Green and white hand-printed leather clutch handbag-bumble bee pattern

Interview time with designer Jennifer Diederich

This month we’re talking to Jennifer Diederich, the creative force behind Suite, a beautiful collection of handmade womenswear featuring quirky details which channel the classic, feminine silhouettes of the 50’s and 60’s (You may also recognise Jennifer from Season 5 of Project Runway.

We discovered Jennifer’s designs through a friend (thanks Rachel!) and immediately identified with her story of living life as an expat as she splits her time between New York and Italy. Here we catch up with Jennifer to find out more about her design process and her style advise for mixing colour and print in to your everyday wardrobe!

Please can you fill us in on your background, where you grew up and what it is like dividing your time between the US and Italy now.

I was born in Syracuse New York, but I moved to New York City to attend FIT for college. During my third year I opted to study abroad in Florence Italy at Polimoda. Only three weeks into that experience, I met my husband Claudio and ended up moving to Italy after I finished school.

I travel back and forth now between the two countries for fabric sourcing, production and boutique sales. It is both challenging and fun to bounce between the two.

How would you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?

 My personal style, like my collection, is where fancy and fun come together. I like to nod to the ladylike, classic silhouettes of the 50s and 60s, while adding whimsical, tongue-in-cheek accessories for a fun, modern and colourful look.

I have had the same personal style for the past fifteen years or so (all 15 of them without wearing even one pair of pants!-I prefer a dress or skirt).  I find that it works well with my personality and figure. While I make all of my clothes, when I am searching for accessories I have become quite good at spotting a piece that will really add something special to the clothing I am wearing. It is now rare that I purchase anything that doesn’t become a lifelong favorite. As you feel comfortable in your personal style, choosing the right things becomes a simple, fun task!

Can you tell us how you became a designer? Did you always want to be in fashion as a child?

 I was always interested in a career in art, and I had hobbies such as cross stitching. However my love of fashion design came around the age of fourteen, during my first trip to NYC. I instantly fell in love with the city and just knew I had to live there one day, Knowing that it was an expensive dream, I took my love of art and found the career of fashion to be a perfect fit to support my craving for creativity (and pay my bills). After this realization, it felt like I had found the perfect fit for me.

You were part of Project Runway Series 5. What was that experience like, and did it change your perceptions of the industry or how you wanted to build your brand? 

I really enjoyed the whole experience! It was fast paced without much sleep, but as a designer, that is something I’m pretty used too. It didn’t have too much of a direct effect on my brand. I did learn to take criticisms with more stride however, and I have noticed that it is a way to “get my foot in the door” in an overly saturated fashion industry.

As someone who travels a lot, where are your favorite travel destinations?

New York will always be my favourite destination, but I have also travelled to New Zealand, where my brother-in-law works as a flight attendant. I really enjoyed exploring the beautiful beaches-you can travel to several in one day, and they all offer a different kind of beach experience-so incredible! I was also lucky to travel to Bangkok and Bali on our honeymoon. Bangkok fascinated me, and I would like to return. Bali is a paradise and the people are super friendly.

What are your suitcase must-haves?

Music on my ipod, dresses that take me from day to night, bows for my hair or dresses, a fun, patterned coat, novelty cross body bags, quick dry nail polish and a pillow case to stuff with my coat or sweaters to use on a long plane ride-try it! A regular pillow is too bulky but making your own impromptu pillow on the plane is super comfy!

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?

Go out for cappuccinos and croissants in the morning with my husband, and I love a good dance party Saturday night.

Ok, some quick-fire questions: What are your most hated fashion faux-pas, what would you never wear and what are your five fashion essentials everyone should have in their closet?

While I respect everyone’s personal fashion choices, I think the worst faux-pas you can make is to be boring and never take any chances. I am not a fan of following the fashion trends, but it works for some people.

  1. I personally never wear pants. I don’t own a single pair!
  2. I think everyone should have the following in their closet:
  • a go-to party dress that, without fail, always makes you feel like a million dollars
  • a great-fitting coat in either a bold colour or pattern
  • a fabulous piece of vintage jewellery, preferably handed down as a family heirloom
  • the perfect striped shirt
  • a good quality handbag

Are you born with style or can you fake it?

If I showed you pictures of my outfits as a child, you’d probably argue that I was not born with an innate ability to put clothes together elegantly….However, I have always strived to have an original sense of style. My mom and grandmother tell me that my great grandmother, who was a naturally elegant person, would have very much appreciated my style and clothing. I unfortunately never met her, but I take it as one of the highest style compliments.

If you could everyone just one piece of fashion advice, what would it be?

Style comes in many different forms. The important thing to keep in mind is to buy only things that speak to you and your personality. Choose only things you love, and your style will shine!

Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to talk with us – you can see Jennifer’s latest designs on her Instagram page here or on her Etsy shop.

Karen & Lauren
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