Designer Spotlight: Frei Designs

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Photo by Elizabeth Jochum Photography

Photo by Elizabeth Jochum Photography

Designer: Annie Novotny

Background: Annie Novotny graduated from the School of the Art Institute in 2004 with a BFA in Fashion Design, but she could always be found in the school’s Fiber and Materials Department “weaving, dyeing and making weird things.”

Design Aesthetic: The philosophy is all about balance and sustainability with Frei. She combines elements of menswear tailoring with organic fabrics “which allow for a more natural or softer feel” to her designs.

Designer Inspirations: Though Novotny doesn’t generally keep tabs on other designers, she admires Marni’s laidback elegance as well as Alexander McQueen’s glitz and glamour. “I really love the theatrics; I think it’s pretty mind-blowing with what he does,” she says.

Chicago Inspirations: Her main source of local inspiration is Chicago’s creative community and her many talented friends that she can always bounce ideas off.

On being a designer in Chicago: Novotny is drawn to the city’s tight-knit neighborhood feel that is conducive to “all kinds of amazing art and running into the kind of people that are doing amazing art.”

Photo: Jason Robinette

Annie Novotny/Photo: Jason Robinette

What’s New: Novotny’s first boutique is in the works, which will feature Frei overstock and specialty pieces.

Find Frei at Pivot, 1101 W. Fulton Market and Lissa on Maxwell, 729 W. Maxwell, and see her work at

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