Cheree Berry, BFA '00
by Beth Herstein
When Cheree Berry, BFA ’00, married Jeff York, MBA ’04, JD ’04, in September 2008, she put her unique stamp on the affair. Berry, founder of Cheree Berry Paper, loved “coming up with my own design and aesthetic” full of “surprise elements, color and whimsy.” After working on other people’s weddings, “It was a great exercise to go through my own,” she adds.
Martha Stewart Weddings included a 10-page spread of Berry’s nuptials the following summer. Not only was it a dream wedding, but the coverage “was great for business. The article was like one big advertisement,” she says. This type of exposure, combined with Berry’s talent and creativity, is helping Cheree Berry Paper skyrocket to success.
As a child in Bonne Terre, Mo., Berry was fascinated with arts and crafts. She also loved the art of letter writing, which she attributes to her mother and grandmother, “who encouraged letter and note writing and good etiquette.” Her parents urged Berry and her sisters to follow their passions. “They are firm believers that if you love what you do, it will make you happy,” she says.
Berry began college at the University of Missouri but later transferred to Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts to focus on art. The curriculum “was not just about creating the visual language but [about] being conceptual. To me, that separates a good program from a bad one,” she says. For her senior thesis, she designed a popup book, Hoorah for the Bra: A Perky Peek at the History of the Brassiere, which Stewart, Tabori and Chang published in 2006. Berry’s book includes a bra snap closure and other “fun cheeky details.” Her mentor, Deborah Finkelstein of Phoenix Creative Co., provided guidance.
After graduation, Berry headed to New York. “I sent out a million résumés,” she says. St. Louis–designer Deanna Kuhlmann-Leavitt, a mentor for another student in Berry’s class, saw and loved Berry’s senior project. “She gave me the name of a partner she knew at the design firm Pentagram. I contacted the partner, and by luck, there was an opening.”
“The wedding industry is skyrocketing,” Berry says. “Couples really want a personalized and unique look for their big day.”
Pentagram provided Berry with a great experience in print design before she left to work on smaller-scale projects. Initially, she moved into advertising, but then Donjiro Ban, BFA ’94, who had taught Berry at Washington University, told her about a position with ebullient fashion designer Kate Spade. It proved to be a perfect fit. “I was just a Kate Spade girl at heart,” Berry says. In four years, she rose from designer to assistant art director.
While Berry worked there, Kate Spade expanded its stationery line. Berry supervised the creation of the design. She also began creating wedding invitations as gifts for family and friends. “Because I did it for free, they very much gave me free rein to do something fun,” Berry says. These experiences convinced her she could make a living doing what she loved.
In addition, she started dating York, a lawyer at the architecture firm HOK, in St. Louis. “For the relationship to progress, it made sense for me to move back,” she says. Therefore, though she “loved every minute at Kate Spade,” Berry returned to St. Louis in 2006 and founded Cheree Berry Paper. She also did some work for Washington University — designing cards for university events and teaching design as an adjunct in the Sam Fox School.
“It was great to come back,” she says. “As a child from a small town, I never thought I’d go to a college like Washington University, let alone do design work for the school and teach there. Looking back on that, how it all came full circle, is pretty neat.”
Now, Berry mainly focuses on the wedding industry, and her invitations regularly appear in Martha Stewart Weddings. “I’m one of their go-to stationers, which is huge for business, because Martha Stewart is a leader in this industry.”
Berry’s highest profile job involved creating the invitation sets for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. Though Berry worked primarily with the wedding planner, the Clintons “couldn’t have been more gracious along the way,” she says. “It also raised my visibility tremendously.” (After the Clinton wedding, Berry added a business partner, Kristen Armstrong, and a staff.)
Cheree Berry Paper continues to grow. “The wedding industry is skyrocketing,” Berry says. “Couples really want a personalized and unique look for their big day.”
Beth Herstein, AB ’83, is a freelance writer based in New York City.