Souchi founder Suzi Johnson moved to Charleston from Aspen, Colorado, seeking warmer weather in 2022.
When Suzi Johnson decided to move her boutique, Souchi (pronounced SUE-chee), to Charleston from Aspen, Colorado, in search of a more temperate climate, she knew the types of knits she designed and the selection of clothing she offered would have to evolve.
Before she opened her Broad Street shop in September 2022, she experimented wearing a silk slip dress she was considering ordering for the store but discovered that silk plus humidity equals a clingy, summer fashion disaster. “I’m glad I didn’t invest in that,” she says with a laugh. Still, the boutique owner says, there are “so many great knits in bamboo and organic cottons that people don’t know about, and here you are always cold inside because the air conditioning is cranking. I can design in a completely different way.”
Johnson has experience acclimating to a new market, having moved from San Francisco—where she went to design school and launched Souchi in 1997—to downtown Los Angeles. She later moved to Portland, Oregon, and then Aspen. Each time, she’s found her niche because shoppers are drawn to her unique knits, as well as her keen ability to style customers in flattering silhouettes.
Johnson has been designing clothes since growing up in Southern California, taping and stapling her Barbies’ clothes into new creations. But it wasn’t until taking an elective at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco that she learned to knit.
Souchi opened on Broad Street in September 2022, offering fashionable one-of-a-kind knits, starting at $350, designed by owner Suzi Johnson, as well as a selection of 40 emerging lines of clothing, jewelry, and other accessories to complement her style.
While in school, she landed an internship with Isaac Mizrahi in New York, where she made connections in the fashion industry, including Christiane Celle of resort wear line Calypso St. Barth. The brand, as well as Steven Alan and TG-170, placed large orders that Johnson had to fulfill quickly. “I called the guy who sold me yarn, and he said he didn’t even have that much, but that he was traveling to Italy and, if I paid the fees for an extra suitcase, he’d stuff it with yarn,” she recalls.
Johnson returned to her studio in San Francisco, where she offered friends baked goods and wine to help sew on labels. “I didn’t even have tags; I just used a vintage typewriter to type my company name on leftover muslin and put that in the knitwear.”
She met the order within a month, officially launching Souchi. “No one did knits back then as clothing,” Johnson said. “I was doing tube tops, boy briefs, and cashmere hoodies for the beach.”
Johnson moved the business to Los Angeles after her landlord raised her rent amid the dot-com boom. In LA, stylists bought Souchi knits, which were worn by characters on popular television shows such as Friends and ER, as well as other celebrities. By the time she moved to Colorado, Souchi had grown to 25 employees, a wholesale business, and three retail stores—Chicago, Portland, and Aspen.
Eventually, Johnson realized she could return to her roots, designing and handlooming the sweaters and selling them at her Aspen boutique while reducing her management load and increasing her profit margin by eliminating her overhead. “Then it was fun for me again because it was creative,” she says.
In Charleston, Johnson hopes shoppers seek out Souchi for modern styles. “I want people to trust us to let them get out of their box and try something new.”
BY THE NUMBERS