Lights, Camera, Fashion: Taking Note of the Art of Fashion Show

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Michael Alan Stein/Photo: Courtesy of (photographer: Don Marshall)

By Alexandra Delaney

Spotted on Randolph Street: sparkles, sequins and fluffy fur shawls. The glamorous getups weren’t costumes for Halloween, but fashion-fascinated Chicagoans sure got a treat as they gathered at Millennium Park’s Chase Promenade for the Art of Fashion show. The fashion show was one of many events throughout the week as part of Fashion Focus Chicago.

The dark autumn night was offset by a soft red glow peeking through the plastic walls of the white tent. The scene was sleek: soft white couches, tall white tables just the right height to hold a cocktail, and sparkling red lights. The attendees were a group as mixed in age as they were in garb—zebra print jeans to black glittery dresses to patterned denim pants—but they were all unified by their interest in fashion.

Despite the drizzle, the atmosphere under the big white tent was sizzling during the runway fashion show as ten Chicago designers showed pieces from their Spring 2013 collections.  The featured designers included Barbara Bates, Borris Powell, Eva Pazola, Lara Miller, Michael Alan Stein, Michelle Tan, Nade Baer, RÜCH (Ruchika Singh), SHALINI (Shalini Sharma) and SWABY (Shernett Swaby). Read the rest of this entry »

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

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

Geek and Chic: How Wanda Cobar Costumes for a Stage Where Less Is More

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Wanda Cobar

By Francesca Thompson

Last basketball season, local Chicago designer Wanda Cobar was part of a collaborative design effort to create oversized Bulls jerseys for the lions outside the Art Institute. The idea was that the lions would wear the jerseys when the Bulls won the championship, looking stately yet sporty in the midst of the inevitable celebration. Needless to say, the jerseys went unworn, stashed in someone’s studio closet, sad and abandoned.

Almost a year later, however, Wanda is getting more of a return on her designing efforts, even if her costumes are made solely for stripping off. Currently she is designing costumes for “El Mari Chi Chi,” a burlesque theater production directed by Jonald Reyes, to be performed at the Gorilla Tango theatre in Bucktown. Gorilla Tango—the “Geek Girl Burlesque”—is known for adapting nerdy material into burlesque shows, making for a show that’s both sexy and hilarious. Read the rest of this entry »

Fashion Focus Chicago 2011 Complete Schedule

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Here’s the press release from the city with the complete FFC schedule for this fall.



Final schedule of events for the seventh annual celebration of Chicago’s fashion industry

Fashion Focus Chicago, a week-long celebration of Chicago’s thriving fashion industry taking place Monday, October 17 through Sunday, October 23, showcases some of the city’s top designers and features runway shows in Millennium Park and at various locations around the city, plus a variety of free and affordable shopping and designer events and industry happenings. The week’s activities are coordinated and directed by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture (COTC) in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Read the rest of this entry »

New Wings: Haji Couture Soars Again with Feather Jewelry

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By Sarah Alo

It’s hard to walk into any store lately and not see something with feathers. The trend has lasted for more years than expected, trickling from haute couture down to the lowest prices at chain accessories shops. One of the designers at the heart of the trend in Chicago is jewelry designer Aya-Nikole Cook of her brand Haji Couture. Since 2007, Cook has been crafting works of art to adorn women’s ears with feather jewelry. After a rocket to success at the beginning, she’s on hiatus for the past year, hardly stocking in-store and closing her Etsy site. This summer, however, she’s working on a comeback and an answer to the fake feather takeover. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordana Rasic Rising: Portrait of the designer as a young student

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Gordana Rasic/Photo: Gino Baileau

By Sarah Alo

Gordana Rasic is a woman of contrast. She is a premed student with a double major in molecular & cellular biology and anthropology, and minors in chemistry and LGBT queer studies. She holds staff positions in cultural and fashion clubs and works a job shadowing medical students. And in her spare time, she designs her autumn/winter collection of women’s clothing and promotes her spring/summer line in Chicago. She is the head designer of Goca Designs, the fashion line she founded in November 2010 at the age of 20.

Rasic says she enjoys medicine and fashion for a common reason: She likes solving puzzles. When using critical analysis for diagnosis in the medical field or for any area of science, there is a puzzle present. “When I’m sewing, I refuse to use patterns,” Rasic says. To her, the material is one big puzzle.

Rasic is self-taught, but has always been involved in a wide range of the arts, from painting to acting, from singing to dancing. “The whole realm of the art world is a passion of mine,” Rasic says. It was not until her sophomore year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she will be a senior this fall, that she decided she wanted to make things that were both in fashion and affordable.

More importantly, however, Rasic’s clothing has meaning. She says many designers these days design for aesthetics, while she and a few others design for artistic integrity and unveil a message.

Her spring/summer collection features bright colors and inspirations from Nabokov’s “Lolita”—the cuts originate from children’s clothing but are adapted for a woman’s style. “My key message was that as we all entered adulthood, we had to put our imaginations on the backburner,” she says. “The collection overall shows the progression from day to night looks, but conveys the message that despite the location, time or personality, we are all capable of preserving our imagination, and finally, embodying it. Read the rest of this entry »

By Design: A RAW night in the city

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As much of Chicago sleeps on a Thursday night, Vertigo Sky Lounge is abuzz. High above the city, its inhabitants are paradoxically “digging the underground.” RAW Natural Born Artists, an independent country-wide arts organization that selects and provides a platform for independent creatives, is holding one of its grassroots showcases, one of seventeen such events held around the country each month to spotlight new talent.

A DJ spins in a buzzing corner of the room. Photographs, drawings and paintings cover the glass walls, and the crowd, well-dressed friends of the artists and guests from Art Chicago, appear to be suspended above the city lights. A little after 10pm, the crowd is asked to part and form a path for the upcoming fashion show. Ariya Sasaki, a University of Chicago student in the Geographical Studies department, is about to debut her Spring/ Summer Collection, which will include t-shirts that she has designed for Japan Relief—she was born in Kyoto and raised in Berkeley. “This collection is very much inspired by what is happening in Japan—thinking about global energy and being more conscious of how fabric and textiles are constructed,” she’d said over coffee earlier. “I am writing my B.A paper on fair-trade fashion.” Sasaki is also the co-founder and director of JAPAN Relief and Rebuild committee, and found her fashion feet in MODA (the UofC’s fashion organization), where she is artistic director.

It was at their annual fashion show in the Cultural Center that Sasaki’s designs were first spotted by RAW. “I was so surprised [that they chose me]. I feel like Chicago has so many art students and people who actually study fashion,” she says. “All my models are U of C students and U of C grads. I think it’s really great that I’m able to involve so many people who wouldn’t necessarily be part of the fashion world.” (Lauren Kelly-Jones)

411: The Fashion Cycle

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Mr. P.W. Farthing is the mustachioed face of ShyCog Co., an up-and-coming apparel company, and he wants you to ride your bike. As spring awakens, Chicago cyclists need a little motivation to tune up their wheels, dust off their helmet, and hit the streets. To these folks, Mr. Farthing has a message: “Live Fearless, Ride Serious.”

ShyCog Co. was “born out of inspiration of being a cyclist here in Chicago,” explains creator and designer Justin Siddons. A decade-long Chicagoan, much of Siddons’ adoration for the city stems from a passion for year-round urban cycling. Siddons says enthusiasm for the sport resulted in an “interest in the bike as a center image” of apparel design. ShyCog Co’s designs are “heavily influenced by the Industrial Age of Chicago,” Siddons says, taking inspiration from early 1900s cycling advertisements and historical photographs of the city.  Decals and cotton tee shirts can be purchased through the website, with free shipping as a grand-opening special. Siddons plans to expand the apparel line with additions such as cycling caps and button up shirts. (Tiana Olewnick)

By Design: Dottie’s Delights

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Stephanie Kuhr’s designs stand out amongst her peers in the Chicago Fashion Incubator–for starters, the 27 year-old Oak Park-native’s line, Dottie’s Delights, is a little… smaller.

“I’ve always had a love for vintage clothes and old, tiny stuff,” Kuhr says. Shying away from apparel, Kuhr decided to stick to the garments that drew her to an older era of dress in the first place. “The thing I’ve always loved best [were] those old bustiers and girdles,” she says.

And so a boudoir collection was born. Named after Kuhr’s grandmother, Dorothy, the collection mirrors its namesake’s personality: “she’s very sweet…and put together, [then] will say something completely random out of nowhere.” With cotton-candy colors, lace inserts, structured seams and surprising details, the pinup-girl pieces follow suit. “It’s like her super-ultra-feminine alter ego.” Read the rest of this entry »

By Design: Miriam Cecilia Carlson

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"Dew" by Miriam Cecilia Carlson

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for designer Miriam Cecilia Carlson. Two weeks ago, the Chicago Fashion Incubator resident walked the red carpet at Macy’s Passport Presents Glamorama 2010—she designed one of the event’s Office Max supply dresses, using only leather notebooks, brass facets and a zipper. Last week, she was named “The Next Big Thing” by Michigan Avenue magazine. The buzz around the blonde fashionista has been generating for a while, and it only seems to be getting louder.

Getting her start as early as age three, it’s been a long time coming. “I’ve always been scribbling [and] drawing,” Carlson says. The young designer learned to sew before she was even out of diapers, and she honed her artistic abilities in art classes at age six. It wasn’t until later, however, that Carlson decided to turn her hobby into a career. “I never actually said, ‘I want to be a designer.’ It kind of terrified me. It was a big statement to make and to see it follow through.” Read the rest of this entry »