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An inside look at Suzy van der Velden’s quest for success

On paper, Suzy van der Velden can be described as a graphic designer; however, if you ask van der Velden, she will tell you that she is a problem solver. Her keen, artistic eye sees her work as a series of problems for which she needs to find an aesthetically pleasing solution. To do so, she uses various media outlets, patterns, software and more to solve the issue at hand and to move forward to continue creating beautiful, high-quality content. She works tirelessly to keep her knowledge and her skill set fresh and she is always brainstorming new ways to innovate. Being a designer brings her a joy like no other in this world and she considers herself fortunate to have a mind that is bursting at the seams with creativity.

“I have little talks with myself whenever I am working on a project to figure out how I can achieve the best possible result. Some days, solutions seem far away but then other days, they pop into my head at random and I know exactly how to go about handling the dilemma,” tells van der Velden.

The key to being a true artist is in knowing that all of the talent in the world couldn’t eliminate the need for practice and precision. It is crucial as an artist to use your talents often and to remind yourself that there is always room for improvement. For van der Velden, exercising her artistic edge is important to her and she is always keen to adapt herself to new situations and to refine her exceptional skills wherever possible. In mastering her own craft, she has established a remarkable career designing for leading brands like Lululemon Athletica and O’Neill. She consistently exceeds the expectations of her co-workers, clients, and employers alike. In fact, in 2016, her artwork was chosen to be published in Patterns: Inside the Design Library. This well-known design book showcases the world’s largest archive of patterns as created by a variety of different artists and its author, Peter Koepk, solicits only the best of the best artists in the industry to feature. Unsurprisingly, van der Velden’s patterns fit the criteria flawlessly. Given the prestige of the book in the design world, she was extremely honored by the idea of having her patterns chosen.

The Design Library is an amazing and unique company, having the largest and best documented collection of fabrics and prints. It’s a dream for any designer to browse through all of the books and fabrics. You could spend days doing it. Knowing this, I felt honored when my director told me that my print was selected for the book. To see my work in a hardcover book as one of ten selected companies to showcase the work they do with The Design Library is something that makes me incredibly proud,” notes van der Velden.

When she was selected, van der Velden was working as a Senior Graphic Designer for Lululemon Athletica’s global design team, a position which she still holds today. Lululemon is a Canadian company that creates men’s and women’s active wear and are world-renowned for their bold colors, patterns, and style. In this role, she is responsible not only for creating original, visually pleasing artwork to help grow Lululemon’s business, but also for training and guiding other junior staff to do the same. What drew her to the role, and has kept her engaged throughout, is the amount of creative reign she has over her work. Her position allows her to embrace the artistic side of graphic design, and she loves the freedom she has to create each piece entirely as she wishes. According to van der Velden, working for Lululemon allows her to be more of an artist than a graphic designer which satisfies her passionate love for creation. Her contributions to the company’s success are unprecedented, and since she began working with Lululemon, their design concepts have grown and advanced substantially.

Working for a company like Lululemon enables van der Velden to embrace her artistry; however, it also presents a unique platform for innovation. For an artist like van der Velden, thinking outside the box comes naturally and she excels in a position that allows her to explore her art form. In fact, earlier on in her career, the Dutch-native designer earned herself a position working for O’Neill. O’Neill is originally a Californian surf-wear and surfboard brand created by Jack O’Neill. They produce and distribute wetsuits, performance water and snow-sports inspired apparel for young adults, as well as lifestyle apparel to over 80 countries worldwide. van der Velden was drawn to the brand’s rich heritage and reputation and she was awe-inspired by O’Neill’s legacy of touching and changing lives through his invention of the wetsuit. He established a company that was rich with innovation and van der Velden felt that it was the right fit for her on both a personal and professional level.

As a result of working for O’Neill, van der Velden developed into a very well-rounded designer. She had the opportunity to work on a wide range of products, developing artwork for Women’s and Girl’s apparel, including swim wear, snow jackets, and more. This required her to master a variety of different trends in the market and determine how best to alter her patterns accordingly. When she worked for O’Neill, van der Velden was constantly on her toes and she was able to refine her skill set to adapt to all of the various categories and audiences she designed for. She earned herself a reputation as being dependable, versatile and above all else, talented beyond measure. O’Neill’s former General Manager of Global Product and Licensees, Paddy Muldoon, was astounded by van der Velden’s profound ability to modify her patterns and produce exceptional results for each and every task she embarked on. She was an irreplaceable member of O’Neill’s design team and consistently exceeded the expectations of her co-workers.

“Suzy’s ambitious and commercial mindset makes her an invaluable member of any design or commercial product team. Having worked with her, I would say that her skills are transferable beyond the business of apparel and her insight and approach to design would work on any apparel, footwear, or accessory business in both lifestyle or sport fashion. Above all else, she has a keen eye for design and understands how to take those design principles to the market in a manner that is both trend setting and commercial. She has a strong sense of purpose and insight and is confident enough to share her thoughts and lead change,” recalls Muldoon.

In addition to Lululemon and O’Neill, van der Velden has worked for companies like Oilily, embracing her love for design and fashion and transforming it into a stable job. She is determined to continue to expand her skills to suit other areas of fashion and pattern design as she continues to challenge herself and develop her career. She is currently working with JOI YOGI to develop artwork for their eco-friendly yoga mat line, a job which van der Velden finds enjoyable as well as humbling. She is also working on her own personal project that involves overlaying 35mm film with acetate sheets to create an authentic black and white photography display. As she continues to work, she is adamant that other aspiring designers embrace their talents and chase their dreams as she has chased hers. For van der Velden, it’s all about seeing how far you can push your own limits to achieve new solutions. She is committed to continuing to do so every day.

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