Want to know something not-so-secret? We’re swooning over the escape coats and party dresses designed by Jennifer Diederich, the maker behind womenswear company, Suite. Jennifer first caught the eye of the Spoonflower team when her on-point branding and whimsical design choices earned her one of the inaugural Small Business Grants. Jennifer is sharing seven branding tips she’s learned along the way to help you grow your small business. This is definitely a “pin for later” post!
Jennifer: My brand Suite is a womenswear company of party dresses and what I like to refer to as quick escape coats. What is a quick escape coat you may ask? Well, you know when you are at a cocktail party and there comes a time when things start to get too raucous to stick around? These coats are designed without belts, buckles or buttons to look chic throwing them over your shoulders and dashing out the door for a quick escape!
Through years of listening, learning and exploring, I have picked up some tips to keep in mind when figuring out your own stellar branding for your own fabulous brand! When you finish reading my tips, hop on over to my Instagram @suite_jennifer and share your thoughts with me. I look forward to meeting you!
My customer is fun and colorful. She is whimsical and curious too! She loves the stories her grandmother tells her about how she was a bit of a troublemaker before she met her grandfather. Her Suite pieces hang alongside vintage finds from estate sales in her closet. Once I knew all about my customer in my head, I needed to find a way to present her to the rest of the world through branding.
Ask yourself, “Where does my customer eat? Where do they live? What are their dreams? What do they do on the weekends? What music do they listen to?” If possible, go to these kinds of places and make great Instagram stories. Tag those places to create more brand visibility.
I’ve spent the past 15 years back and forth between Italy (where I lived) and New York (where I had a studio and manufactured my collection), so there are nods to both lifestyles throughout my branding. The Suite customer is a city girl who loves coffee and cocktail dates with friends. She likes to check out new restaurants but always has a tried and true favorite one in her back pocket to surely impress. She grew up going to the ballet and dreamed of dancing on the stage, but in real life has two left feet.
I go to charming coffee spots, snap pics and tag friends. I use the app Boomerang at the theater and make Instagram stories about my husband’s grandfather’s vintage Vespa. All of this to create a mood of my brand, and suggest where my customer might wear my clothes.
A great way to spread the word about your brand is to find print designers (or if you are a print designer, find a clothing or accessory designer) or influencers that share a similar brand philosophy to collaborate with. Instagram is an easy way to get a feeling of another brand philosophy and if it’s followers would like your brand as well. Remember not to focus on just the numbers. I have done may collaborations over the years, and some of my most successful ones were with influencers with a smaller following. Think quality over quantity always. You can’t go wrong with beautiful quality.
Below is an example of a design collaboration I recently did with Summer Violett of Smirkshop for my Spring/Summer 2019 collection. We met virtually through Instagram and brainstorming together, she came up with this playful coffee cup print for one of my quick escape coats.
Below is style blogger Kelly Lee of Kelly Golightly (and her cute puppy Odee Golightly). We share a fashion icon in common of Audrey Hepburn and are both inspired by the Palm Springs lifestyle (hello vintage style cocktails by the pool!). She is wearing the Pink Palm print quick escape coat.
Gather images, fabrics, colors or other inspirations that represent your customer. A great mood board will quickly give an overall feeling of the brand image. Be as consistent as possible. It may take years to get to a point you are happy with. It’s ok to grow and mature. This is definitely my personal case. My first mood boards were just a hodgepodge of things I liked. Today, I have an organized brand board (thanks to the help of my friend Monica Francis) that includes a primary logo, secondary logo, brand icon, color palette, fonts and a focused mood board. I can easily draw from it now when updating my website or anything to do with branding. You can find many examples of brand boards on Pinterest.
After establishing your brand and customer, you can design by gathering themes and colors that represent your brand. My collection is filled with prints that are conversation starters. I particularly love the vast amount of print and theme options on Spoonflower. Including whimsical theme prints in pretty colors has become a huge part of my brand. Whatever your brand may be, it is crucial to carry it over to your designs. Everything must “sing” together to create a cohesive feeling.
My brand’s social media focuses on Instagram. It seems to be where my customer typically hangs out. During my lunch break, I take a moment to capture my outfit that day. It is usually a bold mix of prints and colors. By adding quirky accessories from my closet and grabbing books off the shelf, I am able to style my look. Since smizing is not my forté, I have adopted what has become a sort of signature pose of my cropped side profile. It focuses on the playful shapes of my quick escape coats and colorful combinations. I like that my customer can imagine themselves in the outfit. This self-timer, front facing camera style of pictures has allowed me to easily and cohesively fill my Instagram with brand promoting images. I love being able to connect with customers through the app.
When you have established who your customer is, it is time to create a logo. I wanted a modern font with a nod to vintage, like my collection. The stars logo is reminiscent of a European hotel star rating. I created my brand Suite with the thought of what would it look like if the bellhop at the Plaza Hotel in NYC mixed up the suitcases of a chic suite dweller and Eloise, the creative full-time resident of the Plaza.
Pro tip: Designing a logo can feel like a daunting task for your small business. Hire a professional designer who focuses on logo design if you’re needing help!
“Since my creative thinking is stronger later in the day, I start my day with a list of daily business-related tasks. This way, I have the business tasks out of the way and a clear mind to create.”
-Jennifer Diederich of Suite
Now that you know Jennifer’s tips for telling your brand’s story, it’s time to work on that meaningful mission statement! See how to craft your mission statement with the founder of Emmy+Dove, Rachel Cooke, and then submit your application for the next cycle of the Spoonflower Small Business Grant.
About the Guest Author
A native of Syracuse, New York, Jennifer attended FIT in New York City and Polimoda in Florence, Italy. After falling in love with a charming Italian, she abandoned normality, packed her suitcases, and moved to Florence. In 2008 she earned a spot as one of sixteen designers for Bravo’s fifth season of Project Runway. Jennifer’s label, Suite, is inspired by vintage ’50s and ’60s bon ton clothing, playful prints, and all things colorful. After 16 years in Italy, Jennifer and her husband moved back to New York City in 2017. With plenty of online fans and a feature in Matchbook magazine, the following for Jennifer’s whimsical and feminine designs continues to grow.