Sue Copeland who has been an international menswear fashion designer for over 30 years and who after overcoming a major illness and challenges, rediscovered her passion for designing and started her own successful business. We had the opportunity to feature Sue who shared her inspirational entrepreneurial story in the following interview.
Tell us about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey
I am a former PS Menswear Paul Smith designer and have been an international fashion designer for over 30 years, including at Laura Biagiotti in Rome, Conrad in London and Esprit in San Francisco.
After suffering from a sudden stroke in 2010, which left me with Aphasia, an impairment of language, I focussed on my rehabilitation. Having worked with the charity Aphasia Re-Connect, I regained most of my speech and while recovering from my stroke, I rediscovered my passion for sewing, leading to a hand-made collection of cushions to raise money for the charity. Since this limited edition collection, I have honed my skills, and have since launched collections that truly reflect my creative life.
New and exclusive collection of hand-loom and hand-embroidered scarves reflect my passion for sustainable authentic craftsmanship.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
I take creative inspiration from visual media at design exhibitions, from photography, folk art and culture, great finds at flea markets and vintage embroidery samplers.
Tell us a bit more about your fashion accessories brand Sue Copeland
I create scarves, throws and accessories such as bracelets and lavender bags that are handmade in Marrakesh. My collection is made with the people of Marrakesh. I work with Alnour and Mancala . Alnour works to change the lives of women with disabilities in Marrakesh. A caring employer, workers receive a pension plus breakfast and lunch each day as well as a crèche. Mancala specialises in traditional craft and its weavers are trained from a young age.
They use luxurious materials such as cashmere and linen, with beautiful hand crafted trims and embroideries. I sell my range at upmarket makers’ sales including the upcoming Selvedge Christmas Fair and The Hand Sale.
How do you balance life, business and family?
I balance my work with my continued recovery from my stroke. I used to attend an aphasia group regularly and this helped me with my speech. I get inspiration for my work from travel, which I love, and from various displays and exhibitions. I live with my grown-up son, Joe, who is a great support for me and I love to walk around the hills and heaths near my home in North London
What have been your major challenges or obstacles as a female entrepreneur?
My main obstacles have been to do with my stroke and my recovery from that and that has led me to work with disabled women in Morocco. Women face many obstacles to achieving gainful employment and though it has been a struggle for me to get to the point I am at now, I recognise that women in some countries face an even greater challenge to supporting themselves and feeding their families.
What has been your greatest success story so far?
Seeing my range of scarves, throws and accessories coming off the looms in Marrakesh has been amazing for me. It has also been an amazing privilege to work with the highly talented craftspeople of Alnour and Mancala. The culmination of this will be selling my pieces at the prestigious Selvedge Christmas Fair in December.
Which other female entrepreneur are you inspired by and why?
Patricia Kahane who set up Alnour is amazing and inspiring. She founded Alnour which means “the light’ in Arabic, with a mission of providing disabled women with employment opportunities and supports them through the provision of meals, childcare, health insurance and retirement pension.
Any advise or tips for other female entrepreneurs?
Work hard at your projects or products until you are totally happy with them.
Enlist the help of friends and family when you need to – so many people will happily give their time. Keep being inspired! Visiting exhibitions, art galleries and photography exhibitions and looking at the crafts of the past have given me inspiration.