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

Designers, Events/Exhibitions, Fashion Focus Chicago, Fashion Shows No Comments »

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 »

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 »

Fashion Focus Chicago 2010 Complete Schedule

Fashion Focus Chicago 1 Comment »

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




Fashion Focus Chicago, a celebration of Chicago’s thriving fashion industry, returns for a sixth year in 2010. Running from Monday, October 18 through Sunday, October 24 Fashion Focus Chicago showcases some of the city’s top designers, and features runway shows in Millennium Park and at various locations around the city, shopping events, and industry seminars. To make a reservation for an event or for general information, please visit

This year, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is expanding its partnership with the industry to help market and produce the runway shows taking place in MillenniumPark. Fashion Focus Chicago 2010 is a collaboration with the headlining show producers: Macy’s and the Chicago Fashion Incubator; Mario Tricoci;; and the city’s four fashion design schools: Columbia College Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago, the International Academy of Design & Technology Chicago, and the School of the Art Institute Chicago.

“Fashion in Chicago is evolving and it is exciting to see a wide range of businesses involved with the industry—from a national department store along with a local nonprofit, major beauty brand, the four fashion design schools, and an on-line media outlet—more invested and involved in the City’s efforts to support the local designers and independent boutiques in Chicago,” stated Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Below, please find a full schedule of events taking place Monday, October 18 through Sunday, October 24, 2010. 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

Fashion Capital: Can Chicago’s push to become a style center “make it work”?

Fashion Focus Chicago, News and Dish No Comments »

By Brian Hieggelke

Opening night of the Democratic National Convention, and Michelle Obama is scheduled to speak. Pundits are in a tizzy: will she be able to convince middle America that she’s one of them, that she loves her country, her family and her god enough to earn their votes? By the time she’s finished, even the skeptical have been sold. She’s answered every lingering question except one: where did she get that fabulous dress?

Of course, it was already well-publicized that the would-be future First Lady was a fan of Chicago designer Maria Pinto, and that alone, given the extraordinary national obsession with all things Obama, gave a priceless boost to Chicago’s fashion culture. After all, Obama obviously had the means to buy from just about any designer she wanted; the fact that she chose Pinto as her style muse sent a clear signal that you don’t have to hail from New York to get attention. Not since Oleg Cassini helped shape the Jackie Kennedy style had a designer and (potential) First Lady been so closely connected.

“Contrary to popular belief, Chicagoans are highly attuned with the fashion world.”—Sheri Roney, SoKo Fashion

At the beginning of this month, more than a thousand apparel buyers, designers, media types and all-round fashionistas each day gathered for five nights inside a tent in Millennium Park to watch runway fashion shows that comprised the cornerstone of Chicago’s four-year-old version of fashion week, called Fashion Focus Chicago. Set against the backdrop of unprecedented carnage in global financial markets, the events couldn’t avoid a bit of an “end-of-empire” air—and we’re not talking about the empire waist, which seems to be doing just fine.

Dying economy or not, there’s no denying the excitement that large-scale fashion shows bring, with their bright lights, booming beats and models strutting down runways. Spend nearly a week watching show after show and it’s hard not to feel like something’s happening here. But is it? I decided to ask the question. In addition to a lengthy conversation with Melissa Gamble, the director of fashion arts and events for the city (often described as the mayor’s “fashion czar”), I sent a short email survey to nearly 200 local boutique owners and managers, as well as thirty or so local designers, most of them past winners of the “Fresh Faces in Fashion” designation awarded by GenArt, one of the marquee events during Fashion Focus Chicago. The consensus? Progress has been made, but there is still much to be done. Read the rest of this entry »

A Fashionable Cause

Events/Exhibitions No Comments »

The roster for the Make a Statement: Design for the Cure runway show reads like a who’s who of Chicago design: Lara Miller, Melissa Serpico, Kate Boggiano, Kristin Rosynek Hassan of organiK Revolution and Lydia Wachowska of Evil Kitty are just a few of the designers contributing time and designs to the fashionable fundraiser. For Boggiano, it was an honor to use her talents for a good cause. “It’s great that Chicago is focusing on fashion, but it’s great too that charities are using fashion shows as a way to raise money.”
In its second year, the Make a Statement runway show is the primary event for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s Junior Board, an organization that aims to raise AIDS awareness among 21-35-year-olds (particularly awareness for National Testing Day on June 27). For that young demographic, a style-related event was a perfect fit. “A fashion event is an effective, fun way to bring young people together and educate them on HIV and AIDS,” says Junior Board VP Patrick Marsden. The 2007 event drew more than 200 attendees, and this year’s promises to exceed 300, with VIP tickets long since sold out. Last year, each designer received a similar swatch of red fabric and was asked to create a signature garment. But this year the Board has switched things up, allowing designers to show off designs of their choosing. “You’ll see a really diverse range of styles from even more designers this year, which will allow a more fresh, entertaining show,” Marsden says.
Hosted by Project Runway alum Stephen Rosengard, the show will kick off with a parade of clever AIDS awareness t-shirts, modeled by members of the Junior Board, emblazoned with sayings such as “condoms: for wieners, not wallets” and “AIDS apathy makes your ass look big.” In addition to the local design showcase, guests will also enjoy an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment and can contribute further to the cause via a raffle and silent auction. (Molly Each)

The Make a Statement: Design for the Cure takes place May 8 at Le Passage, 937 North Rush, (312)255-0022. 7pm-10pm. $50 in advance, $60 at the door. Visit for tickets and more information.


--Closed or Closing No Comments »

UPDATE: As of October 2009, Pivot has closed.

1101 W. Fulton Market, (312)243-4754,
Goods: Women’s clothing, bags and jewelry from eco-conscious labels. Designers:  Stewart + Brown and Lara Miller are just a couple of the designers collected for the shop. Owner: Jessa Brinkmeyer left a career in fashion journalism when she saw the quality of material and design in green fashion. Vibe: Even the fixtures in the store are made from recycled materials, but Brinkmeyer refuses to sacrifice design. The “tree-hugger” shop has no problem fitting in with the hip stores and restaurants in the area. Price Range: Moderate. The Look: Most of the clothing falls into the twist-on-a-basic category, which means hipsters, yuppies, hippies and preppies can all find something green to fit their wardrobe. Shopper’s Perks: Brinkmeyer is extremely knowledgeable about fabrics and production, and while entirely unpretentious, she is very willing to explain what makes a piece special.

UPDATED May 2009



-Womenswear, Loop No Comments »

330 S. Dearborn, (312)212-8860, [ratings]

Goods: Clothing and accessories for women; also home goods and stationery. Designers: Dresses and separates from Twinkle by Wenlan, Nougat London, Sita Murt and local designers Lara Miller and Kate Boggiano. Owner: Michael Blossom opened Florodora in the Monadnock Building, where his grandmother worked as an office girl in 1917. He named the store after the famously beautiful chorus girls in “Florodora,” a musical comedy from 1899. Vibe: With silk, tasseled lamps, a red-velvet chaise lounge, floors shellacked in floral paper and a display of sweet-smelling soaps perched in an antique sink, the shop feels like it could be the apartment of a turn-of-the-century temptress. Price Range: Moderate-Expensive. The Look: The clothing selection—defined by silky, touchable fabrics, dainty bits of lace and velvet and fine tailoring—is perfect gear for a modern Florodora girl. Shopper’s Perks: Preferred customers are privy to special discounts. Get discounted alterations on Florodora merchandise at the dry cleaners across the hall.



Studio 808

*New Boutiques No Comments »

It’s a slightly less frigid Saturday afternoon, and I’m on the second floor of a brick Lincoln Park building. Racks of clothing and tables of jewelry are lined neatly around the room, a DJ spins and the small crowd of shoppers is eager to score brand spankin’ new spring pieces or ridiculously marked down samples from designers like Earcandy, Serpico, Lara Miller and Little Black Dress. It’s the very first Ultimate Designer Trunk Show from Studio 808, an online boutique devoted entirely to the creations of Chicago fashion and accessory designers, and as women dash in and out of the fitting rooms with their finds, it’s clear the energy here is full of more passionate excitement than at any chain retailer.

Studio 808 is the brainchild of Erin Creany, a former stylist and rabidly devoted fan of Chicago designers. An East Coast native, Creany wanted to share our emerging talent with friends and clients back home, making access to an Orlando Espinoza dress as simple for a Brooklyn babe as for a Wicker Park gal. The site features three core designers, Espinoza, Miller and Melissa Serpico, while Creany will weave in new names each season. For shoppers the site is designed to make the unique, fashion-forward designs available across the world. But the artists benefit from more than just exposure. “It’s also a testing ground for emerging designers to see what will sell.” Naturally, the Web site of a former stylist is about much more than buying a single piece. The site offers style advice as well as an online stylist, whose expertise can help you craft the perfect head-to-toe look. “There are pieces of Serpicos that will work well with a Lara Miller. So I focus on the whole picture, the whole outfit.”

While Creany plans on hosting quarterly trunk shows (look for the next one in June), her focus in the meantime is on not only bringing Chicago fashion to the masses, but offering an extra boost to designers on the brink. “There’s a definite need for this. Designers need a support system, an umbrella.” (Molly Each)

Visit for more information and a peek at the local talent pool.

Savvy Saturday

Events/Exhibitions No Comments »


Outside Fulton Market warehouse-studio Brickermade, spiny high heels totter along the gray, crumbled sidewalk strips. Girlish chatter bounces off the ordinarily spare, industrial soundscape. It’s a balmy Saturday afternoon with illusions of spring and the renegade sample sale dubbed “Savvy Shopper Approved” has ushered in a throng of shiny-haired, shrewd shoppers—thanks to price cuts on local and national threads. Balloons affixed to a small sign outside and notebook paper tacked on the studio door with hand-scrawled, red frenetic font (“SAMPLE SALE!”) lend to the air of excitement.

As I enter, I’m hit with the peaceful buzz of collective concentration and the delicate sound of hangers sliding leisurely along metal rails. While the sample sale concept is at the crux of coastal high-end fashion, Chicago doesn’t get much of the action; unfortunate, as these dramatically discounted showcases of extraneous merchandise (often including overstock and canceled store orders) are a godsend for the glamorous pragmatist. Luckily, organizer Janice Moskoff, owner of Beta Boutique, has big plans. “By fall next year, we’re thinking once a month,” she says. “We love the West Loop, but it depends on the space that’s available.”

Her enthusiasm is infectious: designer Lara Miller, a quiet forerunner of eco-friendly design since 2002, is on-hand at the sale, demonstrating the versatility of her organic dyed linens. As a handful of slinky women stand spellbound, Miller whips a sweater over her head for a mod, hooded look and then transforms it into a deep-cowl-neck top. “It’s more about a person’s body,” instructs Miller, as a creamy, key-hole-neck dress (priced down to $130 from $220) magically morphs into a low-backed turtleneck. A woman ogling Eskell’s silken blouses finally settles on a powdery gray one, speckled with tiny earth-toned birds (in the $100s from $373), while another seems relieved to find a gold-threaded dress from New York designer Maya for under a Franklin. Yes, options are limited, the sizes small (most run between three-to-five) and the prices still, well, pricey. But for some good, clean fun and reckless discounts, Savvy Shopper Approved is on point. (Libby Ramer)

Check for information on upcoming sample sales.