Fashion Show Review: Kokorokoko (June 5)

-Vintage, Fashion Shows, Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village Add comments

No primly dressed editors with the latest “it” bags sitting at their Louboutin-shod feet grace this front row; here Converse and fringed messenger bags are de rigueur. They serve Pabst and not Champagne. Instead of invitation-only, this event is free and open to anybody with even the slightest interest in fashion walking along Damen Avenue, allured by the thumping beats coming from upstairs. While none of this fits the the standard for what a fashion show should be, the result is a very stylish affair.

Kokorokoko, a vintage boutique started by Sasha Hodges and Ross Kelly in March 2009, sells eighties and nineties vintage fashions. The name sprouted from the title of the jewelry line Sasha started out of art school, because she thought Coco Rococo “sounded like a cool drag queen name.” Working as a jewelry designer/stylist by day and DJ at night, she met Ross—who suggested all the Ks—and so started Kokorokoko. They wanted the boutique to evoke the music, things and happenings from their favorite years, 1979 to1993, a time that Sasha feels was “pre-irony.” In her opinion, people would buy a cotton jumpsuit covered in bicycles simply “because they liked bicycles,” rather than trying to be kitschy or nostalgic. Designers and their customers shared a certain genuine love of craziness back then, and this same candor with self-expression and passion for silliness reverberates throughout the entire Kokorokoko show.

The show takes place in the Toyota Creative Lounge, a stark white space that the car company rents out to local artists as a gallery, a makeshift boutique or even a seasonal fashion-show venue. A row of fold-up plastic chairs lined along the unpainted plywood runway adds to the authenticity of the show. Color-coded paper airplanes dangle from the ceilings, magazine collages and brightly painted canvases hang on the walls, a mass of old television sets pile towards the back of the stage and candy-filled goodie bags entertain the show-goers. The guests, a host of twenty-to-thirtysomethings, style bloggers and fellow Chicago fashionistas ooze a certain downtown cool that could seamlessly blend in on or off the runway. Models mingle with the guests, most already friends, chattering away until the lights go out and it’s time to head backstage.

The first model comes out, a pretty boy with a mustache, dressed in a rolled solid black blazer, blue v-neck tee, nomadic printed cropped pants, black shoes and a tribal necklace. Instead of walking mechanically with a straight face and ubiquitous model swag, he bops to the songs spun by Ross in the background. A heavily eye-shadowed guy with a feather earring and a shiny onyx shaft-style parka breezes by; a Malcolm X screenprint tee is worn with a smile; an urban cowgirl sashays down the floor; the controversial fanny-pack makes a brief comeback; and a whole lot of leopard parades down this runway. There are two jumpsuits—one in all black lace and the other a neon-pink tigress get-up with micro-shorts—well-loved Nikes and suede pants with gold embellishments, all revitalizing the potentially gaudy looks of the shiner decades but infused with a discernible contemporary edge.

The twenty-four-look show closes with an Annie Lenox-cum-Grace Jones one-piece robot who struts out in a black belted jumpsuit with white striping, wrap-around shades, a geometric Nefertiti-esque hat and seven-inch fetish boots.

Hodges says she picked looks that she felt the audience would look at and say, “That’s crazy… but I could wear it!” As if to prove her point, one guest buys the micro-shorts as soon as the model shimmies out of them, saying that they would “complete the summer look I’m channeling. I cannot live without them.” (Rhianna Jones)

kokorokoko, 1112 North Ashland, (773)252-6996,

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