By Huma Rashid
The arrival of summer brings with it a return to whimsy and warmth: bright colors, bouncy ruffles, flirty accents, and soft, touchable textures. And all were found in abundance at Style Chicago’ Fashion 2010 event, held this past Thursday. Style Chicago hosted an eclectic group of designers offering everything from beautifully painted face plates, California-inspired leather handbags, petticoat-fringed dresses, and gorgeous goddess gowns.
The designers all seemed to focus on the brightness and warmth of the season, proving they know their audience here in the heart of the Midwest, where our only two seasons are winter and construction. Walking through the brickhouse room with sunshine pouring in through the floor-to-ceiling windows under the El track and warming up the hardwood floors, I was instantly lost in the color, sweep, and glow of the clothing, jewels, and bags.
Kate Boggiano was all about flirty silks and amazing textures. The detailing on this dress (available in other colors, barely visible on the rack) invokes images of summer blossoms and the whisper of a summer breeze (possibly blowing through the jasmine in your mind). Bright, luxe colors and bold embellishments invite you to make the most of this gorgeous season.
The lovely ladies at Zamrie (pictured wearing their flirty and flouncy blouses) had similar inspiration:
Zamrie’s exhibit as the show featured exclusively blouses, because they’ve been flying off the shelves. And it’s easy to see why! The cool, wispy silk has an elegant drape to it, while the cut is still somewhat bohemian and in keeping with the fashion-forward liberation of the season. The ruffles add interest and immediately catch the eye, while the watercolor print on the other blouses is warm and fun.
Pieces high on sheen and bright in color were quite in demand, as evidenced by Horacio Nieto‘s showing:
The coat was my absolute favorite, with its dramatic spread collar and amazing cut (and the buttons were two-toned and gorgeous), but the dresses on the rack right behind it were show-stoppers in their own right. I saw brilliant fabrics with luster and flattering, eye-catching details like ruffles and ruching. There were shift dresses in all of summer’s brightest hues (lots of reds, magentas, and yellows!) and light, cool sateen jackets perfect for throwing on during a warm summer night.
JLee Silver, which debuted this year at Fashion Chicago, had a great showing that combined bright colors and bold prints with professionalism and elegance.
I loved the unabashedly bold red color of the silk top in the first picture, with its cool feel and unassuming drape, and it looked great paired with a stylish blazer, crafted with the boutique’s trademark take on tongue-in-chic professionalism. The other ensemble was similarly eye-catching, but simultaneously subdued: the brushstroke skirt was earthy and summery, and the black top was subtly sexy and cut from a great textured almost-pinstripe fabric.
The piece in the second picture immediately captured my attention and sent images of sangria and dancing on rooftop bars running through my head, with its vibrant red hues and arresting pattern, with enough blue thrown in to cool down this hot summer look.
An excellent showing from the debuting boutique, and I can’t wait to see what they feature next!
Heidi Hess‘s hand-loomed knitwear balanced out the light, flouncy summer pieces with cozy, fuzzy, lightweight pieces.
What I loved about this collection was that it brought a sense of earthiness back to summer. Instead of relying on cool silks and bright color hues, this exhibit showed off stripes and clean lines and long lengths, soft to the touch but lightweight enough for even a warm summer evening. Comfort and coziness won out in the end when it came to this showcase.
One of my must-see boutiques at Fashion Chicago was Lara Miller, and you’ll soon see why:
Soft, touchable fabrics, bright, vibrant hues next to accessible, earthy ones, and slouchy, comfortable, self-possessed fits: all of these characteristics made this year’s Lara Miller showing an absolute blast to peruse.
Plus, the girl puts together one heck of a press kit! Her catalog in itself was a work of art:
Meanwhile, the price for most inventive and creative showing undoubtedly went to Jess Audey, with her incredible vintage dresses.
Her dresses came as-is (on the rack) and with petticoats (on her person), and I was blown away by how adorable and creative the whole endeavor was. Jess’s inspiration for her entire line is the vintage look, based on her own struggles to find clothes that are most flattering for her body type. T-strap shoes complete this adorable, swing-dancing-era look, with the classic silhouette and hopelessly romantic vibe. The cocktail dresses are made from tactile upholstery fabrics, and Jess laughingly explains an additional benefit: “They’re stain-resistant! If you spill on them, it just slips right off!”
Innovative and fun and whimsical: the only way to describe this incredible exhibit.
But where there’s fashion, there simply must be drama, and Borris Powell brought it in a big way:
His exhibit, featuring short and floor-length jackets and gowns, was inspired by the goddesses of ancient Rome. Drawing on the gorgeous draped robes they wore, he added structure and asymmetry and in doing so properly empowered the whole look, charging it with fierce self-possession that was immediately apparent. I can’t imagine that any woman would wear one of his impeccable designs, cut to perfection for the most flattering and feminine fit, and not feel like there wasn’t a single thing she couldn’t do.
And in the end, that’s what fashion is all about!
But there was more to the Fashion Chicago show than just clothes. In fact, one of my favorite jewelry designers was displaying her wares, too!
Objets d’Envy brought its sparkly innovation, as always, and I could have spent forever there. They happily proclaimed that turquoise was the new color of the season, and featured many different pieces, all of them delicate and feminine and vivid, in those cool, vibrant hues. Objects d’Envy is remarkably consistent when it comes to offering unique, hand crafted jewelry for all different styles and tastes, from feminine and understated to bold and chunky.
Another great jeweler making an appearance was Sophia Forero, from my town of Naperville:
Her jewelry is colorful and inventive, and is available in a wide variety of styles. It’s all hand crafted and made with semi-precious stones and beads. At first blush, the discs in the photo above appear to be simple pendants, but a closer look reveals that this is not so:
It’s a little difficult to see, but each of those ‘dots’ in the green piece are individual beads placed there by hand to form these incredibly beautiful designs. The attention to detail in these stunningly intricate necklaces is absolutely staggering, and they make a unique addition to any outfit.
Another great jewelry offering was from Paoo:
All of the jewelry here is hand-crafted and hand-cast, and part of the collection is made with semi-precious stones. The others are overwhelming in their intricacy and the painstaking care put into the designs. Observe:
The jewelry is made in small communities in Turkey (the designer’s husband is Turkish), Chile, and Brazil, to help support and empower local women, and part of the proceeds fund those operations. Beautiful and socially conscious!
What I loved most about Fashion Chicago was that each boutique had its own story, and that was certainly true for Brynn Capella‘s handbags and clutches.
For her clutches here, she’s chosen names for them based on the story the fabric tells her. The gold one up front is called “ray of hope,” for its warm gold tones. The one under that, with the green and blue, is called “Lakeshore,” because those are the colors we see every time we walk by our gorgeous Lake Michigan. And the one under that, the black and white, is called simply “Dynasty,” because the print reminds her of the print on the vases from the Ming dynasty.
Her different lines of handbags are named after her friends – Lauren, Edie, and more – because she has crafted them with those ladies in mind. Brynn comes up with the rough sketch and then shows them to the bags’ namesakes and asks what would make those bags perfect for their lifestyles, then modifies the designs accordingly. Her California line, pictured below, utilizes colors seen in her native California, and she proudly proclaims that “you can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take California out of the girl.”
This year’s Fashion Chicago event was a blast because it invoked concepts of romance and whimsy, empowerment and flirtatiousness, all while telling a story spun under the golden rays of the bright summer sun.