ZANNI: Comfortable & Classic Basics- Interview With Founder & Designer, Suzanne Brosnan

As if finding something to wear every day wasn’t already hard enough, our “new normal” as some would like to call it; has made finding what to wear everyday even more difficult. Sure, I could work from home in my pajamas every day but for some strange reasons when my pajamas are on my mind seems to instantly think that means it’s time to sleep or watch Netflix. Therefore, pajamas are not productive, at least for me. And to be completely honest, I rather have an outfit on even while working from home. I just feel more productive when I’m wearing real clothes. 

I’ve always been a huge fan of basics. As I developed more of an interest in fashion, I’ve come to realize how important and cost effective basics are. A basic black t-shirt or tank can be worn in so many different ways, dressed up, or down. Same goes for a little black dress. Both are basics that every woman should have. Seriously, I swear by this. It is so nice to have something to go to when you are in a panic and can’t figure out what to wear. 

When it comes to comfort, I’ve found that finding comfortable clothing that isn’t a legging, sweatpant or pajamas is insanely difficult to find- even when it comes to basics. Thankfully, ZANNI is the answer to all of our prayers. Comfortable basics, yes please! 

I was first introduced to ZANNI in 2017 while in college. I instantly fell in love with the brand. I wore the “Wear on Repeat Dress” literally every other day to class. I loved being able to show up to class looking presentable without any effort. ZANNI made getting ready for day to day activities so much easier. 

Since being introduced to the brand, my favorite “Wear on Repeat Dress” has been redesigned into the “Boxy T Dress.” Let’s just say I’m even more obsessed now with the brand than I was before. Not only does ZANNI include basic dresses but skirts and tanks too! There is something for everyone that just wants to be you know, basic. Oh, and most dresses can definitely be dressed up and made work appropriate. (You know, for when everyone is finally back in office again.)

If you are not convinced yet that ZANNI is the brand your closet is missing, I had the chance to interview the founder and designer of the brand, Suzanne Brosnan. Her story is truly inspiring for anyone looking to start their own business. Spoiler alert, this is only the beginning for ZANNI!

AD: When and how did you start ZANNI? 

SB: I first started working on ZANNI in 2015 while I was living in Boston. At the time I was running back and forth from my apartment and a WeWork; and I was looking for comfortable clothes that worked well for my lifestyle. I kept thinking about how I loved my leggings and workout tops and how I wish they came in the same form as my favorite dresses. I wanted pieces that I didn’t have to worry about, like you never worry about your athletic pieces the way you would about a nice dress, you know? So, I wanted the perfect dress but in a low maintenance fabric and a fabric that I could go to work in, or go for a bike ride in. I like looking and feeling good all the time and not having to have specific outfits for each segment of my day.

I became obsessed with the idea and I started asking around, “how can I get this fabric (workout top) in this form (favorite dress at the time).” I just researched and talked to anyone I could and things started to snowball from there. I went to fabric shows, called and emailed countless factories, fabric mills, and asked friends who worked in the fashion industry etc. It took me about a year and a half to get all the initial components together, move to LA, find a factory, and produce my first samples before I officially launched in June 2017. 

AD: What made you want to start your own clothing line? (What were you doing before? Was having a clothing line something you always wanted?)

SB: I don’t know that I ever aspired to be in fashion but I know I’ve always wanted to have design, business and brand building be a part of my life journey. I graduated from a liberal arts college with a degree in fine arts and then went back to school for graphic and web design. I initially wanted to do something with graphic design like work for fashion magazines. Unfortunately, I graduated in 2009 and that’s when people were saying print was dead. Instead, I fell into web design and got a job at a Boston tech startup. From there I worked for a few different startups/boutique agencies as a UI/UX designer. I really enjoyed helping other people build their brands but deep down knew I wanted to start my own business. I just wasn’t sure what that was going to be till I felt the pull towards creating my “perfect dress.” Even now I don’t think ZANNI will be my end all be all. I’d like to continue to build more businesses and other brands, for myself and others.

AD: Where did the inspiration for the name come from?

SB: ZANNI comes from my name, Suzanne. It’s a family nickname and when I was trying to think of a name for my brand-I liked the way it sounded (zan-knee) and the way it looked written out. I like that it’s not a word or phrase that means anything specifically and the letters in all caps just look like clean, geometric shapes. 

AD: When designing the line what made you gravitate towards basics?

SB:I like being able to wear pieces over and over. I personally feel most comfortable and confident in the no-fuss classics. I don’t like having too many items in my closet and I especially dislike complicated pieces. I like knowing I can throw something on, that it will look good, and be on my way. Accent and statement pieces like shoes or bags are the things I switch out a little more often/seasonally. 

AD: How has ZANNI been impacted by the global pandemic? How has ZANNI adapted to these changes?

SB: Luckily as a small brand I didn’t have to deal with things like having to close retail stores or losing wholesale accounts. It’s been more about how do I balance our business needs with the customers’ needs in these uncertain times. What do the customers want to see from ZANNI? Do they want to still be marketed to? Is ZANNI still able to serve them? 

Product development has slowed significantly as factories and mills are experiencing closures so it has been difficult to plan future collections, but that may turn out to be a good thing. So far it’s giving us time to really think about what our customers want and what we really want to produce instead of just trying to stay somewhat close to the fashion calendar (even though we were never even close to the schedule of major brands). 

In terms of customer needs we’re fortunate that ZANNI pieces are so flexible in terms of how and when you wear them. Our customers, even the ones on a budget, like the fact that the clothes are comfortable and work for multiple occasions like hanging out, WFH, travel, and all things related to these new times. Our price point is also pretty good, it’s not outrageous, and it’s a good purchase for them if they can swing it. We’re lucky that we can still have a decent margin to ideally keep going as a business. 

The new normal just feels like a big state of limbo for me personally. I’m just really taking the time to be thoughtful and think really hard about what I want the future of ZANNI to be. I feel more comfortable with the slow and steady mindset. The pandemic is challenging businesses to rethink how they do business in general. I’m lucky that I’m still just starting out and most of my processes were still pretty new, flexible or even uncertain so I can really choose how I want to do things going forward. 

AD: What’s next for ZANNI?

SB: I’m working on building out the brand and really trying to hone in on who our customer is and what she wants in these new times. I’m looking forward to putting together future collections with even better styles that really empower our customers. I’m also looking forward to adding more shapes and sizes so we can fit more body types and more women can feel confident and comfortable in their wardrobes. 

Be sure to shop ZANNI and all my favorites below!

All Day Dress

ZANNI-SS19-TMaxi-bl-1_530x@2x

Muscle Tank

ZANNI-SS19-TankTop-wh-2_530x@2x

Boxy T Dress 

ZANNI-SS19-TShirtDress-bl-1_530x@2x

 

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