultant: Elizabeth Irwin
Photographer: Martin Scott Powell
Hair & Makeup Artist: Janessa Paré
Val D. for Supreme Management

Discover Also of interest in Style