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Billionairess combines ballroom dancing and fashion design, makes it big at Harrods and in Houston

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Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 designer
Suzanne Saperstein adds fashion design to her busy schedule. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 model 3
The glamorous aura of Suzanne Saperstein is evident in the Essera gown worn here by a model. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 model
The Essera designs, made in Bali, are hand-beaded.  Photo by Shelby Hodge
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 model 2
It's all about making an entrance and an exit, Suzanne Saperstein says. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 Alexis Saperstein, left, and Emily Banks
Alexis Saperstein, left, and Emily Banks, both wearing Essera, on board at the Tootsies trunk show. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 designer
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 model 3
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 model
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 model 2
Suzanne Saperstein fashion December 2013 Alexis Saperstein, left, and Emily Banks

You just gotta love the indomitable Suzanne Saperstein, the venerable Swedish bombshell and one-time Houstonian, whose penchant for haute couture fashion and her highly-publicized divorce from billionaire Houstonian David Saperstein made her, at one time, a household name, albeit only in the swankiest of households, from coast to coast. But that was a decade ago.

Today, Saperstein is focusing her high-level energy on ballroom dancing and fashion design.

The two passions came together inadvertently, as she explained during a recent trunk show of her Essera line at Tootsies. Involved in ballroom dancing, specifically Latin dance, for a number of years, Saperstein sought out one whom she considers the best teacher in the world, Espen Salberg. In addition to teaching and competing in ballroom dance from his home base in Bali, Salberg designs costumes for competitive dancers.

The native Norwegian created a few cocktail pieces for Saperstein, much to the surprise of her friends back at her home base in Los Angeles. "What are you wearing?" they asked. "We're used to seeing you only in couture." Indeed, Vanity Fair magazine once referred to her as "probably the world's No. 1 consumer of haute couture."

But that was then and this is now. As Saperstein explained, "In May of this year, I was at a party and the head of Harrods, whom I didn't know at the time, walked up to me and asked the label of my dress and the story."

"These dresses are made for making an entrance and making an exit. "

Soon she received a phone call from the contact at Harrods who asked her to design a full collection, arranging to see it in LA the following week. "So we, at that point, had to scramble and we worked day and night, adding some of my clothes that he had done and some of his designs from Bali," Saperstein said.

In the end, Harrods asked for an exclusive on the first edition of the well-priced line of day and evening wear and ordered 400 pieces. "It's been doing fantastically well in London," Saperstein said. Clearly, Essera is off and running.

The Tootsies trunk show marked the debut of the Essera spring and summer collection — glamorous, floaty and versatile with mix and match pieces for day as well as full-blown gowns and cocktail dresses. Price points range from $600 to $1,700, even with the luxurious details of hand-beading and embroidery. And, yes, the evening pieces in particular have a bewitching edge, reflecting the dynamic personality of Saperstein.

"These dresses are made for making an entrance and making an exit," she said. "I mean that’s what it’s all about."

Accompanying Saperstein at the trunk shows were her daughter, Alexis Saperstein, and her future daughter-in-law, Emily Banks, both of whom call Houston home.

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