Open for Business: Atelier

*New Boutiques, -Menswear, -Vintage, -Womenswear, Near North No Comments »

Go gallery-hopping, buy beautiful clothes, then sip a glass of bubbly and nibble on dessert. Art and fashion at Atelier, then food and wine at Prosecco. “Now we have a one-two punch,” says Kathryn Alvera, co-owner of both Atelier and Prosecco, although it’s really more of a one-two-three-four punch.

Walking into Atelier is like stepping into the closet of a mature but hip art collector/clotheshorse: paintings, photographs and antiques coat the velvet walls and wooden countertops. The clothing is well-organized and dense, but there’s certainly a lot of it (for both men and women), and it ranges from cheap (I eyed a thrifted $10 C&C tank) to bank-breaking (vintage Lanvin, Chanel and Stella McCartney).

Atelier will also be working with legendary tailoring house Cesare Attolini to design custom suits. Alvera says “It’s something of a coup” that the prestigious Neapolitan suit-makers are partnering with her boutique, which opened in April, but she’s convinced the exquisite suits, with prices reaching far upwards of $4,000, will find a niche among sartorial Chicagoans. Read the rest of this entry »

Fashion frenzy: Comme des Garçons comes (and goes) to H&M

News and Dish No Comments »


Thursday morning 4:30am and the diehard fans have already set up camp. Four-and-a-half hours later, a line of nearly a hundred stretches halfway down the block, then rushes through the open glass doors at 840 North Michigan Avenue. The occasion? The release of Comme des Garçons at H&M. The collaboration between H&M and Rei Kawakubo, head designer at Comme des Garçons, is the most cutting-edge diffusion line to emerge yet from the international retailer. The series of H&M designer collaborations offers exclusive labels at affordable price points, luring label devotees as well as a younger generation of fashion-savvy shoppers. Past designer lines like Roberto Cavalli and Stella McCartney each sold out in minutes.

IMG_0904.JPGThe mood is gleeful and good-spirited despite the mayhem that ensues as the store’s doors open. Running to a cramped square area in the middle of the store, shoppers grab indiscriminately at the limited quantity of garments in the Comme des Garçons line. “It was just grab now, figure it out later,” says Lisanne Dickson, who had arrived at 7am. “I’ve been a fan of the line for six or so years now,” she adds, “and I am used to paying higher prices for Comme des Garcons so this is great. ” Echoing her sentiment is shopper Vanessa Vitale. “I grabbed whatever I could,” Vitale confides. “It was elbows out; people were crawling all over. ”  Local fashion designers Chris and Shane (who decline to give last names) describe the event as “good fun.” Shane says, “I got exactly what I wanted,” holding up a shopping bag that contains two pairs of shoes and a blazer.

IMG_0916.JPGKawakubo is known for pushing fashion boundaries, but Comme des Garçons for H&M is relatively tame. Most articles are straightforward, such as the polka-dot button-down shirts, wool trench coats, crisp blazers and, a huge favorite, the black riding coat with tails. The most puzzling and conceptual piece is a pair of pants with a dangling crotch that reaches the knees. Kawakubo’s craftsmanship and touch came through in the garments’ visibly tailored fits, quirky hemlines and quality fabrics, all of which hint that these are no ordinary H&M pieces.

IMG_0924.JPGBy 9:20am the collection has been thoroughly picked over and a few lonely shirts hang on a rack. The crowd disperses, leaving neither trace of the chaotic scene that occurred only minutes earlier, nor of Kawakubo’s coveted designs. But given the massive successes H&M has seen with diffusion lines, it’s a safe bet that there will be more to come. Meanwhile, Target is teaming up with indie darling Thakoon; that collection will be released in December. (Kari Skaflen)

A Posh Preview: Nordstrom shows its fall colors

*The Nationals, Events/Exhibitions No Comments »

On an average evening, as dusk settles in across the city, the Chicago History Museum closes its doors to field-trip groups, history buffs and curious tourists, and lies dormant for the night before welcoming them all back again in the morning. But on a recent Tuesday night the museum was the most bustling place in Lincoln Park, brightly lit and swarming with valets as rows of well-dressed folk made their way into the building. On this night, the museum was filled with Louboutains, mini dresses and champagne flutes, as industry members, Nordstrom regulars, press, socialites and fashion-philes gathered together to gear up for cool weather at the Nordstrom Designer Preview fashion show.

The annual event marks the first opportunity to view the new fall collections, which hit the floor at Nordstrom the very next day. Upon arrival, guests sipped cocktails and Veuve, dug into a sushi-filled buffet dinner and chatted excitedly before being whisked into an adjoining tent for the big presentation. The show, divided into eleven different “scenes,” featured collections from a variety of fashion’s heavy hitters: Burberry Prorsum, Peter Som, Nina Ricci, Missoni, Andrew Gn, Marc Jacobs, Tuleh, Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, Marni and Oscar de la Renta. Strutting out to thumping music amidst lightly colored lighting, the models (donning million-inch high heels from designers like Prada, Lanvin and Jimmy Choo) showed the crowd exactly what’s hot for this fall. Mod silhouettes, 1950s-inspired looks, a dose of sparkle, sleekly tailored coats and garments with plenty of movement dominated the runway. Nearly all the designers showed many neutral colored pieces (brown, grey and camel were popular colors), throwing in one powerfully colored piece—a plum sweater, a red pencil skirt, an iris halter gown—which often seemed to explode off the runway. Purple in all its shades—amethyst, iris, plum—was seen in many collections, and blue, rose and soft pinks also made appearances. A few of the showstoppers: Missoni’s teal cashmere belted minidress, Andrew Gn’s black-and-white tweed coat, Marc Jacobs’ utterly mod sky-blue jersey dress with beaded cuffs and a pebble-lurex-silk-chiffon one-shoulder dress from Stella McCartney. But arguably the take-your-breath-away piece of the night came from Oscar de la Renta’s grand finale. To the tune of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” there emerged a brightly colored, small flower-patterned silk zibeline strapless gown with a flamenco hem. It stood out not only for the bright colors and unique silhouette, but because there wasn’t anything else in the show that even looked remotely like it.

Post-show, the crowd returned to the museum, where mini designer boutiques (and several fitting rooms) had been set up, and guests eagerly scooped up many of the items they’d just seen making a pass on the catwalk. But aside from alerting Chicagoans to the new fall trends and stocking the closets of our city’s fashion fans, the Nordstrom Designer Preview annually serves a greater purpose: to fund the Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society and their educational and research programs. (Molly Each)

Open for Business: Scooping the Competition

*New Boutiques, *The Nationals No Comments »

Chicago is ripe with intra-city rivalries: the Cubs versus the Sox, Northwestern versus University of Chicago, the Sun-Times versus the Tribune. Add one more rivalry, brought to us by way of NYC: Intermix versus Scoop. After the opening of Intermix last week, we stopped by both ultra-chic retailers to compare shopping experiences. Here are our field findings.

Scoop NYC: Women’s clothing by Tibi, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Nili Lotan; Men’s clothing by James Perse, John Varvatos; kid’s clothing by Chip and Pepper Kids and Ella Moss; shoes and accessories for both sexes.

Intermix: Women’s clothing and accessories from D&G, Valentino, Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson, Missoni.

Our Favorite Finds

Scoop NYC: Old-school sneakers for guys by John Varvatos for Converse, colorful linen shifts by Alice + Olivia, metallic python flats by Stuart Weitzman for Scoop.

Intermix: A hot pink dress by D&G embellished with gold chains; Valentino Diamante Ballerina Flats.

Sales Help (For this category, we got a general vibe on the sales crew, then tried on something that was decidedly “not for us” to gauge how honest the feedback is.)

Scoop NYC: Available but not pushy. We tried on a silk dress by Nili Lotan, and after deeming that the hem was too short, the associate suggested a number of ways to adapt the dress so we’d be more comfortable wearing it.

Intermix: Busy (it was opening weekend, after all) but constantly supervising their shoppers. When a silver silk halter tunic by Toronto-based Jay Godfrey looked too much like a maternity dress, the associate ran out and came back with a smaller size and two similar pieces for comparison.

Dressing Rooms

Scoop NYC: Navy velvet curtains conceal huge dressing rooms with large benches to lay out outfits and accessories. A mirror-lined wall allows you to see how you look as you walk.

Intermix: A circle of smaller rooms with red suede curtains. Associates can swing around, checking on everyone in one swoop.

Scoop NYC: Free one-on-one consultations and personal shopping, free delivery to home or office.

Intermix: In addition to personal shopping, extended hours and in-home consulting, the staff associates are trained as stylists. (Tina Trenkner)

Intermix, 40 East Delaware Place, (312)640-2922; Scoop NYC, 1702 North Milwaukee (773)227-9930