Open for Business: Cerato Boutique

*New Boutiques, -Womenswear, Lakeview 1 Comment »

Photo: Kevin Dick

It’s a week after opening, and Cerato owner Tracey Glibowski is reordering Kristin Hassan’s drapey asymmetrical “Flow” tanks; a lone Jlee Silver maxidress—equal parts Hamptons and Mt. Olympus—hangs in the corner, the last in-stock representative of its kind. In other words, it’s been a pretty good first week at the new Southport women’s clothing boutique, which is dedicated to showcasing primarily local designers.

The store is clearly a labor of love for Glibowski, a former advertising exec whose recent layoff inspired her to turn her passion for fashion into a career. Surveying the store, a spartan-but-not-sterile space with exposed brick and country-chic blue wallpaper, she seems a little bit amazed at how well things have turned out. After all, Glibowski started with a concept but no insider knowledge of the Chicago fashion scene—she says she discovered many of the designers she features by trolling the internet. So far, though, she seems thrilled with the results.

“It’s a partnership,” she says of her designers. “I hope they’re in it for the long haul.” Which doesn’t mean she’s stopped combing the city for new talent—in time, she’s definitely looking to add new names to her roster, which currently includes Kate Boggiano, Eskell, Anna Fong, frei designs, jules, Avery Layne, Horacio Nieto, and Shorty Clothing, along with Hassan, Silver and a handful of out-of-town imports. Read the rest of this entry »

Open for Business: Verse Chicago

*New Boutiques, Bucktown No Comments »

img_2476With a new year, a new president and a new era on the horizon, there’s never been a greater time for change—just ask Verse Chicago owner Kortnee Doss. Inhabiting the space formerly known as Via Firenzi, Doss greeted 2009 with a moniker switch, a complete remodeling and open arms.

Taking over the Eurocentric Wicker Park boutique in July 2008, Doss had her work cut out for her. Plagued by very red and “very dated” walls and decor, Doss called upon her fiancé and interior designer, Ruben Quiza, for help. Less than six months later, the place was hardly recognizable. “He did everything,” she gushes. Ripping up the carpet to expose the hardwood floor and painting over the red with more subtle blacks and whites, Doss and Quiza opened up her space with lighter colors and fewer walls. But the changes didn’t stop there.

Infusing the shoe-heavy stock with more apparel and accessories, Doss has revamped both the focus and the concept of the store. Channeling what she calls a “Portobello market,” she has combined a collection of modern indie, quality-driven labels like Bill Tornade and Terra Plana with great vintage pieces from brands like Rockett Mansion. “What we had to do is kind of dissociate ourselves from the other store,” she says.

Accordingly, Doss had to revise more than her stock. She’s also been striving to improve the store’s image by making a positive name for herself and Verse in the local community. Featuring up-and-coming Chicago designers like Anna Fong on Thursday nights, Doss has implemented a weekly showcase to help local fashion. She also has plans in the works for a Fair Trade deal through the Peace Corp that would offer ladies trendy handmade items, like long socks. “Girls like those,” she says. She would know—she’s somewhat of a fashion expert. With both British and American degrees in fashion design and marketing, Doss has worked for big names like Guess, Gap and even Mr. “Project Runway” himself, Christian Siriano. “He’d come in and be like, nuh-uh, that does not go together,” she recalls.

Now taking the opportunity to “spread her wings and fly” on her own, Doss and Verse are still in transition. Unable to completely evade the economically driven retail recession, she has at least put her spare time to good use. Together with intern Justin White, Doss delves into every aspect of fashion in store downtime, from who they’d like to dress to what tights and boots would look good with a new item. “We’re like style incubating over here!” she jokes. “That’s what we love to do.” (Nicole Briese)

Verse Chicago, 1821 West North, (773)486-4434

The New Look

Designers, Fashion Focus Chicago 2 Comments »

Every year, dozens and dozens of designers show at Fashion Focus Chicago, many for the first time. Here are a few, beyond Maria Pinto of course, who seemed especially buzzworthy this year.

Shorty Clothing
Shorty bookended the week, opening with GenArt’s Fresh Faces in Fashion and closing out by winning Macy’s Distinction in Design competition.

5p1t’s on a roll of its own, starting with recognition by Fashion Group International as a Chicago Rising Star, followed by an appearance in the venerable “Chicago is Red Hot” show and capped by an appearance at Fashion Focus in Macy’s Designers of Chicago show.

Abigail Glaum-Lathbury
Glaum-Lathbury was one of the few designers repeating an appearance from last year (when she was a GenArt Fresh Face), with her show as part of the Allure of Couture evening.

Agga B
Agga B was one of four local designers sponsored by Toyota to develop work inspired by its i-REAL concept; she also showed as one of the inaugural designers in the Chicago Fashion Incubator project housed at Macy’s.

Anna Fong
Another Toyota i-REAL designer, Fong showed during the Macy’s Designers of Chicago show; she’s been picked up to be sold at Macy’s this fall.
—Brian Hieggelke

Fashion Focus Chicago: World Fashion Chicago

Fashion Focus Chicago, Fashion Shows No Comments »

World Fashion Chicago, an event designed to showcase the city’s Sister Cities program (October 2), oozed with admirable ambition. Chicago has twenty-seven official “sister cities,” including the style meccas of Paris and Milan, so why not have a show that conveys the global nature of fashion, and Chicago’s place within?

Unfortunately, the project was far too overwhelming to properly execute. Some cities were represented by Chicago designers who created looks drawing inspiration from a particular city, sometimes subtly, sometimes like costumes for a B movie. On the other hand, some Chicago designers simply represented their ethnic backgrounds by showing from their general collections. Six designers actually brought their designs from their far-flung cities, ranging from Amman, Jordan to Casablanca, Morocco. And in a few cases, models wore clothes from international designers who needed little exposure, like Escada and Dolce & Gabbana. Needless to say, the range and styles were literally all over the map.

The resulting show was a cacophonous hoot of excess without cohesion. Several cities, inexplicably, were even represented by multiple designers. Add to that the “commercial” presentation of looks designed by talented Chicago comers Agga B, Melissa Serpico, Evil Kitty and Anna Fong for Toyota’s “space-age” I-Real project, and you had a show that would defy anyone trying to actually take anything actionable (i.e., to buy the clothes or learn more about a designer) away from the runway. And we didn’t even mention that “Project Runway” contestant Steven Rosengard showed up to represent Hamburg, Germany. Eventually, we put our pens away and just enjoyed the show. (Brian Hieggelke)

Chicago Latino Fashion Week 2008

Events/Exhibitions No Comments »

October 27-November 2

Just when you thought fashion week was over, here are the goods on Chicago Latino Fashion Week, coming up at the end of the month. As is our custom, we present it in their own words, with all their hyperbole fully intact. Proceed accordingly.

For event and ticketing information, please visit

MONDAY, OPENING NIGHT: Latino Hair Production Platform Showcase (Show/Competition/Club Event) Chicago Latino Fashion Week 2008 will officially launch on Monday, October 27 at The Latino Hair Production Platform Showcase with host Nina Chantele (KISS-FM), held at Religion Night Club (720 N. Wells Street). This juried competition will challenge top Latino cosmetologists and stylists from Chicago on their skills at dramatic hair design and make-up artistry. The panel of judges will include local celebrities and industry experts. Doors open at 6pm, 7pm-8:30pm hosted cocktail reception by Diageo, competition begins at 9pm; Ticket price: $25.

TUESDAY: Stepping into the Spotlight, Student Designer Showcase (Show/Competition) Students from Chicago design schools will step onto the stage on Tuesday, October 28 to win the title of top Latino student designer as determined by a panel of celebrity and industry judges. Part of the Chicago Latino Fashion Week student designer competition, this exciting evening featuring four designs from each student finalist will give you a glance into fashion future! Held at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts (777 N. Green Street), doors open at 6pm, presentation at 7pm; FREE event. Official After-party at Salsa Lounge Tuesday, Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland Avenue). No cover before 10pm.

WEDNESDAY: Rising Stars of Fashion (Show/Club Event)
AOL Latino and UNSCENE Magazine play host on Wednesday, October 29 as we showcase the designs of Chicago’s rising stars of fashion design including Susi Garcia and Freddie Rocha. A hip and sleek fashion show in the cool club setting of Crobar Nightclub (1543 N Kingsbury Street) will feature top
trends in designer prêt-à-porter. Doors open at 6pm, 6pm–9pm cocktail reception by Crobar Nightclub and Diageo, show starts at 9pm; FREE event.

THURSDAY: San Juan Fashion Group Show (Show/Club Event) The tropical heat of San Juan comes to Chicago as we present the design vision of some of the most recognized fashion designers from Puerto Rico on Thursday, October 30 at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts (777 N. Green Street). Featured designers will include Felix Poll, Stella Nolasco and Tommy Hernandez. Doors open at 6pm, 6pm–7:30pm cocktail reception by Diageo, presentation at 7:45pm; Ticket price: $40. A portion of the proceeds to benefit MANA of Illinois. Official After-party at Tropical Thursdays, Excalibur Nightclub (632 N. Dearborn) hosted by Lisa La Boricua.

FRIDAY: Cinema Masquerade Ball (Club Event) Friday, October 31 marks the date for the most fashionable Halloween party in the city! Featuring theatrical masks and costumes with a cinema theme, event goers are highly encouraged to dress in their best masquerade attire. Silvia Perez (ABC7) to host. Doors open at 8PM at Club Mannequin (306 N. Halsted), 8pm–10pm cocktail reception by Diageo; Ticket Price: $35 individual, $60 couple.

SATURDAY: International Showcase (Show/Club Event) Top designers from across Latin America will join on one stage to showcase their new collections in Chicago on Saturday, November 1. Join host Tsi-tsi-ki Félix (Telemundo Chicago) as the fashions from Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, and Argentina shine in the impressive ambiance of Alhambra Palace (1240 W. Randolph). Doors open at 6pm, 7pm–9pm cocktail reception by Diageo, fashion show at 9:15pm; Ticket price: $40/VIP $60. A portion of the proceeds to benefit Mujeres Latinas en Acción.

SUNDAY, CLOSING NIGHT: “El Fin” Grand Finale (Show/VIP After-party) Chicago Latino designers will debut their Spring 2009 collections and couture design inspired by their favorite Hollywood Screen Icons including Rita Hayworth, Maria Felix, Dolores Del Rio, Rita Moreno, and Linda Carter during the grand finale show, Sunday, November 2 at the Drake Hotel (140 E. Walton Place). Doors will open at 11am where guests can visit the vendor showcase featuring jewelry, apparel, beauty products and much more! Silvia Perez (ABC7) will open the fashion show at 1pm with featured designers James de Colón, Louis Verdad, Orlando Espinoza, Anna Fong, Elda de la Rosa, Carol Pineiro and Horacio Nieto. Confirmed celebrity guests include legendary actress and tribute icon Rita Moreno, actor Freddy Rodriguez, celebrity stylist Samy, and model Jaslene Gonzalez. A portion of the proceeds to benefit the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago and the 25th Anniversary of the Chicago Latino Film Festival. The VIP After-Party is presented by Macy’s Department Stores, 4pm-6pm at Macy’s on State Street (111 N. State Street). Ticket Price: $75 Show only, $100 Show and VIP After-Party. For a sneak peek of some of the fashion from our Chicago designers, be sure to visit the Chicago Latino Fashion Week exhibit in Macy’s on State Street—available October 20 through November 2.

Designer Spotlight: Anna Fong

Designers No Comments »

Skirt by Anna FongLine: Anna Fong

Background: Fong studied Fashion Design at Columbia College Chicago, and after a stint with Chaps Ralph Lauren in New York, she moved back to her hometown of Chicago to start her own line. In 2007, Fong (who is of Guatemalan and Chinese decent) won the 2007 AOL Latino Fashionista award, and was named a “rising star” by Fashion Group International.

The pieces: Classic clothing with modern details. Fong combines colors and neutrals, and her silhouettes elegantly hug a woman’s curves yet allow for plenty of movement.

Designer Inspirations: Carolina Herrera, Alexander McQueen, Elie Saab, Sonia Rykiel, Berardi, Chanel.

Chicago inspirations: “Fall in Chicago inspires me. I love the change of season and the smell of autumn in the brisk air. It makes me visualize stylishly layered garments in a mild winter setting.”

On being a designer in Chicago: “It’s definitely a competitive and challenging career choice. Chicago is giving local designers exposure, networking opportunities and workshops for designers to learn more about the business. On the other hand, we lack resources in regards to fabric suppliers, contractors and showrooms.”

What to look for: Keep your eyes peeled for Fong’s creation on the pages of glossy magazines. Celebrities have latched on to her collection, as Kimora Lee Simmons, Nadine Velazquez and former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres have donned her designs. Check out her Fall ’08 trunk show at Malabar on October 11.

Where to find Anna Fong: Macy’s State Street. Also watch for her Web site launch at

Verse Chicago

-Mens Shoes, -Menswear, -Women's Shoes, -Womenswear, Bucktown No Comments »

UPDATE: As of October 2009, Verse Chicago has closed, with plans to reopen in the West Loop in the spring of 2010.

1821 W. North, (773)486-4434, [ratings]
Goods: Men’s and women’s clothing and shoes. Designers: Ginger Goff, Martinez Valero and Via Uno for shoes; and Anna Fong, Bill Tornade, Vintage and Something Else by Natalie Wood for clothing. Owner: Having recently taken over the store, new owner Kortnee Doss has big plans for the store. Vibe: Doss remodeled the boutique with a more polished look of dark wood, a black-and-white palate and old family photos. Price Range: Moderate. The Look: European. A travel-savvy shopper whose wardrobe boasts bits from Spain, London, Europe, Sweden and France . Shopper’s Perks: New designers are encouraged to showcase their work every Thursday night from 5pm to 7pm. Doss also has deals in the works for a Fair Trade program with the Peace Corps.

Via Firenzi/Verse Chicago

UPDATED May 2009

Fashion Fiesta

Designers, Events/Exhibitions No Comments »

It all started with the Michigan Avenue dress forms. Cesar Rolon was interested in purchasing one of the garden-inspired, student-designed frocks displayed along the Magnificent Mile. But when it came time to buy, he hit a dead end. “I specifically requested that I have a Latino student designer, and I was told that they couldn’t find one,” Rolon says. “I thought, ‘What are you talking about?’ There are three schools involved.”

Aware of the active and talented pool of local Latino designers, Rolon went in search of our city’s Latino-designed fashion, only to come up empty-handed. He found that just one department store (Macy’s) carries only one local Latino designer (Orlando Espinoza), while a search of neighborhood boutiques was equally as grim. So he hit the ground running. He contacted local Hispanic-owned retailers, Latino designers and those in the style community and in just over a month Rolon had organized the first-ever Chicago Latino Fashion Week, where our city’s most stylish Hispanic talent will get a chance to shine. Designers such as Ximena Valero, James De Colon, Orlando Espinoza and AOL Fashionista winner Anna Fong will showcase their pieces at trunk shows, cocktail receptions and a runway show at Galleria Marchetti. Each night features a swank shindig celebrating Latino fashion, and there will even be several celebrities making their way around the stylish circuit including model (and Humboldt Park native) Jaslene Gonzalez, former Ms. Universe Cynthia Olavarria and Nadine Velazquez from “My Name is Earl.”

With seven days of shows, events and parties, Latino Fashion Week is shaping up to have an unforgettable inaugural year. But Rolon is anticipating more than just a good time. “I’m really hoping that an awareness will come out of this,” Rolon says. “Latinos do shop on Michigan Avenue and State Street, we do have Latino designers.” But his ultimate goal runs much deeper. “We want to provide an anchor and a supportive arm for our designers and students here in Chicago,” he says. And if Rolon can build this foundation, Chicago Latino Fashion Week will undoubtedly be a hit for years to come. (Molly Each)

Chicago’s first Latino Fashion Week runs from October 29-November 4. Find out about event locations and times at