Designer Spotlight and Interview: Suki + Solaine

suki + solaine spring '15
It’s not often we promote new designers and their lines (trust me, we are pitched constantly), but once in a while one really catches our eye(s). Suki + Solaine is one of those exceptions. It was after I decided I liked what I saw I learned it was a collection based and manufactured in Chicago (which I have to admit, makes me like it all the more due to my Chicago bias. I may have moved to New York, but my heart is still back in Chi Town).
Suki + Solaine‘s luxe, yet affordable, easy daywear consists of French Terries, modal jerseys, silks and lightweight sweater knits perfect for those who prefer athleisure wear with a little edge. What really caught my attention were the unique digital prints and trims which add visual interest to the modern, minimal silhouettes. Prices range from $85-$268 and pieces have been spotted on celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Francesca Eastwood and Christina Milian. In fact, many of the items in the spring collection have either sold out or are selling out fast.
Don’t fear, the line is also appealing and appropriate for the over 35 woman. I myself was taken to and now wear my Suki + Solaine Double Tank, $98 constantly (maybe even a little too much). I have it in black with a white graphic and not only is the tank super soft (viscose and micromodal jersey) and the digitally printed sketch art design unique…it fits and hangs like a dream. The arm holes are not too low and the double tank ensures your bra is not exposed. All the bits that need to be covered – are covered.
suki + solaine collage
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Suki + Solaine designer Brandi Archer and ask her some questions about the line, her inspiration and why she chooses to manufacture in Chicago.
SCS: Tell us a bit about how Suki + Solaine came to be? 
BA: It really started from a desire to follow my dreams and do what I love with people I love. I know it sounds cliché…but I love clothes! And being an avid shopper, I had my own ideas about what kind of prints, colors and styles I wanted to wear but wasn’t finding. While I love high-end designer pieces, especially their quality and fabrications – their prices aren’t always realistic. So with Suki + Solaine, I wanted to focus on the fit, fabric and quality that I loved from those high end designers but with a unique twist and at a price point that didn’t break the bank.
SCS: What does the name Suki + Solaine mean?
BA:  I wanted the brand to represent my fun side and my love of classic styles and clean lines. Wearable yet sexy. Casual yet chic. I gravitate toward easy-to-wear but interesting pieces: a unique cut or a thoughtful detail. So when it came to picking a name I knew I wanted one that referenced this juxtaposition. I was inspired by an image of two girls, a blonde and a brunette. The blonde wore a t-shirt covered in expletives and the brunette wore a t-shirt with the word “relax” across the chest. I began to imagine what their names were. I needed a wild independent name and a more demure sophisticated name! Suki comes from a childhood cat that had a wild, free spirit. Solaine is after my sophisticated little niece – who is 5 going on 25! Suki + Solaine – it worked.
SCS: You are Chicago based company. Are most of your items manufactured in Chicago? 
BA: Yes! We have an in-house team made up of talented women who live in and love the city. We are all surrounded by the style and vibe that is uniquely Chicago, and we try to make as much as we can here in the city. All of our patterning, grading, fitting, sampling and even much of our production is done in our own studio. When orders are too large to complete in-house, we send them out to local contractors with whom we have developed relationships. It’s really important to us to support Chicago contractors.
SCS: Many say manufacturing in Chicago is more expensive than in NYC, yet your quality is amazing and prices top out at $200 (for Summer ’15), how is that possible?
BA: I have worked really hard over the past few years to source the best materials at the best price. There is a lot of legwork and travel involved, but ultimately it has paid off. I’ve built relationships with some amazing textile mills both in the US and internationally and we are now able to get what we want and need at a good price. And since we do all of our design and much of our production in house, it really cuts back on shipping and quality control costs. I’ve also invested in technology which has been a huge asset to us. The more we can do ourselves, the more cost effective the production becomes.
SCS: Who is the Suki + Solaine customer? 
BA: She is a confident woman who loves life. She knows herself and not only likes to look good but feel good as well. She expresses herself through her clothing. She likes unique prints and interesting details. She stands out in a room not for her wild style, but for her good taste and one-of-a-kind style. She is a mother who attends her child’s play, a friend who joins her girlfriends for brunch, a wife who enjoys date night with her husband, and a professional who is quickly transitioning from a business meeting to happy hour. Suki + Solaine has something fabulous for her to wear for all of these events.
SCS: If you had to pick the 2-3 must-have pieces from your current collection, what would they be? 
BA: The Hand Dyed Midi dress (sold out!), Double tank in Sketch Art Jersey (the piece you have!), and the Twisted Dress (whether it’s in Watercolor jersey or the essential version in our black micromodal.)
SCS: Do you see women over 35 wearing your collection? I was drawn to the double tank, but what other pieces to you see her (OK, me) wearing?
BA: Absolutely! The hand dyed midi dress, the surfer tank (dyed or in any of the digital prints), the whisper dress (double layered and with strategically placed cutouts). But I have to say that I don’t like to talk about the line (or fashion in general) in terms of age. The thing is, that like you say on your site, a lot of women over 30 DO feel 20. Ultimately our goal is to be aware of what women want to show off and aware of the areas that women want to conceal – and in general, age can play a part in that. So our goal moving forward – and as you will see with our fall collection and beyond, we are really developing our silhouettes – thinking about different sleeve lengths, necklines, and cutouts and making sure we have silhouettes for different body types. Overall, the brand has an aesthetic that really comes through in our color, print, and fabric choices, and we want women of all ages who respond to and embrace our aesthetic to be able to find styles that work for them.
SCS: Tell us a bit about what we can expect to see for fall. 
BA: We’ve focused on the development of our “essentials collection” for fall. We are using a lot of french terry and micromodal – and the Suki +Solaine versions of french terry and micromodal are incredible – they wear well, they wash well, and they look and feel amazing! And as always, we will be adding a bit of a twist with the details. We are also introducing silk georgette and crepes into the collection.
SCS: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? 
BA: Be aware of what’s going on around you in the industry, but not so aware that you lose yourself. Put your blinders on and focus on being true to your own vision. Never stop improving. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I remember this and get back to work!
Suki + Solaine Spring 2015
Check out and buy Suki + Solaine here.
– Lauren Dimet Waters

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