Julia Suzuki grew up in rural Staffordshire before moving to university and studying for a degree in business studies. Her first graduate job was in marketing and licensing for Disney, after which she established her own marketing firm.
After meeting entrepreneur David Lloyd, Julia became a founding director and shareholder in his new resorts and real estate business. She oversaw marketing, branding and licensing, travelling around the world working on projects including Dubai Sports City.
Having learnt a huge amount from David Lloyd about building large companies, Julia knew that she wanted to develop her own brand.
How did the idea for your business come to you?
Fashion has always been a big part of my life. My mother was a dressmaker and taught me essential sewing skills, after which I made the costumes I needed for the competitive dancing that I took part in throughout childhood.
As I moved into business, I designed my own professional outfits and evening wear as I wanted clothing that fitted well and reflected my identity. I’d often be stopped and asked about what I was wearing, so once I made money in real estate, I decided the time was right to follow this passion and create luxury womenswear. That was in 2017.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced with this business?
One challenge was ensuring that I was in a position to focus on what I am best at – networking, design and brand-building – and finding people to handle other areas that can eat up time, such as accounts. It was also crucial to source the best dressmakers: couturiers I can rely upon and who understand the brand and my vision for it.
I believe that you are who you are surrounded by and I now have a great team around me. I outsource my social media, bookkeeping and marketing to agencies and have a four-strong design team that I’m looking to add to. We are growing rapidly and my business advisers say that the company is punching above its weight for its age.
My St. James’s Place Partner is a vital part of my team too. A business transformation specialist who saw my need for financial support at this stage in development recommended him.
While assisting me with upscaling the business, my St. James’s Place Partner introduced me to growth experts who have advised on what I need to do to hit my three- and five-year goals. He is also helping me with raising investment for the growth of my business. His advice is very much part of my bigger picture thinking.
What have been your career low points?
While working for David Lloyd, I had a huge amount of commissions linked to property deals, such as a licensing contract for a resort in Florida for 2,000 properties. When the recession came, I saw four £1 million-contracts become worthless overnight.
However, this experience taught me a huge amount about global licensing contractually and I plan to use this knowledge with the Julia Suzuki brand.
... and a memorable highlight?
Recently I was at an Inspiring Leadership Trust event at Goldsmiths’ Hall when the American NBC broadcaster next to me fell in love with the couture dress that I was wearing from my 2018 winter collection.
She asked if she could buy the dress right away as she was leaving for the States that night and wanted it for a special event. At midnight, we literally swapped clothes. I have since posted her original outfit back to her. She has ordered some business suits and more bespoke dresses. It’s certainly a unique way to acquire clients – and a new take on the Cinderella story.
Photograph by Suki Dhanda.
The full version of this article first appeared in the 100th edition of the St. James’s Place Investor magazine.