Susan Linss: The Mind Behind the Design

A few months ago, serendipitously I was introduced to NYC designer Susan Linss by my colleague and friend, Edreece Arghandiwal, CEO and Founder of an innovative video journaling app Jurni, who sent me a recent article in Hypebeast featuring Susan as Kanye West and Hype William’s Production Designer.

Needless to say, she is a creative force more than admirable, with a genuine down-to-earth personality.  Her Persian heritage and artist father brings a wealth of taste and talent to the table-from history, to architecture to culture.  She uses her background mixed with her art of human connection to create.   Her client list is impressive from artists such as Kanye, Rihanna, Mariah Carey to companies such as Neiman Marcus, La Perla, and Pfizer.  She also teaches as the School of Visual Arts in New York City.  What I love the most about her work is its diversity and ability to create experiences through multiple venues: from photography to production design to even custom designing a pair of sunglasses for Kanye West in collaboration with French designer Alain Mikli.  Now she spends time on her new venture, a design firm called Safa + Noor creating something meaningful for herself.

As Co-Founder of Substantial Living, I always find inspiration through seeing other peoples work, and then gaining an insight on what it is that motivates people to put that work out there in the world.   As I’ve been getting to know Susan over the past few months, I sat down with her and talked to her about her passions and thoughts-hoping to bring a little insight for all aspiring artists, entrepreneurs, women, creatives-anyone with a vision or dream…

Q: What gives you meaning to create?

I feel our culture is rampant with lack of self respect, negative use of social media, “reality tv”, obsession with body image and “beauty”, racism, classism, sexism and so on.

Substantial Design Thoughts from Susan

  1. Human contact is nurturing of relationships, self love, love for others.

Susan and her father pictured above are both artists, who are driven passionately by their love for their work and what it means to them.

2.  Appreciating what is beauty and what is not.

  1. Diversity, being open minded, being open hearted. Having depth.

  1. Soulfulness is looking beyond the surface of anyone/thing, seeing character, depth in a person, art form, tradition, a belief.

  1. Hope is about change for me. Positive change. To have the ability to take a challenge, obstacle and overcome and make a positive impact.

  1. Mystery and Magic come from my Persian heritage, which is filled with love, beauty, darkness, passion and strength  among other things. Example: A concept I have for a massive architectural installation, an experience is a large cathedral like tunnel that the viewer can experience and enter. The tunnel of hope. Hope is what lies within each of us..and there is no ceiling.

Susan’s father, Ali Dowlatshahi (whose painting is seen above), a fine art painter whose work has been displayed in places such as the United States White House to the American History of Natural History in New York has been a major contributor in Susan’s life and work.  His work ethic and incorporation of art, history and music has transcended into Susan’s DNA and career, as she creates her magic.

I love the idea of art as experience, that is essentially what I have done with the worlds I have created in my career.  Meaningful design has to come from a place of love and passion for me. You can feel it and see it.

 To me, my inspiration comes from travel, experience and open mindedness. Understanding humanity. Beauty is truth to me. Being vulnerable and almost weightless in our growth.

I look at everything. Fashion, fine art, history, photography, travel to different cultures. Architecture. Spirituality. Literature. I am constantly feeding my soul and searching for magic in everything. Inspiration is everywhere. That is what feeds me. I want to reeducate our youth about this.

My experience as a female entrepreneur… I have to be fearless..even when I am not. I do everything that makes me uncomfortable and take risks. It’s harder for me not to try than to try.  I push, I persevere.  I believe ANYTHING is possible. ANYTHING. If I can imagine it, I can create it.

I spoke of my inspiration. I  look everywhere for it. My next step is my new company  SAFA+NOOR which means Love and light.

We created this company to create art with meaning. To influence, to give hope, to talk about issues in our culture and country. To give a voice to those that may not have the opportunity. We will create a very diverse outlet. I will create my art installations, furniture designs, short film on social issues. TV series on social issues. My documentary “A Soul on Fire”, directed by Mike Rhodes is the story of my career. The film will have a soundtrack, art book, a line of jewelry.  So, from very high- end to raw, real and gritty.

I was created to create. The expression of my art is my lifeline. My breath. I want to create work that touches the soul. I also want to give back. We will have a division called “Taj” which means crown in Farsi. It is about a creative outlet for our youth and to pay it forward as they get it.

3 Best Things You’ve Done for Yourself:




Thank you Susan! You are a beautiful soul with inspiring words and work.  XO

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