The Art of Shopping: Picking Among the Finds at Fashion Chicago

Designers, Events/Exhibitions, Fashion Focus Chicago Add comments

By Alexandra Delaney

Throngs of moms and daughters, friends, significant others and families turned the cement pavement at Millennium Park into an urban runway as they shopped Chicago fashion designer’s collections. Fashion Chicago, presented by, rounded up local designers for a free shopping event that allowed visitors to peruse and purchase pieces from the local artists’ fall, winter and spring collections.

A table of glistening jewels served as a warm welcome. K. Amato’s sparkly, gemmed jewelry contains colorful stones set in fourteen-karat gold fill, plated eighteen-karat gold and sterling silver. Her signature is gold-filled chains. Several pieces evoke the holidays, like the gold chain bracelets laid on top of green and red bands. All of the handmade pieces have a charming feature, from delicately crafted shapes to Swarovski crystals and glass stones.

Objects D’Envy

Objets d’Envy presented luxurious jewelry intended for everyday wear and special occasions. Most of the pieces include colorful sparkles and Swarovski crystals. Susan Elizabeth Designs offered handmade, rustic-looking pieces. A common element was imperfect circles placed inside other roughly shaped circles on earrings and necklaces. Geometric shapes with wonky edges, like rectangles without perfectly straight lines, are the signature look of the line. The pieces look more handmade and interesting because of the detail and twisting of materials used in the necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

Warm winter hats, haute handbags, high heels and boots, delicate necklaces and dazzling earrings, and free bottles of Diet Coke kept shoppers energized.

Designers focused on their Chicago customers’ needs. Maria Boustead, owner and co-founder of Po Campo, centers her creations around practical purses for the city girl. The collection is composed of bags that attach to bikes. “Chicago is a great city for biking,” says Boustead. “That is the inspiration for this line.” The bags—made of vinyl, canvas and coated fabrics like polyester—come in various shapes and sizes to serve women with an active lifestyle, whether they’re heading into the office or going out on the town.

Bags with a twist were a popular fashion statement at the event. Ellu bags, designed by Leslie Pozen, offers a collection of environmentally conscious macro tote bags. Easily identifiable by the two colored circles on the bag, the totes have a two-way strap that can be worn as a tote or messenger bag. The circles are colored and patterned, mixed with faux snake-skin vegan fabrics for a combination of textures and shapes. The Ellu line also includes a compact, smaller bag, the micro tote and whimsical clutches and wristlets. The bags are intended to inspire women: the name comes from a Peruvian word meaning “the shining one.” With metallic silver hardware and the symbolic circular designs, Pozen aims to help women express themselves.


RUCH designer Ruchika Singh also designs with her clients and comfort in mind. “I make sure all of the dresses I make look luxurious,” says Singh. “I don’t make tight-fitting dresses, I make pieces that fit everyone. Every piece is comfortable and feels great on the body because they are silk. I also include flattering details, like waist bands, to create a nice shape on the woman’s body.” The RUCH dresses are all handmade silk designs with ornate details. The line is sophisticated and simple, with office-appropriate dress lengths. Singh strives to make every dress special and wearable, evident in her attention to detail. The inspiration for her fall and winter collections was Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss.” Her mantra is that the clothes she creates are works of art, and like paintings, she wants her pieces to pull people in. Singh’s fall and winter lines include rouching, texturing and lots of colorblocking, as seen in her orange and pink dress.

Colorblocking continues to be a popular trend. Shruti Kirti, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, draws inspiration from her Indian heritage to influence her colorblocking designs. Jaipur, her hometown, is a city known for embracing color. Despite creating her line just fifteen months ago, Kirti is not a rookie in combining elements of India and urban design into her pieces. She offers an assortment of one-shoulder dresses, skirts and sweaters of various colors; her favorite is the pink bamboo knit sweater with a tan stripe of silk organza up the sleeves. The colors are playful without being overpowering. She uses fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily and can be worn anywhere.

Anna Hovet, whose designing mantra is style and comfort, showcased a white dress with turquoise and black stripes along the bottom. Her high-quality knits emphasize cozy-cute couture. Her pieces ranged from her favorite—the Jillian sweatshirt—to a dressier black color-blocked jersey shirt with a sweetheart neckline with a mesh top half decorated with stitched black hearts. A surprising twist on color is the reversible tops she created that show a pop of colored lining.

Colorblocking isn’t limited to just clothes. Brynn Capella of Brynn Capella Inc. uses subdued color combinations to create timeless handbags based on the trend. Instead of using lamb or calfskin, her bags are made from Italian leather. In place of snakeskin, a color-blocked animal-print bag is made from leather and faux etched gold leather to create texture. A woman browsing her bags exclaimed she was in tactile heaven.

4 Tamara Nicole showcased some colorblocked pieces as well, including a cream sweater with black fabric at the wrists and a black strip with gold buttons. The booth boasted sophisticated dresses—a ribbed backless black dress and slightly rouched white dress—and blazers with a touch of ruffles. A cute, trendy piece that can be dressed up for the holidays was a pleated leather mini skirt.

Shalini’s holiday line contains dressy, sparkly pieces that correlate to the baroque trend. Constructed from jerseys of different weights, the line encourages comfort without compromising style. The clothes are low maintenance because jersey is durable and embraces a more modern feel than silk. This season, the line centers on lace, sequins, jumpsuits and peplum—a style the designer loves for its ability to cover the right areas while flattering others.

Charming cocktail dresses and separates hanging delicately in Cettina’s room environment were crowd-pleasers. Designer Concetta Cipriano focuses on classic silhouettes using whimsical, light fabrics for a flowy effect. Her fall collection consists of polyester dresses with a silk sheen that drape elegantly and swiftly. The hidden perk of her pieces: the high-quality synthetic fabrics make for low-maintenance pieces that don’t easily wrinkle. Her work highlighted ornate lace detail, some colorblocking and silks for the spring 2013 collection. Her eye-catching spring ensemble was a sleeveless, white lace dress with a flowy mint skirt on the bottom.


Blazers and jackets by Blake Standard were popular picks. Working with an olive, cream and grey color palette, the outerwear was stylized with fabric snaps over the shoulders and decorative buttons placed on the pieces. The fall line from Zamrie is inspired by president and designer Ashley Zygmunt’s grandparents; she included house coats, big sweaters, wool skirts, shirt dresses, plaid jackets and faux fur vests in the collection.


Shernett Swaby was inspired by architecture and nature to create her collection for Swaby. Her pieces, shown in the Art of Fashion 2012 runway fashion show Friday night, mimicked the movement and shape of leaves. Pants, dresses and a jacket were draped with silk chiffon fabric to create a flowy movement similar to leaves blowing in the breeze.

Most of the fashion displays were geared toward women, but BeMo Hats crossed age and gender borders by creating customized crochet hats for people of all ages. Owner and designer Becky Mocarski’s hats for kids are colorful and have cute felt animal cutouts stitched onto them. With a baby boy on the way, Mocarski knows how to cater to children. Mocarski started selling her handmade hats last February. She uses recycled fabrics, sweaters and discarded leather to construct the hats. Buttons, felt and vintage earrings and pins spruce up the caps to make flowers and customized designs. When people are in a pinch to find the perfect hat to match a coat, Mocarski steps in and coordinates colors, fabrics and patterns that leave customers bundled up and beaming with joy.

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