Susan Sherman (ABJ ’82) surrounds herself with beautiful things. She is an art collector, co-founder of the experiential retail startup MERCH and a former classically trained dancer, but one of her favorite ways to experience art is simply by wearing it.
Susan has loved fashion since her days as a dancer, when she would spend the time before performances exploring the production behind her costumes. She described her entry into fashion as a consumer first–she loved shopping and style, and she often flipped her new clothes inside out after buying them so she could examine their seams and stitching.
“I was always looking at how things were made,” she said.
She is the chair and co-founder of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which seeks to bring back St. Louis’s fashion industry, once second only to New York’s Garment District. The group, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, uplifts young designers and emerging brands and promotes fashion education and outreach in the city.
“We have a city that has fashion in its DNA,” Susan said. “It’s all about increasing job opportunities, economic development, recruiting fashion brands to come back and rebuilding the ecosystem we had around the turn of the century.”
Susan’s role in the Saint Louis Fashion Fund has positioned her to be one of St. Louis’ leading voices in the industry and given her opportunities to connect students and up-and-coming designers with resources they need to succeed.
Susan has extended her support to UGA students, sponsoring a series of spring break trips for students in the Lamar Dodd School of Art to St. Louis, Dallas and New York. There, they met with people in the fashion, art, and design industries–touring art galleries, studios and museums, visiting Diane von Furstenberg’s atelier and exploring fashion and design incubator programs.
Susan not only funds these trips but also actively participates in them to experience the arts alongside UGA students. She and her husband, David, ride along on the bus with students and offer their expertise and insights, getting to know them and arranging access to institutions and people throughout the trip.
Susan said she loves being around students, especially those interested in fashion and the arts, because she’s energized by their creativity and innovation.
“There are so many different ways to produce and make and create,” she said. “I learn more from young people than my peers. They’re the ones who really have their ears to the ground of the industry and understand how it’s changing.”
Susan began her career as a public relations associate for the Atlanta Ballet and worked in broadcast journalism in Atlanta, Paris, and St. Louis before fully immersing herself in the world of fashion. As a UGA student studying broadcast journalism, Susan held the highly selective Georgia Lawmakers internship reporting on the state legislature with her classmate Deborah Roberts (ABJ ’82), a current anchor on ABC News.
Connecting with undergraduate students through sponsoring experiential learning opportunities is just one of the ways that Susan has remained involved with UGA since graduation. She served on the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees, gives to UGA, attends football games and is on a committee for the renovation of her sorority’s house, Kappa Alpha Theta.
Above all, Susan hopes her personal efforts and active philanthropy can introduce more students to the diverse range of career paths and opportunities available to them in the arts.
“When you get to be my age, you have a lot of connections and you’re just trying to open doors and opportunities for young people,” she said. “I’ve always liked the underdawgs. D-A-W-G-S, mind you.”