Susie Sheffman has been a stylist and creative influencer in the fashion business for over 35 years. Her most well known gig was the fashion director of FASHION magazine where she styled the likes of Taylor Swift and Ashley Olsen, created award-winning editorial photo shoots with leading photographers and represented the magazine on international junkets and at seasonal collections. She started her career as a junior display artist at Holt Renfrew and now she provides creative and styling direction for major brands such as Joe Fresh and Browns Shoes. She says, “I love what I do and it’s just a seamless part of my day. Work has never been something that I dread…it really makes me happy.” While her career flourished, so did her family and here she tells us how she enjoyed the ride.
When I look back at the insanity that was working motherhood, there’s no rhyme or reason to how I did things. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I just did it my own way. I forged my own path and was very lucky to make it all work. But I also wasn’t tied down to a 9-to-5 job. I was a freelance stylist before I became a mom. I worked full-time for myself, so I had the space and freedom to make my own schedule.
When Molly and Ben were young, one thing that was wildly important for me was to pick them up after school. I would drive through snowstorms. I would drive through a hurricane if I had to. I looked at the stay-at-home-moms who were able to be there every day with envy because I wanted that too. If I wasn’t on a photo shoot or at a meeting, I came to the schoolyard through hell or high water. Luckily I’ve always been an early riser and a fast worker so I can finish a full day of work by 3pm and be able to spend the rest of the day with them. I’d see their faces and hang out with their friends and while they played I would be on the phone and working, but I was there. Even though I had a nanny, I wanted to be home when they were.
My husband worked freelance too—he’s an unbelievable dad—and we shared all the responsibilities. We have two mottos in our family: “It takes a village,” and the other is “we’ll figure it out.” My kids grew up watching us share equally in all of life’s issues (the good, the bad, the joy, the fun, the responsibility and the chaos) and they witnessed the push and pull of a true partnership. They saw him step up to the plate often, while I was shooting somewhere fabulous or off to Europe to see the runway collections. He was holding down the fort, both physically and emotionally. He truly adored his “extra” time with them and never begrudged it. We were all aware (the kids and us) that this was a unique situation, and we’re proud to see how our family experience has groomed the kids for equality and flexibility in their own relationships. I also see a strong work ethic, commitment, drive and deep enjoyment of their own work as they begin their careers…I like to think that maybe it’s from watching me.
With both of us juggling freelance careers, we chose to hire a nanny. I had to have somebody that could offer the kids and our schedule some sanity and stability. Looking back, it was almost more important to have a nanny around in their early teen years, than when they were really young. It’s invaluable to have someone there after school, get them to where they need to be, start dinner and supervise homework. Most of all, they were there to lend an ear and keep an eye on them and their friends. As the saying goes…it takes a village.
We’ve counted and much to our horror discovered we’ve had seventeen nannies (there was one year when we tried ten nannies) and two of those women remain a part of our family. To this day, they keep in touch with my kids and their friends on Facebook. It’s like Ben and Molly had two extra moms and I never felt threatened because without them, I wouldn’t have had the incredible career opportunities I’ve so enjoyed.
I’m so lucky that I love what I do and was able to work it into my family life. I have a huge passion for fashion, photography and creative storytelling. I’ve been so fortunate to travel internationally and work with so many amazing and interesting people. I never could’ve done any of that without a nanny and a husband who made time for the kids and supported my career. I’m 56 and I feel more creative, empowered and passionate than ever. I have the extra time and energy to commit to my work but even at this point, I still find myself trying to fit my schedule around the kids. I’m planning a shoot in Italy and finagling dates so I won’t miss Molly’s Master’s graduation and Ben getting called to the Bar.
I don’t have any regrets except I wish I could’ve been more relaxed while I was a younger working mom. I know I was burning the candle at both ends and I wish I could’ve let some things go. I’m not saying I didn’t give enough to my kids; I did the best I could and I’m satisfied with that but I was either exhausted or really hyper (a neighbour just told Molly she thinks I’m a buzzing bee). Maybe that’s just me, but either way I couldn’t have avoided the happy chaos we thrived in. I do consider myself very blessed.
HOME TOUR Mid-century classics, texture and pops of colour adds cheekiness to this bright home
Her home decor is crisp and modern with pops of sunny accessories and retro accents. She explains, “I have a Palm Springs inspired alter ego.”
A must-have in every fashionable home: A colour-coded bookshelf full of stylish tomes.
A nook in the entrance way where she can slip on her loafers. More on that later…
A portrait of Susie when she was a little and childhood keepsakes she’s held onto.
A vintage Saarinen dining table and chairs she spotted years ago and still treasures. She had the seats refurbished with fabric from Jonathan Adler.
She often collects glass and pottery when she travels. She laughs, “They’re hard to schlep home but then I never make anything easy for myself.”
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
If the shoe fits, wear it. “I’ve developed a uniform: jeans with loafers, oxfords or sneakers and a great cashmere cardigan or v-neck. As I get older, I’m even more comfortable with my look.”
“I’m just a sucker for a sandal. I have more than there are days in the summer to wear them. And if I love something I’ll wear them to death. I’ve had a pair of Miu Miu sandals for over 12 years.”
Molly and Ben’s childhood must-haves that Susie has held onto. “I can’t believe I’ve kept them for all these years.”
Good things come in threes: “I’ve worn these frames from Paul Smith since 2004. I have a pair of readers, bifocals and sunglasses. I’m one of those people who believes if you love something, buy more. You should see how many grey cashmere sweaters I have.”
Her latest guilty pleasure: “If you want to know what my style is all about, this is it. These Gucci loafers are only two weeks old. Clothes and shoes are my way of making a statement, and I’m not talking about fancy or dress-up clothes. I’ve always been boyish or causal. That’s how I’ve always been present in the world.”
Sentimental value: “Usually the things I love are tied to a memory. I bought these rings and the lion head bracelet (I am a leo) in The Grand Bazaar during a work trip to Turkey. The diamante bracelet and cuff are both from Carol Tannenbaum; the kids recently gave me the cuff for mother’s day. The horn necklace is vintage Yves Saint Laurent that I trolled for online.”
Prints please: “Even though I consider myself a tom boy, I’ll divert from my uniform for a great print, whether it’s a Prada skirt or a Marni dress. This is my collection of Marni tops. I buy one every time I go to the outlets near Milan.”
Her beauty routine is low-key and lovely: “As you can see, I hardly have a daily beauty routine. If I do have a lot of appearances or events, I’ll get eyelash extensions at Pretty in the City. I hate wearing mascara so when I discovered this treatment, it was a game changer for me. Also, I naturally have big, frizzy and curly hair but I like to think I have a polished straight hair personality so twice a year I treat myself to a keratin hair smoothing treatment at Petra’s Beauty Salon.” Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, lip balm from La Mer, Nars Lipstick in Fire down Below and Fracas de Roger Piguet. She explains, “This fragrance has such a strong memory of my best friend’s mother when I was a child. I hear Madonna wears it too and we’re both Leos.”
Susie’s it-book: “I found this in some discount book store a long time ago. I’ve used it as a reference for years. It cuts to the core the essence of objects and explores what makes something have ‘it’. I love it because it defines that allusive quality that makes something interesting and stand out.”