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Life & Work with Jessica Owusu-Afriyie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Owusu-Afriyie.

Hi Jessica, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Absolutely! It is an honor to be here to speak about my journey.

I grew up mostly in New Hampshire with my heart set on New York City from a very young age. My college search consisted solely of NY schools. I studied fashion design and business at Marymount College of Fordham University and started working professionally as a designer less than one week after graduating. I spent about 13 years in New York before moving to Chicago. There, I continued my career in New York working remotely for a couple of years, traveling back every month. I had my first daughter in Chicago and eventually started my own fashion design and brand building company. Then in 2019, my husband and I moved our family to Redondo Beach where I live now.

My career started as a private label intimate apparel designer. I designed and developed products for retailers and brands including Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Aéropostale, Lane Bryant, Catherine Malandrino, C&C California and many more. I worked my way up in the industry to Design Director before starting my own company, Suite Creative Studio.

At Suite Creative Studio, we provide design and development services to brands of all sizes and stages of growth. We offer creative design, technical design, sourcing, product development, production management, sales planning and more. We bring a team of highly experienced fashion professionals and an extensive worldwide network of suppliers and manufacturers to our clients. Our brand portfolio includes many product categories including ready-to-wear and accessories. However, our product specialty is working with intimate apparel, activewear and swimwear. I am crazy about making great fitting bras and underwear! I started my company with one single client and a few goals. One goal was to work with brands whose product and mission I believe in and feel great about. Another was to work with sustainably focused brands. These are goals I still feel strongly about and continue to follow. Chemistry is really important when you are working together to build a brand. Since starting, we have launched about 15 brands and have worked with many others that are either established or preparing to launch soon. I genuinely love working with all of our clients. Nearly four years later, my first client, Grand Axis, is still with us.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The fashion industry is a pretty tough business. There is a lot of competition to even break into it and the ladder to success can be a tricky one to climb. I have learned along the way that no job is too big or too small. The more you learn about your industry, even if it is outside of your particular job description, the more valuable you become. Throughout my career I have had numerous bumps in the road. No matter how trying they were though, they set me up to learn how to better navigate similar situations in the future. Challenges may feel difficult to overcome in the moment but finding the lesson in them is key in turning your biggest challenges into your greatest tools. I believe we grow the most through tough times.

Business ownership is also a balancing act between smooth sailing and crisis management. With that said, I have been fortunate enough to have a mostly smooth road so far. I intend to be in business for a very long time. Therefore, I know I will have struggles to overcome. It is not necessarily the problem you have, though, but how you solve it that is most important. Manufacturing in particular is a complex process. Part of my job is to anticipate possible issues that may come up and solve for the struggles we are faced with for both my company and for our clients. I cannot remember who said it first, but I try to keep in mind the concept that, in business, things will never be as good or as bad forever. Keeping that in mind helps ease some of the stress of the more challenging times.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
At Suite Creative Studio, we work with brands from ideation to market-ready product and beyond. The clients we bring on are brands that we feel great about partnering with. We believe in their brand story and ethos. Our mission is to help build successful brands and products that have great growth potential. We excel in creating great fitting garments. It is a major focus for us. We see the way the industry is going and work with clients on incorporating important industry initiatives like inclusive sizing, sustainability and diversity from the ground up. We help our start-up clients build their brands with a business focused approach to their creative concept. I see our clients as partners, so I never shy away from a tough conversation or to help steer the decision-making process as needed. Our success is intertwined so I look for opportunities to help our clients grow even beyond our scope of work together.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Without risk there is no reward. I am completely comfortable with taking risks. There is something exhilarating about putting yourself out there and not fully knowing what is going to happen. Some of my biggest risks have been major moves across the country, leaving my job and starting my business. People often self-defeat. We decide the answer will be no before we even ask the question. Taking risks reminds me that just like something could fail, it could also succeed, but not unless you first try!

For example, this past year, what started as a personal project led me to publish my first coloring book in partnership with my good friend, Wahkuna Campbell. The inspiration came about when Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s Vice-Presidential running mate on my daughter’s 4th birthday. My husband, who like Kamala, is also half Jamaican, came to me about putting together a graphic to celebrate Kamala Harris’s historical campaign as a memory for our daughter on her birthday. I toyed around with ideas of mixing photos and text, but it just wasn’t feeling right. I scrapped the first drafts and decided to make a coloring page for her so that she had something not only to look at but to engage with. While I was creating the concept for that first page, I started having ideas for additional versions. Pretty quickly my one coloring page became a concept for a book.

Originally, I figured I would make the graphics print a copy, do a simple binding and that was it. The more I thought about it though the more I wanted to make it even bigger. I brought my friend and fellow artist on board. Together, we completed the full book in just over a month. Having two daughters really magnifies my belief in the importance of positive representation of strong, diverse, female leadership. I realized that the personal project I was brainstorming could be a powerful and inspiring product for other families as well. On top of that, I saw an opportunity to be able to give back. The book, Leadership Looks Like Me – Kamala Harris Edition launched just in time for the first Presidential Debate. It was very well received and took off like we never expected. We donated 50% of all profits from launch to election day to the Biden Harris campaign. Post-election, we continue to donate at least 10% of sales to organizations committed to helping underserved minority communities across the U.S. Without taking a risk, this book would have never come to fruition.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

  1. Motherfigure
  2. Okko
  3. Grand Axis
  4. Grand Axis
  5. Eltee Swim
  6. Hava
  7. Hava
  8. Leadership Looks Like Me
  9. Livi Lou Laine
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