If you haven’t already heard of Suite, please give my apologies to your bank account. But not to your wardrobe. Already branded the ‘next Kate Spade,’ Jennifer Diederich’s womenswear designs are causing an international frenzy. Originally from New York, the designer has already lived a colorful life in both success and love: she met her future husband while studying abroad in Italy and even competed on season five of Project Runway. Now how’s that for living la dolce vita?
1. Would you mind telling me more about your background? I know you grew up in upstate New York, but how did you end up in Italy?
I attended FIT in New York for college and my junior year, there was the possibility to study abroad at Polimoda in Florence. I was accepted to the program, and that changed my path in life as I knew it! Only three weeks into the program, I met my husband in a discoteca (I know, fancy!). However, I would like to make it known that it was NOT my intention to fall in love in Italy. It happened though, and now I have been living here for 14 years-almost half of my life!
2. Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
From as long as I can recall, I have always loved any creative activity and considered myself an artist throughout childhood. However, fashion was not my particular focus at the beginning. I loved music, drawing, dancing and theater. At the age of 14, I went on a trip to New York City. From the second I started wandering the city, I was hooked! I knew I had to find a way to use my creative spirit to have a career that would allow me to be a part of that amazing city. That was the moment where fashion just clicked. For some mysterious reason, I knew I had found the right thing for me.
3. When did you have that ‘aha’ moment where you realized you could make this your own business?
More so than an ‘aha’ moment, I started my business when I was unable to find the job I wanted in Italy. Florence is the home to several important design houses such as Gucci, Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli, but that italian design aesthetic wasn’t the right fit for me. In school, they teach you the proper path to successful fashion career is through many years of experience with other design houses. I was hesitant to start my own business at first. However, the country and situation that I found myself in, caused me to take another path. With all the ups and downs, I’m still glad I took the risk.
4. What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
The freedom to make things I love and believe in. It is also nice to to style and schedule my day how I prefer.
5. How was your experience on Project Runway? What were you surprised/not surprised about reality television?
I honestly had a great experience on Project Runway. It was fun to see how the whole show works behind the scenes. It took a little getting used to a camera pointed 10″ from my face all the time with a team of producers behind the camera scribbling on notepads. They were always there, even the second I opened my eyes in the morning! And you just have to pretend like those people are invisible, which is just weird and unnatural! There are also many interviews that take place for hours and cut into that 10-12 hours you are given to work on your outfit. I did have fun during the interviews though. In the end, I was a little disappointed that you never really see the always laughing, fun side of me during the episodes though. It was almost as if the producers wanted to show me as a rather reserved girl. I am a total chatterbox and basically get along with everybody, but you never would know it from what aired. However, I thoroughly enjoyed participating and look at it more as a personal experience as opposed to one that took place on national television. I also met my best friend, Wesley Nault on the show, and that was priceless for me!
6. Where do you find inspiration? I absolutely love your colorful Instagram!
Thanks so much! I love following along on yours as well! I really enjoy the possibility to communicate daily through pictures on instagram. I love seeing how others style their ootd and the fun new places they go for cocktails as well. I also draw inspiration from the vintage 50s-60s lifestyle, traveling, the designer Elsa Schiaparelli (my absolute favorite!), listening to music, walking the city, and wandering museums, especially the modern art ones- I can’t wait to check out the new Whitney museum the next time I am in New York.
7. Who is/are your favorite style icon(s)?
Elsa Schiaparelli, Audrey Hepburn and Bridgette Bardot.
8. How do you start your day?
Every single day starts with a cappuccino.
9. Favorite spots in Florence?
For cocktails with a view of the Ponte Vecchio, I adore the terrace bar at the Continentale hotel (owned by the Ferragamo family), people watching in Piazza della Republica, la Milkeria for gelato sundaes with hot nutella on top, vintage shopping at Recollection by Albrici-which is full of treasures, picnics in the Boboli Gardens and lingering dinners at the local trattoria, ZaZa, or the new vegetarian restaurant in town, Konnubio. Our corner bakery is also ah-maz-ing! It is called ‘Il Vecchio Forno’- try it if you ever visit Florence!
- Best thing about living abroad and doing what you love?
People are super curious over here. I know basically everyone on my street by name! There are also so many beautiful renaissance masterpieces to stop and admire. Don’t even get me started on the colorful doors and bikes…I could stop and take pictures all day of them! Of course the food is simply delicious as well. I didn’t know what a tomato was really supposed to taste like until I moved here. They are sweeter than candy in Italy! The best part about doing what I love is that it never feels like a job, in a traditional sense. I feel happy and inspired most of the time with the certain feeling of freedom that doing what you love brings. Of course, doing all this in Florence is as charming as it seems!
Stay in touch with Jennifer:
(Her designs are gorgeous!)