Susanne Hoffmann‘s story in the fashion industry could be seen as a picture-book-like story. Growing up in the picturesque and safe countryside of Carinthia, she moved to Vienna to start her studies in Law and Finance & Accounting and started making a new as an event manager. As time went by and she started building her family, she found her second passion in life, the art of decoration and fashion. Just starting in the Lifestyle Industry, she immediately won the Austrian Makeup Artist Award and became known in Vienna as THE Make-up Artist and Stylist. Engaging more and more in the local fashion and lifestyle industry, she is shaping the Austrian fashion industry through her support of established and upcoming designers, private events and exclusive presentations. Being the founder of the Success Lady Network, she created a foundation for women interested in culture and lifestyle and connecting them to national and international boutiques, designers and industry professionals.
We talked with her about her path, the Success Lady Network and her personal view on the fashion and lifestyle Industry.
How did you start the Success Lady Network?
Actually, it was a conclusive decision based on my work. I met a lot of women who had their own companies and I realized, that when entering a market as a newcomer or a startup, one is far more powerful in a group and with a network that backs one up.
For me, it was about creating a system of joining forces, to connect and give everyone’s products an additional benefit and to have a group, that supports each other and celebrates each others success. Naturally, this also goes along with creating a far bigger circle of potential clients that will automatically lead to a bigger success for everyone. ‘
On another note, I have to say that we are all women in the age of 35-55. We all live in a corset between jobs, children, life partners and the housework which of course bonds us together. We all have a never-ending list of to-dos, but at the same time, we are going through the best years of our lives which we want to enjoy.
The Success Lady Network is a group, where you can go to events in a secure group without your husband or friend.
Then, of course, there are the exclusive events we go to as the Success Ladies, such as presentations of designers and brands, to Vienna Fashion Week or exclusive previews.
Talking about how it all started, it was actually kind of funny. You see, I was invited to the annual Women of the Year Award Gala of Look Magazine Vienna where I was asked to style the celebrities. At the same time, I got the offer to fill a table with guests. I ended up not only inviting Ladies for one table but two. Ahead of the event, we all met for a champagne in the vestibül and entered the ballroom together as a group. I gave all of the ladies a sash that said: “Be the best version of you!”. It was really a bonding evening. We ended up creating a Whatsapp Group because we have all taken so many beautiful pictures and wanted to share them with each other. And this was actually the birth of the Success Lady Network because we started continuing to exchange with each other, invite one another to events and so on.
The Succeslady Network is about opening up doors to new ideas and a deeper insight into the Lifestyle Industry?
Exactly, in general, we focus on Lifestyle, to feel beautiful, to make the best out of oneself, to enjoy life, the appearance, art, fashion, culture. It is for example not primarily about animals (laughs).
Together with the Success Lady network, we have the cooperation partner network, which is a network of cooperation partners that would like to work together with our network. For example, if you have a hair salon, there could be for example a deal for the Success Ladies to get the treatment with a 20% discount. We are working together with a boutique of a dear friend of mine, that often uses the Succes Ladies as models for her campaigns. You see, it always has to fit for us. The clients of the boutique are in the same age range and life situation so to speak as we are, so it is a natural fit. I always protect my Ladies, the cooperation partner has to be a real benefit for the network and should not be there to bombard the poor women with advertising on a daily basis. It just has to fit.
Talking about Success Ladies, what are the characteristics of a Success Lady?
First of all, Success Lady does not automatically relate to success in terms of the job or celebrity status. First of all, it is about strong, charismatic women that achieve a lot and go an extraordinary path in life.
Honestly, we are made out of very different people. There are single women, entrepreneurs, we have women with 4-5 kids, really it is about the character and the personality, that makes you become a Success Lady. For example, our Slogan is “Stilvoll. Kraftvoll. Wundervoll.” (Engl. full of style, full of power, full of [not directly translatable]) and that is what it is all about.
We are all full of energy and truly engaged. For example, we have created a group which is about supporting street children in Vienna. And with that we would like to have an actual impact, it is not only about raising money for short-term help, which of course is wonderful as well. Our goal is to help them to give them the way to resocialize into society, to get them of the streets and integrate them back into “normal” life.
As much as we enjoy the lifestyle and the life in the beauty and fashion bubble, we all know real life and we want to have an impact through our group as well.
You support each other in becoming charismatic, strong women. How does this look like, do you also have coachings?
Actually, in our group, we have three Ladies that work in the field of personal coachings.
The system of supporting each other is actually less direct or obvious. For example if one of us decides to open a concept store, we all jump in with the organization, the food, the guest list, we share it on facebook etc.
A very sweet example is also, that one of us got recently married and all of us were outside the church standing the trellis celebrating her on that day. It is all about the very personal contact. If one of us would share in the group that she has broken her leg, she would immediately get personal messages with offers to help her out from us.
Another story is, that one of us got a very big job from a client that she did not have the capacity for to handle alone, so all of us jumped in and helped out so that she could keep the client. And it goes without saying, that in such cases we also share the success afterwards.
It sounds like it also has a lot to do with inner strength, do you think the Success Lady Network helps with that, too?
Of course, we help each other with that, too. I mean, all in all, I believe that the success Ladies are just outstanding women, strong and full of life, and we all feel that. But of course, everyday life can be hard and it just feels good to know to have a group that understands if there is a lot of stress or just a bad day and is there to help out. It is often about the little things, to give compliments and to celebrate someone else’s success.
You, as the face of the Success Ladies, how did you get this inner strength?
I don’t know (laughs)
No, really. I never saw myself as a “head of something”, I see myself as an equal partner in this group. To me, it is very important, that I am not treated any different or like the superstar. I am just like everybody else in our group.
I think I am just that kind of a person. I love to organize and to plan and execute. I am an event manager and I love it!
Not only are you a businesswoman, you are also a wife, a mother, supporter of your friends and so much more. Are there days, when you say, it is too much?
of course. To be honest, I think it is a bit of the secret of the Success Ladies to admit weaknesses and to share it when it gets too much. We all know that feeling of being on top of the world and the next day is just one big mess. That is why to me it is so important, that the Success Lady Network does not turn into an additional “job” for all of us, it needs to have this ease of saying no to events and everybody needs to have her freedom.
At the end of the day, we all cook with water and yes, there are days when it just gets too much.
You also do Style consultation, but you share the opinion that it is not about telling people that they look bad but you see them as individuals and would like to help them to find their personal style. How do you give people the confidence that they look good?
It is a difficult question. It is impossible to get clients if I march up to them, give them my card and say “Mhm, how about you pass by my office, i might be able to help”.
To me, it is important as a first step to rebuild confidence in someone’s personal style and to get back the joy of dressing up.
Honestly, I believe there is no bad styling, I believe in personal style. At the end of the day, it is about feeling beautiful, that is what makes or breaks an outfit and a style.
Then again, when a client comes to me and seeks support because there is a TV appearance coming up, a function or a grande ball and one is an official guest it is important to get the best out of a person through a very individual styling. At the end of the day, in such cases, you have one chance to make the best out of yourself or to let the chance pass by.
But for a general styling, it is about comfort. Let’s face it, it also has a lot to do with the fears planted in us through various commercials and false advertisement.
I am the happiest, when after 3 hours of style consultation my client leaves my office with confidence and happiness, and funny though, most of the times the first thing they do is to go to a hairdresser. Because finally they have found for themselves the perfect hair colour and style and are confident about it.
How do you see the fashion and lifestyle industry at the moment?
I find it highly fascinating at the moment. I mean, it will always be like this, that fashion is a form of someone’s individual personality. But what I see at the moment, is that the eternal power of the huge fashion corporations is crumbling and it is being seen as unsympathetic. Especially in terms of price/quality and the actual worth of the product.
I economies that are currently developing themselves, expensive attire is seen as a form of wealth, whereas in Europe and Northern America, we are a fed society in this sense. This is here, one can afford not to follow the classic rules of Society. For a few years already, I see the trend going to a more minimalistic and non-conform society.
This goes together with my thought on “sharing economy”. When you think about it, we have a mass of clothes in our closets that never have and probably never will be worn. For example, when it comes to rental dresses, a project I am working on right now, I believe one does not need to own something in order to use it.