Suzan Dlouhy, child of migrant parents from the Czech Republic and South Africa, remembers clearly her introduction to the world of design. She was just seven years old when her Czech grandmother, a dressmaker and home economics teacher of regional dress, visited Australia and taught her a basic blanket stitch. Together they handmade a pillow slip and Suzan was hooked.Last year was a huge one for Canberra’s design industry with the launch of Fashfest. The inaugural four day event, celebrating and recognising Canberra’s contemporary and vibrant fashion scene, was stunningly successful. Suzan participated as a designer then and will showcase a collection for the second time in the upcoming Fashfest 2014, taking place from 30 April to 3 May.While not on the large scale of a Sydney or Melbourne fashion show, Fashfest is Canberra’s biggest annual fashion event and gives local designers a national stage to strut their stuff. Suzan says: “People go to Melbourne expecting world class fashion but Canberra has it too.”Suzan is grateful to her father, who, she says, gave her lessons in creating patterns and taught her to use a sewing machine. “My dad, a draftsman by trade, had been taught as a boy how to sew by his mum. When my grandmother returned home to Czechoslovakia I desperately wanted to make a skirt. My dad took up the challenge, measured me, made a pattern and sewed me a skirt on a sewing machine which he still owns today.”Suzan’s mum sadly passed away when she was just 12, but Suzan takes delight in memories and old photographs, remembering her mum as “a fashionista. She was a vivacious and sociable person who loved to dress up,” says Susan.Suzan’s father met her mother in South Africa after fleeing from communist Czechoslovakia as a young man. This was during the apartheid years in South Africa, and finding it difficult to maintain a relationship, the couple decided to immigrate to Australia, in search of better opportunities. Today Suzan has family around the world, including South America, as her dad eventually remarried, to a Colombian lady: “She’s wonderful, I call her Mum too,” says Suzan.After school Suzan completed a degree in Environment and Management Policy. She moved from Brisbane to the nation’s capital after securing a job in the public service. Wanting to nurture her creative passion she enrolled in a part-time Bachelor of Design course at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Suzan loved everything about the course and after much deliberation, decided to make a complete career change.For someone wanting to study fashion design, Suzan says Canberra offers many opportunities that are not easily obtainable in big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. “The number of students is far less and the exposure students get here is amazing. It’s easier to get noticed,” she says.Suzan has travelled extensively and visited family in exotic destinations. She says much of her design work is inspired by her heritage. She has her own label, SZN, and creates her works of wearable art at the delightful pop up shop, Three Little Birds and Little Boy Blue in New Acton’s Hotel Hotel foyer.She says: “I want people to see fashion as an art and want to make it accessible to more people. I enjoying making stuff and knowing that everything about a garment, I’ve touched.”Last year Suzan won the Young Designer of the Year Award from Celebration of African Australians Inc. (visit this HerCanberra website for more details). Reflecting on this success and articles in the media about Fashfest, she says her dad commented: “Your grandmother would be so proud.”We have no doubt about that too.Visit this Fashfest website for more information.
[Published 17th April 2014 | Image: Suzan (right) after winning the Young Designer of the Year Award from Celebration of African Australians Inc. | Read original article here.]