January 15, 2014 (WILTON, CT) -- Jennifer Angerame has been a fashionista since her youth. Her grandmother, Inez, had a penchant for sewing, a tradition she passed along to her daughter, then to her granddaughter, Jennifer. Today, Ms. Angerame is teaching her own daughter how to sew.
With an artistic flair, the Dallas-raised Angerame graduated from Bishop Lynch High School in 1992, then attended Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas to pursue a design degree. It was there her entrepreneurial spirit blossomed. She ran a nail salon out of her dorm room, developed an evening wear clothing line, then launched "Junk to Jewels by Jen" -- all which made a profit.
After graduation, Angerame clinched a job at Perry Ellis Menswear as a trouser and dress shirt designer. Spurred by her love to create, Jennifer started a mixed media greeting card line, featuring all-occasion cards decorated with vintage, upcycled materials like buttons and burlap. Her products found retail success on New York's Upper Westside at a Papyrus stationary store owned by her Zeta Tau Alpha (Gamma Tau Chapter) sorority sister. Jen even brought a stash of cards to the office for co-workers to pilfer through and purchase. Customers raved about her designs. She knew her knack for the handmade was marketable and decided to take her talents to Connecticut.
Enter Southern Yankee (www.southernyankee.com), Angerame's children's clothing and gift business now fifteen years strong.
"The name is a salute to both my Dallas roots and my marriage to a Northerner...it defines me," remarked Ms. Angerame.
Southern Yankee's products combine the old and the new -- the outfits begin with a basic cotton onesie, but become unique when combined with a vintage handkerchief or table cloth. The result is an adorable makeshift dress for children aged three months up through six years. The company's signature item, an embellished onesie/dress is aptly named "The Southern Hankee," a customer favorite for newborns - toddlers twenty-four months old. The bulk of Angerame's product line is under $35, a deal for a one-of-a-kind baby shower, new baby or christening gift.
Mothers of little boys need not feel left out -- Jennifer keeps them in mind to boot. In fact, one of Southern Yankee's bestselling pieces is a baby boy's tee with a bow tie appliqué, which uses upcycled dress shirts. Other popular items include burp cloths, bibs and vintage chenille blankets. For the mom set, Angerame offers custom jewelry and purses adorned with personal decor, such as a monogramed baby rattle. Mens clothing -- such as ties and dress shirts or a grandfather's handkerchief -- are also fodder for the Southern Yankee designer. Angerame enjoys incorporating this "green" aspect into her business and uses vintage buttons, table cloths, lace, and fabrics she collects at flea markets and the like.
"I gave Jennifer my late father’s dress shirt and tie which she made into an adodrable dress with a sporty sash for my four-year-old. I saw it and was speechless -- it gave my daughter a connection to the grandfather she never knew,” said local customer, Jessica Jones.
The Wilton, Connecticut-based business operates online, but Southern Yankee’s products are also featured in boutiques, both near and far.
“When I placed my first order, I knew Southern Yankee’s homemade onesies would be bestsellers. In addition, Jennifer’s marketing support through social media makes selling the product line that much more rewarding,” said Martha’s Vineyard retailer and owner of Rainy Day, Heather Kochin.
Additionally, Southern Yankee has a wholesale channel. Sans a storefront, Angerame’s business has thrived by successfully finding its niche customer base. The special appeal is the personalized spin.
"Family members mail me belongings to sew on shower gifts for expectant daughters, nieces or granddaughters. It's extra memorable when a toddler takes their first steps in a onesie with lace from their mother or grandmother’s wedding dress. The family ties not only enhance the clothing, but add nostalgic meaning," said Angerame.
A Southern Yankee purchase takes on additional significance because of Ms. Angerame’s charitable donations. The company donates 15% of its monthly sales to a designated charity. Angerame has already earmarked St. Jude's Children's Hospital for January, 2014 -- the month marking her milestone anniversary. Many of the beneficiaries have some personal or children's connection. "It's a win-win," said Angerame.
For more information on Southern Yankee, LLC, visit www.southernyankee.com, “like” the Facebook page or call (203) 253-9813. Ms. Angerame is available by appointment or for trunk shows at varied venues. Jennifer Angerame is the Owner/Designer of Southern Yankee and resides in Wilton, Connecticut with her husband and three children.