Suzanne Libfraind is a high energy road warrior who travels back and forth weekly between her home in Raleigh and her job in Charlotte as the exclusive personal shopper for SouthPark Mall. She's one of the mall's best-kept secrets. Many people don't realize that she's available on an appointment-only basis to shop the mall for them in search of pieces that will work best with their body type and lifestyle. (The first session for new clients is complimentary; after that there is a fee).
In Raleigh, she's president of Wardrobe Consulting, a business which offers a range of services including closet consultations, styling and image consultations for both individuals and corporations.
Suzanne's motivtation for her busy career is simple: "What I do is so important to my clients and it's important to me," she says.
She compares her passion for the business to being Charlie in the classic film Willy Wonka when he realizes he's won a rare Golden Ticket that allows him to visit the candy factory.
"I have been given the Golden Ticket," she says. "I have been blessed to find a career that utilizes my skill set, my personality, my disposition, my thoughts and beliefs."
Fashion has always been an important part of Suzanne's life. As a child growing up in Greensboro, Suzanne's mother realized the only way to punish her occasionally naughty daughter was to take her Barbie dolls away. Suzanne laughs when she recalls how she would dramatically throw herself on the bed and wail, "No, Mommy! Barbies are my life!"
Suzanne was a marketing major at Philadelphia University with a minor in retail when she met her future husband, Sid, on a college youth group trip to Israel. He was a student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey when they were assigned seats next to each other on the long flight. "We played cards and had hours to get to know each other," she says. "We made a bet that whoever lost at cards would carry the other's luggage throughout the trip. I lost but he did not hold me to the bet. If I had been dragging his luggage around Israel that would have been the end of our relationship right there!"
After marrying, she convinced Sid to move South to start their family and he opened a dental practice in Knightdale near Raleigh. Now their son Scott is 30 and a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. Their daughter Kelsi, 26, is a clinical therapist in Pittsburgh who works with children with severe OCD.
Suzanne's own career began out of college when she worked for Macy's corporate office in the executive training program. From there, she worked for a small family business teaching managers and new hires how to create store visuals, layouts and design to increase sales. She was a freelance consultant in that field until 25 years ago when a friend who had recently returned from the West Coast told her about a growing new profession that she thought Suzanne would be perfect for: personal shopper and stylist.
Suzanne worked at it part-time before getting her big break when one of her clients, North Carolina singer Rhiannon Giddens, asked Suzanne to dress her when she was nominated for, and won, a Grammy Award. Suzanne began working with more recording artists - from rock bands to gospel singers - and also began picking up a strong roster of non-celebrity clients. Then she wrote a book, Portraits of Lifestyle Dressing: Your Style, Your Closet.
It was during a book signing at SouthPark mall that she introduced herself to mall management. The mall's parent company is Simon, which owns around 30 malls across the U.S. Several months later, she was hired to become SouthPark's personal shopper. "Only five of Simon's malls across the country have personal shoppers, so it's an incredible job to have," Suzanne says. "They are so receptive to my ideas and supportive of me, But if I didn't have my husband's love, support and blessing I could not accomplish all that I do."
What are your wardrobe staples?
A few things that I like to update every season and use as wardrobe staples are a trend jean, a white tee, and a graphic tee that shares how I’m feeling. Also, a cool cropped jacket either in a weathered leather or that's textured or colored.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’m very eclectic with my own personal style and it often depends on who my audience is. I can dress more classically with a twist if needed, but I also love a bit of edge without feeling out of place.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe?
I have lots of favorites including a few graphic tees that speak to who I am and a combat style pant by Johnny Was that my daughter likes to make fun of.
What are your favorite fashion labels?
I tend to be all over the board, and really enjoy seeking out unknown designers that have created either garments or accessories that are unique.
Do you have a uniform?
I like trying new looks too much to have a uniform!
Anything you've worn and regretted?
A dress I bought in Italy that I loved when I bought it, but somehow felt like a "hoochie mama" the one time I wore it.
What's your most treasured article of clothing?
A thigh length, side tie, vintage taupe colored winter coat trimmed in fox around the collar and hemline that my 4’11” mother-in-law gave me. Although it looks totally different on me with my height, it’s still very special.
What's your most treasured accessory?
A necklace my daughter bought me from a jeweler at a street fair in Italy. She took a lot of effort in deciding which one I would like best. It’s pretty cool and a true conversation piece.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
I love to noodle around in boutiques and vintage stores when I am traveling. That’s when I find the best items.
What are your must-have beauty products?
My daughter turned me on to Anastasia brow pencils and now I am a junkie! Thanks to my grandmother Mildred (whom I loved dearly) I inherited limited eyebrows. I went from a child with blond brows to an adult that looks like I have only a forehead and eyes unless I do the pencil thing to color them in. Fortunately, that little gene was not passed along to my daughter!
What's one of the best beauty tips you've learned?
Good skin care makes all the difference in the aging process.
What's your favorite restaurant for lunch?
I am a Reid’s salad junkie when I am at SouthPark. And I love checking out the cheese section on the way out and getting some to go.
What's your favorite flower?
My grandmother had a tulip garden where she lived in Connecticut. She always had vases of tulips scattered throughout the house. I especially love the tulips that are variegated. I generally grab a small bunch from Whole Foods when the price is right.
Any museum exhibits or performances you've either seen recently, or plan to see soon?
Call me crazy but most people are surprised when I tell them how much I love country music. My husband and I saw Blake Shelton in March in Greensboro. I wore a really cool dress from Johnny Was that I rocked with my cowboy boots. Bless the people around me, because my voice is not one of my best attributes.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Most recently it has been Ladybird, but I still revert back to Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand in The Way We Were. All I ever wanted was one evening with Hubbell Gardiner!
What are some of your favorite books?
One of my favorites as a young teen that I still love today is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
Do you have any pets?
I have two wonderful rescue dogs - Addie and Bridgett. I call Bridgett trouble on a stick, as she is always busy and into something. Addie is my old dog reincarnated and extremely sweet and laid back. They are the best and always happy to see me.
What's the biggest mistake people make when hosting a party?
It took me years to feel comfortable doing this, but if someone offers to bring something, take them up on it!
What’s your design style?
My house is like I am, eclectic. I love combining traditional with contemporary and Art Deco. I am all about less is more and went on a rampage a few years ago to get rid of the clutter.
What would you like to bring back in style?
I feel like everything comes back in style in one way or another, but I want a bike with a floral banana seat, like I had as a kid, to go cruising around my neighborhood.
How do you stay in shape?
Right now I am training for a standard Triathlon in Williamsburg, Virginia this summer and it’s been a challenge. I am the fittest I have been in a while, which feels good, but I know myself....there will be another sports challenge on the horizon!
What brings you joy?
My husband Sid, my kids Scott and Kelsi, and my new daughter-in-law Alisa bring me an immense amount of joy. Add a handful of supportive, loving friends and my work which I absolutely adore, I feel very blessed and experience joy daily! I often pinch myself.
What do you love about this stage of your life?
Being over 50 has definite advantages, I have so much life experience at this point that I feel as though I am able to keep things in a healthier perspective. I am more forgiving to myself and appreciate the little things that either come my way or that I am able to offer others. I give myself permission to be myself with others. For years I wouldn’t go out without hair and make up. Now, what you see is exactly what you get and it feels right.
What are your favorite charitable causes?
I appreciate what Dress For Success stands for. The whole organization does such a great job empowering woman. I cherish the opportunity I have to work with them in both Charlotte and Raleigh, either styling for a fashion event or dressing mannequins for the boutiques. I love the time I spend with them and call it therapy for the soul.
What inspires you?
The people that I encounter daily. Everyone has a story and I always find it inspiring in one way or another.
What would others be surprised to know about you?
That I silently really wanted to be a standup comedian, but my family doesn’t think I’m a funny as I think I am!
What's in your glass during Happy Hour?
Whatever is being poured but generally a cabernet in the winter, a white wine in the spring, and a Moscow Mule in the summer.
Any words of wisdom?
Live your life and do what makes you most happy while sharing your life with others that have the same sentiment.
What's your favorite healthy snack?
I love sea salt almonds and almond butter on an apple.
What's the best business advice you've ever received?
Don’t give away your talent for free unless it’s for charity. You are worth so much more!
What is the secret to your success?
People that know me sense my passion for what I do and the importance of what I share with clients about feeling good about themselves. It’s about getting up in the morning and getting dressed in an outfit that allows them to put their best foot forward for the day. It’s with this passion and a strong sense of determination, drive, and family support that I have succeeded.