Designer Susanna Peters from Franz Raver: Corporate wear can boost employee well-being and company success

Susanna Peters is the founder of Franz Raver and the author of this year's sTARTUp Day merch. Her brand Franz Raver creates comfortable casual clothes that are stylish and cleanly designed, but never dull. Environment and sustainability rank high among the brand’s core values alongside emotions and memories. In the interview, Susanna shares her journey as a designer and founder and the inspiration behind her collections.

This interview was conducted by Katrin Tegova from Tartu Centre for Creative Industries.

How did you get into clothes design and why did you consider it necessary to create your own brand Franz Raver?

My interest in clothes began at a very early age. I could spend hours rummaging through my mother's or grandmother's wardrobes thinking how I could turn their outfits into something I would love to wear. I also took every opportunity to choose clothes for others and match them together. I am still very grateful to my parents, who encouraged me to pursue studies in a field that was close to my heart. My sister and brother, both engineers, have also followed their calling.

Franz Raver was born three years ago, a month before the birth of my child. I had just graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts with a master's degree in fashion design, where I focused on sustainability in fashion design. During my studies, I participated in various sustainable fashion industry courses as well as internships in India. In addition, I was the only Estonian fashion student to take part in the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the largest events promoting sustainable fashion in Europe.

How did you develop your style, and what differentiates Franz Raver from other designer brands on the market?

My style has evolved over time, which probably makes sense. After all, we experience and learn all the time, and as a result, our preferences may change.

Franz Raver focuses on offering designer-made corporate clothing to businesses. We approach each company individually, taking into account the brand image, the nature of their work, and the employees’ preferences. A big advantage of my brand is definitely the passion – I love to create clothes for people, and I believe this shows in my designs. I have been involved in the fashion world for over 10 years, since the beginning of my studies, and I have managed to win various fashion design awards. So there are three important keywords that characterize Franz Raver: passion + experience + recognition.

This year, you designed the apparel for sTARTUp Day. What made this collaboration important to you?

Designing clothes for the sTARTUp Day team, entrepreneurial-minded startuppers and investors was a real challenge. When creating the collection, it was important to me that people would want to wear the clothes after the event. Merch does not have to be an ordinary ready-made item with the company logo printed on it. sTARTUp Day wanted clothes that don't scream "I went to this event", but rather tell their story through small details.

For me, good contact with the client is very important – I only accept a job if I feel that we have a good match and could create something special together.

The collaboration is important to me for several reasons. I am thankful that the sTARTUp Day team chose and trusted me as a designer. I got the opportunity to work with an international event and show my designer handwriting, which also gives extra visibility to Franz Raver. The experience of collaborating with a large team during the project was also noteworthy.

Lifting a veil of secrecy, we will also see your fashion show on sTARTUp Day. Can you tell bit more about that?

At the fashion show, we will show to wear casual clothes and make them more special or festive with simple stylistics. Be prepared for bold patterns, bright colors, and some great tunes… We will reveal a few hints on our Instagram.

Tartu is gearing up for the European Capital of Culture title year. You have also created a collection for Tartu 2024 – what inspired you there?

The collection is called "What is your pattern?". The idea behind it is that we pass on our "patterns" both to our loved ones and the people with whom we come into contact every day. It’s as if we give away pieces of ourselves, and receive others in return, so patterns are formed. The pattern stands for our heritage. I sincerely hope that we will do everything to ensure that these patterns are as positive as possible, expressing care and love.

With this collection, I want to bring more attention to Tartu, its culture and heritage, and the people of Tartu. In the design process, I let go of everything that limited me and allowed my intuition and passion to guide me. The result is a bold and expressive collection, where the distinctive feature is a pattern created from the icons of Tartu 2024.

You have made corporate clothing for many different companies. What have you learned in the process?

Each company has its vision and story – my task is to tell this story through clothes. It’s a very special task because every employee must feel good in the clothes, in addition, the corporate wear created by a designer must be special and durable. One of the most important findings for me lately has been: that guessing is not knowing. I have learned the importance of communication – everything must be clear and negotiated to the smallest detail.

At sTARTUp Day 2024, you will also step on stage in the panel discussion where the importance of fashion for the organization and brand will be discussed. What do you recommend to companies that want to commission something special from designers?

It is very cool to see that many companies want to stand out and no longer wear mass-produced identical sweatshirts with just the logo printed on them. My advice to companies is to be bolder and put more emphasis on clothing. Let's face it, none of us wants to wear expressionless clothes.

Taking into account research and employee preferences, companies and organizations could place more value on the design and comfort of corporate clothing. Investing in aesthetically pleasing and comfortable corporate wear can contribute to a more pleasant working environment that supports the well-being of employees on the one hand and the success of the company on the other.

What motivates you when time gets tough?

Self-belief, family support, and love for life. All these components are essential. I am more of a solution-oriented person. I'm also lucky to have grown up with very supportive parents who taught me how to take care of my mental health.

Is there anything else you want to share about yourself or plans for the future?

We are already booked for the next six months. In the second half of 2024, we will start offering our service and products outside of Estonia.

A lot is going on and the dreams are big, we just have to go one step at a time and, most importantly, enjoy the journey. I am very happy that I have chosen to work in a field I love. I recommend it to everyone else as well!   

Ϟ Susanna about the inspiration behind sTARTUp Day merch:

sTARTUp Day brings together a lot of entrepreneurial people and the event’s slogan is "From zero to hero". When creating the designs, this saying made me think that in fact, each person is their own hero, in the best way. So the protagonist of this story is a hero. And if you look closely, you will notice it throughout the designs.

The shoulders of sweatshirts and T-shirts are highlighted in a different tone, bringing attention to the weight we can carry on our shoulders. But equally important to overcoming adversity is self-preservation – also a crucial superhero's task. Yellow embroidered arrows and rectangles give a hint to those who recognize the sTARTUp Day logo. For women, the collection includes both long and short black dresses with mesh details.

The whole concept is to create apparel that everyone can wear even after sTARTUp Day, because they are durable, look cool, and the event name is not prominently displayed on the clothes. So, join our community of superheroes!

Ϟ You can order your favorite sTARTUp Day 2024 merch before December 22
Ϟ Don’t miss Franz Raver fashion show and the panel "Dress for Success: Estonian Fashion and Corporate Branding" with Xenia Joost, Susanna Peters, Key Külaots and Andres Kuusik on Day 2 of sTARTUp Day on January 26.
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