THE WWW'S — A CHAT WITH OLAF AND SHIRLEY FROM SUITE702
Have you heard of The WWW’s? Through this section on our website, you’ll be able to get to know our clients a little better, as we’ll dive deep into the WHO, WHAT and WHY of their brands. Intrigued? Then read on to discover more!
Meet Olaf Arkauer and Shirley Muijrers, the founders of SUITE702. This Dutch lifestyle brand offers luxurious and qualitative bedding that doesn't break the bank and is not produced in a harmful manner. Through their selection of affordable luxury items, SUITE702 not only delivers 100% sustainable Bed Peace, but also has the power to turn every bedroom into a hotel suite. Find out more about SUITE702 and its founders by reading the interview below.
Hello! We are a couple who live with two kids (Yumi and Mathias) in the Jordaan in Amsterdam. Shirley - originally from Limburg - is a designer specialized in fabrics. She has always worked as an independent designer for small and big national and international brands. She’s also a part-time teacher at The Design Academy in Eindhoven, where she was a student herself. Olaf has a business background and has worked as a brand strategist for various international advertising agencies.
How did you come up with the idea to start a lifestyle brand with bed linen and bath textiles? Where does the name ‘SUITE702’ originate from?
We thought that the current range of bedding on the market lacked style and quality, and we couldn’t find what we were looking for. High quality fabrics can make quite a difference, but they are very hard to find and always very traditional. With a background in branding, I was surprised at how few well-known brands are in this market. Since I have always wanted to start my own brand, we thought there was a gap to fill. The lack of branding was one of the reasons why we started SUITE702. We didn’t want to be a product with a name, you see, but a brand with a story.
Furthermore, we realized that sleep is very important, often undervalued, but getting more and more attention. We wanted to create a brand that celebrates the life in bed. We call it “the SUITE life”. The name SUITE702 is a reference to the famous Bed-in of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In 1969, they spent a whole week in bed, as a honeymoon, in Suite 702 of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. Without taking themselves too seriously, they dedicated their bed-in to World Peace. We can really relate to this story. We can’t promise you world peace overnight, but a good night sleep is a hell of a start!
Could you tell us a little more about the sustainable angle of your brand and products?
Sustainability was never a driving force behind our brand. When we started SUITE702, it was just common sense. Why would you produce or buy products for which nature or people are exploited? We wanted to build a lifestyle brand, but not at the expense of others.
From the very beginning, we started looking for a system that guaranteed that all parts of the production process were okay. In the textile production chain there are many different elements: from growing and harvesting cotton, to weaving, dyeing and packaging. All of those steps should be performed with respect to nature and without the exploit of human beings. You shouldn’t just settle for the last part of the process (confectioning), as many brands do. We ended up with GOTS, which stand for Global Organic Textile Standard. GOTS is the strictest certificate for sustainable textiles that also guarantees a socially responsible production process from start (growing cotton) to finish (packaging).
Can you give us a little insight into your design process? Where does your inspiration come from?
We really like color, so for inspiration for our color hues, we look to fashion: "What is in fashion and how will this trend translate to home products?". We also look at our own wants and needs: "How can we enjoy life in bed better?". That’s how we came up with the bedMATE - the extra long pillow. It is just the perfect accessory to help you enjoy an extra long morning in bed, e.g. with a book.
We recently stayed at a 5* hotel in Amsterdam, a ‘staycation’ so to speak. To get some inspiration for what the SUITE life is all about. The funny thing is, it really did inspire us to start up a project for a new product that we hope to introduce in 2021.
Since you both like color so much, we have to ask... What’s your favorite color combination?
Well, our preferences change every day. That is the good thing about bedsheets: although nobody likes to change their sheets, it actually isn’t that much work, and your room as well as the atmosphere changes completely by altering the colors you put on your bed.
In all honesty, I’m a bit more conservative, where Shirley is a bit more eclectic and more fashionable. I can remember when we just started, I said: “Let’s just do three colors. Everybody wants blue, grey and white”. But Shirley responded with “If we do that it will be your brand, not our brand.” Shirley insisted on adding Khaki Gold to our range, which I thought would be a very difficult color. I was quite worried we would have hundreds of unsold sets, but as it turns out it is one of our best-sellers! Sometimes we are a bit “early” with color hues. Take Chocolate for example: it is a typical fashion color… it had a slow start, but all of a sudden it became very popular.
Currently Shirley's favorites are Inca Gold, Dusty Rose and Lilac Grey. I quite like Thyme Green and Bordeaux.
What does the future of SUITE702 look like? Do you have any dreams?
The idea was always to become a strong European HomeDeco lifestyle brand, celebrating life in bed. We are building our brand in the Netherlands and Belgium, and next year we plan to take some first cautious step in France and Germany.
We have plenty of dreams though... We want to introduce some products besides the usual bed & bath suspects. For one of those projects, we already have a prototype. We would also like to open a brandstore. First in Amsterdam, but later on, at least one in each country where our brand is present. Finally, but this is really a moonshot, we dream of opening a boutique apartment hotel where you can enjoy and experience the SUITE life.
What advice would you give to those who are considering starting their own business?
— Don’t make any concessions to your product or concept.
— Make sure you have enough flexibility to experiment.
— Don’t focus too much on short term sales.
Thank you Olaf and Shirley, for the inspirational talk! We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors!
Intrigued and want to know more? Check out SUITE702 and get inspired.
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