Susanna Wen is the Co-founder and Designer at Birdsong, an ethical fashion brand that employs women previously struggling in the female garment industry while making under minimum wage and returns 80% of product proceeds back to them. Susanna along with her business partner have been named as Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs for their ethical and disruptive business in the fashion industry.
What path has your career taken?
Since graduating in Fashion Design at Kingston University, and being laser focused in the industry I wanted to work in (ethical and sustainable fashion), I’ve been lucky enough to work at companies large and small, in fast and slow fashion and in roles that are paid and (as is life) unpaid. Each has taught me invaluable lessons I’m able to take to now run Birdsong with my wonderful business partner Sophie Slater, a fashion brand that encompasses all of my beliefs of how to treat people and the planet. Although it is not easy running a small business, it is the most rewarding path I could have envisioned.
What brought you to Amsterdam?
Me and my business partner Sophie Slater were taking part in a week-long accelerator programme run by Adyen for 10 social enterprise start ups. It was truly a transformative week- and we won second prize at the pitch at the end of it, so that really was the cherry on top of a brilliant first time in Amsterdam.
What was your experience like at Zoku Amsterdam?
We stayed for a week at Zoku Amsterdam and loved it so much we could have moved in permanently. It just provided a beautiful backdrop for when we needed to stay up late working in our cosy Lofts or really take some time to recuperate and take a break from our fast paced schedule in the Living Room.
What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?
‘Flowers’, a Channel 4 tv show starring Julian Barrett and Olivia Coleman and written by the amazing Will Sharpe. For me balances perfectly the light and dark moments of life. It’s as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you.
What’s your current/newly discovered go-to product, service or app you would recommend to others?
I’ve just discovered Depop and have become a bit obsessed. As a person trying not to buy from fast fashion companies and just buy from ethical and sustainable brands (like Birdsong) the market can be limiting, especially when it comes to shoes and accessories. Depop allows me to get cute second hand items that I don’t feel guilty about buying and also make a bit of spare cash selling my old items.
Which book/product have you gifted the most?
If you could pick one project to work on for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Birdsong of course! Birdsong is an ethical fashion brand set out to change the fashion industry for good. We work with expert women makers that have faced barriers to employment, from migrant seamstresses, elderly knitters and people with learning disabilities and pay them a London Living Wage to bring our designs to life. We handpick super-soft natural fabrics like cotton khadi and bamboo, and everything’s made to last.
What is one piece of advice or tip in your field of work that you want to give to people?
Try to get as much experience as possible and become an expert in your field. And be resilient- you’re going to get knocked down a lot and it’s a good skill to take criticism on the chin, listen, learn from it then let it go and move forwards.