AZSN is a moniker of Suzanne Niemann and Adri Zgirdea’s initials. From a brickwalled Plaza Midwood studio, once an old mill building, Suzanne Niemann and Adri Zgirdea create looks for their unique clientele. Together, as entrepreneurs and business owners, fashion lovers, and expert stylists, they’re leading the charge on a type of big city chicness that’s helping transform Charlotte’s look.
Suzy and Adri started the business in January of 2017. Alongside their interns, two assistants, photographers, makeup/hair professionals, and custom makers, they do a little bit of it all: personal styling, closet edits, custom tailoring, personalized lookbooks, packing for events and travel, and creating targeted plans to help each client. Suzy and Adri work with a host of professional athletes and C-level executives and entrepreneurs, always with the underlying goal of helping each client uncover his or her style and confidence.
Both women spent time in corporate America before moving into the style realm full-time. Suzy, a former investment banker, spent the first half of her career working in the finance world. Meanwhile, Adri studied finance at DePaul University and fashion at the Art Institute of Chicago, and began her career in the Lehman Brothers’ Private Wealth Management division. What the two shared was that they’d always loved fashion. In 2009, Suzy went back to school to study fashion marketing and merchandising, and seven years ago, Adri ditched the finance world to pursue her artistic dreams. The rest, they explain, is history.
How did each of you individually get interested in styling/fashion?
Adri: I loved it as a child, as cliché as that sounds… an obsession with fashion is just something I was born with. I vividly remember only having an interest in dressing and creating garments for my dolls. That organically developed over the years.
Suzy: I too have always been interested in style and design. I helped friends and family with personal shopping and styling for years before finally deciding to move into the styling and fashion world for business.
How did you two meet, and why do you think you work well together?
Adri: I actually hired Suzy for a position at Tabor here in Charlotte. Her resume and personality blew me away—it was way too impressive. We work well together because we’re extremely in tune with one another. I often don’t need to say anything, but Suzy just knows how/what I’m thinking. We’re very similar but also different, so our different strengths complement each other. Though I’ve worked in styling and with athletes for a long time, it isn’t until I met her that I’ve had a successful business through AZSN.
Suzy: Adri and I instantly bonded over our shared backgrounds—we both grew up in the Midwest, both worked in finance, and then went back to school to study fashion. Adri is the yin to my yang, and vice versa; we balance each other really well. I like to say we are like a perfect Venn diagram – we both have our strengths, and then we overlap on skills in the middle, so we both can do any part of the business. We respect the other’s strengths, which is also so important in a partnership.
Describe your typical client.
Adri: Most likely it’s a “he.” There is a small sprinkle of “she” but the focus of our business is men. Through AZSN, we work with a wide variety of guys with very different personalities. Some are located in Charlotte but most are sprinkled across the U.S. One of the best parts of our business is that we have the opportunity to travel, which allows us to be exposed to a variety of fashion and art all across the country. About 75% are professional athletes and the remainder are business owners/professionals.
How would you describe Charlotte’s style as a whole, and where your work fits into that?
Adri: It’s growing, and maybe a little boho-vintage-chic for us. We love Charlotte, and we don’t 100% fit all of it… That’s the beauty. Charlotte has really turned into a lovely melting pot of all different styles and personalities.
Suzy: What I love about Charlotte is, with 60-plus people moving to our city every day, outside influences are affecting fashion, and we are seeing fits and styles from other cities work their way into everyday life here.
Which looks and styles do you tend to favor?
Adri: Edgy and androgynous… A beautiful chaotic mess that makes sense.
Suzy: Again, this is so dependent on the guy. What I put on my husband, who works in finance, is totally different than what I would put on a football player. And that’s totally different than what I would put on an NBA player. Each client has a distinct personal style. So our job is to enhance the expression of his inner self. For me, personally, I prefer a masculine look, which is probably why I love working in men’s fashion!
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Adri: Rachel Zoe. My goal is for AZSN to be the Rachel Zoe of the “Big and Tall” athletic market.
Suzy: Deanna Berkeley, the President of Alice and Olivia.
What does a typical day look like at AZSN?
Adri: There is no typical day! When working with athletes, last-minute needs are the only certainty. We are typically on the road one or two weeks a month for out-of-town clients.
Suzy: There is no typical day! After leaving finance, where I sat at a desk for the better part of 12-14 hours per day, it has been great to be on the road traveling and in movement for most of my day. Although, there are days when I miss my desk time! For example, in any given week, we may travel to see a client in another city, order clothing for multiple clients, hold fitting appointments, style looks for upcoming games, source accessories, meet with designers, deliver alterations or custom clothing, style a photo shoot…