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

Designers, Events/Exhibitions, Fashion Focus Chicago No 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. Read the rest of this entry »

Still in Style: On the eve of its big week, what’s the present and future state of Chicago fashion?

Fashion Focus Chicago, News and Dish No Comments »

By Nicole Briese

Monday marks the beginning of local fashion mavens’ favorite time of the year: Fashion Focus Chicago. While the Second City’s version of fashion week may not boast the allure of similarly dedicated weeks in New York, Paris or Milan, Chicago’s efforts to bring fashion to the forefront of the community have definitely become a highlight in recent years. Exciting shows from known and up-and-coming designers alike combined with shopping events and seminars designed to celebrate the industry have given us something to look forward to mid-October for the last five years running.

But changes wrought by the economy and even bigger uncertainty about the city’s future political lineup beg the question: what will become of Chicago’s fashion scene? With the demise of Gen Art in May, along with the city’s well-publicized economic woes, rumors started circulating that Fashion Focus Chicago might not even take place this year. After all, Gen Art sponsored one of the event’s most anticipated shows with Fresh Faces in Fashion Chicago; who would be there to take their place in the lineup? The rumor mill churned again when Chicago’s first and only director of Fashion Arts & Events, Melissa Gamble stepped down not long after. But the city’s fashion imperative has been a pet project of Mayor Daley, so when he surprised everyone by announcing that his current term, ending in 2011, would be his last, questions about the future came into stark relief. And what about the loss of some of the city’s most renowned names in retail and design? The doors to high-profile gems like Maria Pinto, Ultimo and Jake began to close as economic casualties in the last year, leaving in their wake the question: was Chicago’s nascent fashion industry fashion doomed before it could ever reach its full potential? Read the rest of this entry »

In Stitches

News and Dish No Comments »

Lara Miller spring looks. Photo by Helen Berkun.

Kristen Amato designs delicate gold leaves and filigree drop earrings. After quickly establishing a client base, she focused on expansion. Enter Stitches Fashion Program. “After attending one of their events last year, I approached them for the matching grant they offer to fashion designers and boutique owners,” she says. With their funding assistance, she launched a marketing campaign for her company, K. Amato. “My business was able to grow about ten percent over a four-month period.”

Jason Felger, founder and Executive Vice President of Stitches Fashion Program, was a finance expert with a University of Chicago MBA when he fell into the fashion world. “It was never intentional. I had raised capital for awhile, but I had never paid too much attention to the fashion industry,” he says. “Then I was introduced to a local designer six years ago.” Felger helped him raise money, and learned that designers had creative talent but often lacked business know-how. He mentored several other designers and then decided to package his concept.

In 2007, Felger created Stitches Fashion Program with a goal of providing financial assistance and strategic guidance to Chicago fashion entrepreneurs. He built his business and credibility by interacting with design schools and the community. His clients include SAIC graduate and dress designer Lara Miller, eco-fashion boutique owner Jessalyn Brinkmeyer and jewelry creator Kristen Amato. Felger says, “We don’t recommend what color design to use for ’09, or what gemstones to select for jewelry designing. We look at, what we can do to help them with the business.”

K. Amato jewelry

K. Amato jewelry

Stitches Fashion Program is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, with private and public funding. The company offers a variety of free services. Pro bono mentoring can be one-on-one or peer group. The Fashion First Steps Packet provides financial, legal, marketing and branding advice. Complimentary seminars attract fifty attendees per session, and cover topics such as trademark protection and overseas fabric purchase considerations. Consumer outreach includes runway shows and Hard Rock Café events that showcase creations by Chicago designers.

Felger believes this is an exciting time for Chicago fashion. Maria Pinto, designer of Michelle Obama’s convention-night dress, hails from here. Lara Miller “is doing some exciting and provocative things.” Amato’s jewelry is “very beautiful, very elegant, not couture pricing.” Felger’s dream is that all emerging Chicago designers develop sound business practices. He says, “No matter what, you are in business to make money. If you weren’t, you could sit at home and design clothes for fun.” (Sarah Klose)

Stitches Fashion Program, (312)494-6772

Ms. Catwalk

-Womenswear, Bucktown No Comments »

2042 N. Damen, (773)235-2750, [ratings]
Goods: Clothing and accessories for women. Designers: Jewelry by K. Amato, dresses by Genevieve Cruz, knits by 525 America, clothing by Hazel, Tulle, Sugar Lips and 1921 Jeans. Owner: Michon Stuttley, who worked as a stylist and probation officer before opening her cute-as-candy boutique. Vibe: Peppy decor (walls are striped in pink, blue and chocolate) and an extremely friendly sales staff make this the pre-party place to shop. Price Range: Inexpensive-Moderate. The Look: This shopper wears clothing meant to sparkle in the light of a disco ball. She accessorizes with a martini glass and flirts freely.

Ms. Catwalk