Chicago Looks: American Geisha

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Fashion instructor Kylee Alexander was working backstage at the Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, where her eight-to-fourteen-year-old students were about to model the garments they designed and constructed themselves.

What was it like to help all these girls create their own garments?
A ten-year-old has no need for the rules of fashion. They believe in impossible designs, which made it really exciting to help them create original garments. It was their thrill of making something funky and painstaking that reminded me why I fell in love with fashion.

How did you get involved with fashion yourself? 
I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for creative writing, but the fashion program is so conceptual and experimental that I couldn’t reject the opportunity to make things that didn’t have to be functional or approachable. It led me to define my own sense of fashion.
What do you think fashion has to offer to our society?
Fashion is such a great suggestion of identity. I cannot wait to see what options designers will give to women as ways of exploring themselves.

I see a bit of a Japanese influence in your look. Can you tell me a bit more about your current style? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I love that Truman Capote called Holly Golightly an “American geisha.” My style is about the relationship between high and low. A vintage kimono paired with Prada sandals—that’s me. There is so much beauty in the past: retro showgirls, Frida Kahlo, Playboy’s first bunnies…their fashion transcends time and that is what inspires me.

Interview and photo by Isa Giallorenzo

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