• Elysia Ganier Designs: Fashion on the rise.

    “Style, power and presence”, are the words that accurately capture the intention and motivation behind Chicago designer Elysia Ganier’s collections. Her approach to design springs from “the desire to achieve a proper fit, conceal flaws and make sure that [my client’s] clothing is fashionably relevant, while creating designs that personify the image that [they] want to create,” explains Ganier. Her overarching goal is to design for the discerning woman; the aspirational woman with exacting tastes and grand desires.

    The Ganier woman wants “to make a lasting impression through custom design and unique ready-to-wear fashion.” A glimpse into Ganier’s fall collection suggests nothing short of glamour, comfort and fun for her muse -- she’ll adore the halter ensemble with it’s attention grabbing, multi-layered fringe skirt; or the black faux leather sweatpants in a delicately oversized design; and she’s certain to be aflutter about the label’s “super sweater” -- which while furthering the celebration of faux leather, surprises with an asymmetrical design which celebrates graceful form, particularly the often disregarded elegance of the feminine shoulders and upper back.

    In fact, we may safely expect to see a considerable number of glamourous looks in this fall’s collection as Ganier Designs has been selected to serve as the official fashion designer for the Miss Black Illinois USA Scholarship Pageant. Not surprising, the Pageant’s “mission is to provide educational opportunities to outstanding young women; to develop "whole mind[s]... and spirit[s].” Ganier “will be designing all eighteen dresses for the opening of the next National Miss Black USA pageant in October. She has already designed two garments for Mariah Scott -- the newly crowned 2014 Miss Black Illinois -- one of which will be worn for an appearance at the White House.”

    To suggest that Ganier’s star is rising is an understatement. Following her 2012 appearance and success on The Steve Harvey Show, Ganier’s design was carried nationally in more than 100 K&G Fashion Superstores alongside the likes of Michael Kors, Anne Klein and Steve Madden. Her ready-to-wear bespoke collection has recently come online; her fall collection will be featured this September in the RAW’s Natural born artists’ “Scope” showcase and in October on the runway in Fall Fashion Week's Fashion Forward! No matter what, you can’t miss this rising star.

  • Fashion Film Festival Chicago announces 2014 honorees

    Fashion film is a rapidly developing category of filmmaking. Emerging and established designers and filmmakers are creatively cooperating to produce dream-like, experimental, dramatic, edgy, beautiful or deeply inspiring film. It is a short form that carries enormous impact and enthusiasm.

    The Fashion Film Festival Chicago (FFFC) is an annual festival and competition which aims to celebrate the beauty and art of fashion as captured through the filmmakers' lens. This week, FFFC announced its selection of winners from a healthy array of submissions that reflect the bold cross section encompassed by this expanding art. The honorees are as follows:

    First place - Coupe d'Or - went to "Blackened Wings" by Josh Brandao. According to Brandao, his film was inspired by the greek legend of the Phoenix. It is set in a "place in Soviet/Military world, Blackened Wings tells the tale of a young boy fighting to overcome bullying and oppression. The film showcases a collection of accessories and fashion artifacts by London College Of Fashion Graduate Chiara Pavan, as well as pieces by Givenchy, Vivienne Westwood, Armani, amongst others."

    Second place - Médaille d'Argent - went to "DUO", a fashion film by Bruno Carvalho. According to Carvalho, the film is set "in a place where light abounds but the color seems to be nonexistent, there are two unrelated characters who only know that in that world they need each other to bring a little more color to that location. Over the course of his experiments (which are visible in the "circuits" of their garments) they gain more and more color until they reach their peak and can finally leave."

    Third place - Médaille de Bronze - went to "Control", a fashion film by Umeokafor Kenechukwu. This short fashion film showcases a few pieces from designer Ifeanyi Nwune's Control collection.

    The two films receiving honorable mention were "Harmony" by Hayley MacFarlane and "Océano" by Alejandro Melero. The other category winners this year were the "Essence of Fashion" award which went to "Her Forgotten Act" by Jaime Schirmer, and the "Conscience of Fashion" award which was picked up by Glen MacKay's "See Me Now".

    The winners' submissions will be screened during fall fashion week and on FFFC media sources. Select winners also receive additional prizes. Fashion Film Festival Chicago accepts submissions from February 1st through June 1st each year after-which the selection committee and jury view and vote for stand-outs from among a healthy group of submissions. Visit FFFC for more information on the annual festival and to enjoy the winning selections.

  • Chicago Men's Fashion Week: A Llewellyn Fashion Voyage

    Last night, as part of Men’s Fashion Week Chicago, designer Jeffery Hawkins debuted his new line in a runway show entitled “Moroccan Twilight” A Llewellyn Fashion Voyage.”

    The show was staged at the Society Art Gallery, a harbinger of the artful story to come. The presentation began with boldly printed silk track pants and eye-catching swimwear. The Hawkins’ runway was unapologetically replete with color. The dynamic visuals coupled with texture and pattern gave way only to the full panoply of Llewellyn’s swim and resortwear collection.

    According to Hawkins, “the inspiration for Moroccan Twilight was all about nomadic lifestyle, integrating very western silhouettes with very luxurious middle eastern, traditional trends. Morocco is a great melting pot of jewish, of christian, of muslim, as well as various races of people; so you get a beautiful texture story just from looking at the people in Morocco, then you add in those religious and cultural factors and then it all becomes a kind of interweaving of things. So we started to look at a lot of the print there -- there’s a lot of weaving designs in the print. [We used this] to kind of push that story of cultural melding and blending of things. Fabric-wise, I really tried to 'up' the level of fabric that you see in menswear. There is a heavy amount of silk organzas and silk jerseys, even in the polyester fabrics that are used in the swimwear, I played around with qualities of weights and color and ways to really make them richer.”

    Moving away from poolside, Hawkins was on trend with his collection of lightweight shorts suits, men’s shirts, tanks and knitwear. His textile choices were very deliberate and purposeful. According to Hawkins, “knitwear-wise, it was really about introducing more of the silk in durable and attractive lustered cottons vs. very standard boring manly weaves. A lot of the looks borrow from womenswear fabrics -- something that men aren’t used to feeling -- so even the models themselves were like ‘oh, this feels different’ which is what I wanted. I am making menswear more luxurious but also still making it approachable, so most of my garments are still washable.”

    This Llewellyn Collection embraces the European luxury traveler’s sensibilities and desires for comfort, and marries them with the riches of ethnic life in North Africa. Hawkins explains that, “there is a sensual luxurious and simplistic nature to Moroccan life. Its fusion of African, middle eastern and European cultures yields complex patterns upon universal silhouettes. My exploration of nomadic life is ever constant as I'm a traveler searching for home. In the nocturnal light of Twilight, great colorful sources of beauty emerge.”

  • Modart di Flavia Pinello: Italian fashion renaissance in Chicago

    Throughout the middle ages and the Renaissance, Italy was the center of the fashion universe. Italian fashion was the benchmark for ‘what to wear’ among royals throughout Europe. The 20th century brought renewal and revived enthusiasm for Italian tailoring. American film and movie stars fueled international interest in Italian fashion. The ‘Made in Italy’ moniker became synonymous with the finest in craftsmanship and a true mark of style.

    The love affair continues. This century finds eyes gazing toward Italian fashion again, as a major exhibit at Briton’s Victoria & Albert Museum in London (now through July 2014) -- “The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945 - 2014” -- examines and celebrates Italian designers’ enormous influence on fashion the world over. Not surprising that this art museum would feature Italian fashion so prominently, as art and design have always been at the heart of Italian fashion. But Britons are not alone in enjoying a visit from Italian fashion this year.

    This season, Flavia Pinello, one of Sicily’s emerging couture artist, has chosen to make her first US appearance in Chicago. The name of her collection, Modart di Flavia Pinello, is a blend of the words ‘moda’ (fashion) and ‘art’. According to Pinello, her collection is best defined as “the unique embrace of high fashion and art which form a synergy that enhances the beauty of women. Each garment, as created, is similar to an individual work of art -- unique and unrepeatable.”

    In 2013, Pinello opened her first Atelier Modart di Flavia Pinello in Palermo and began a collaboration with notable Sicilian painter K. Barbante, to create hand painted dresses. The elegance and simplicity of Pinello’s style has secured her place on the Palermo fashion circuit, having recently seen her designs parade on the catwalks in the most prestigious events and fashion shows in Sicily.

    Pinello’s style is characterized by very astute attention to detail and definition. “In any [of my ] dresses, you can see the study of the cuts and fabrics used to make it, each of them is specially designed to make it unique.” According to Pinello, “when you think of a woman who is romantic and modern, sophisticated and resourceful, elegant and fashionable, she is the Pinello woman. She is my muse.”

    Modart di Flavia Pinello results in a style described in fashion reviews as the ‘Renewal of Minimal Chic’. Pinello’s arrival may well signal the beginnings of a new, emerging fashion renaissance. Modart di Flavia Pinello can be found in Chicago at The Fashion Market.

  • Chicago’s YaSika Mode, trending African prints for Spring Fashion Week!

    At the first signs of spring, fashion industry reasoning and sensibilities move in to 'resort and vacation' mode. Collections in white and African prints capture and reflect these moods. The 2014 spring collections of Stella Jean, Givenchy and Celine were awash with African prints. At this year’s Paris fashion week, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton mixed art, African prints and the spirit of women from a bygone era to create McQ’s summer 2014 collection.

    The upshot is that these textiles and colors have become ‘what’s trending’ for spring and summer. As Chicago’s spring fashion week gets underway, these themes can certainly be anticipated on the runway, however in this setting they will be coupled with a verdant signature of authenticity. Chicago’s Mamie Kapend, a participant in this year’s runway shows, will present her current YaSika Mode collection. “The line,” says Kapend, “is a versatile ready to wear collection that goes from day to evening, mixing the beauty and colors of African prints with a touch of modern textiles to captivate a sense of confidence and elegance.”

    Kapend’s Congolese heritage is visible in her creations: the “maputa” head wraps or the “mabaya” tops - represent her tribute to and celebration of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “YaSika Mode, which translates to ‘the latest fashion’, is a set of collections that offer an elegant and modern look at African textiles,” says Kapend.

    The African prints, though beautiful and symbolic of summer, stand on their own; quietly and proudly making statements of celebration. Each African textile design, while generally referred to as an ‘African print’ actually has it’s own name, history and tradition. Many have patterns that represent proverbs, poetry or regional fables. The colors too can signify social standing, age, tribal affiliation or marital status.

    Kapend’s YaSika Mode considers these factors when shaping what she describes as “the most polished, simple, elegant and chic style”. According to Kapend, “The YaSika brand is one which promises to diligently deliver quality products at affordable prices while providing a sense of exclusivity.”

    To get a glimpse of this award-winning designer’s spring collection and possibly meet Kapend and other designers participating in Chicago’s spring fashion week, visit The Fashion Market’s website for ticket and location information.

  • Verneccia LaShay, part of Chicago's Spring Fashion Week

    Inspiration is oftentimes a primary goal of fashion week. The events provide us the opportunity to highlight the visionary and aspirational among the field of creatives and celebrate their energies.

    Spring Fashion Week Chicago promises ample opportunity to be swept up by the inspired. As part of FW Chicago, The Fashion Market is presenting the runway shows of nine emerging designers. Among them is Verneccia LaShay, an expressive transplant from Texas whose design is replete with touching, heart-rending inspiration. She draws from sentimental connections and divine revelation.

    A primary force behind LaShay's collections are her tender connections to loved ones. Her custom is to name her designs after inspirational people in her life. On the recent launch of her bridal collection, LaShay shared with her fans that not only did her own engagement inspire the collection but so too did the women in her life who’ve served as support. “In the spirit of love, I designed this line of 11 gowns and named each of them after the women that I love with all of my heart. In a secret conference I showed them all the specific gowns named after them and asked them ... to be my bridesmaids! Kind of like a little proposal. I'm blessed to say they all accepted and now I can show you all my new Bridal/Formal Collection!”

    LaShay’s collection also receives motivation from her patrons and divine influence. According to LaShay, “I am inspired by God, love and passion. The look on someone's face when they feel absolutely beautiful; the way their posture and demeanor completely changes when confidence levels go through the roof...[this inspires me] to make beautiful garments; for glory and for beauty.”

    The impassioned energy that influences her designs has led to her being a featured designer on The Chicago Sun Times’ television show “The Minority Report”, featured in Lloyd Boston’s annual menswear fashion show on ACCESS HOLLYWOOD, featured on Windy City Live Chicago, featured on Fox News Chicago, a design feature in Trend Prive International Fashion Magazine, F-Style Chicago Magazine, and wardrobe styling the team for R&B superstar Trey Songz.

    The opportunity to celebrate the marvelous and insightful, that is fashion week. LaShay and other Chicago Spring Fashion Week designers can be seen on April 19th at The Fashion Market’s Spring Fashion Event.

  • Izzy Heras' 2014 Where Art Meets Fashion Collection

    Passionate is the state of being in which one finds oneself when deeply inspired. Many spend a lifetime searching for a purpose which engenders such feelings of zeal and enthusiasm. We are considered lucky if we find one passion, but to have two, well that is serendipity. Chicago's Izzy Heras qualifies as such a charmed individual. She feels passionate about both graphic design and fashion design and has created a collection that celebrates both.

    According to Heras, "This collection is my coming out collection, where I truly represent who I am as a designer." While it is common to choose only one challenging and time-consumer major in college, Heras chose two -- double majoring in fashion design and graphic design at Dominican University. "As a graphic and fashion design student, I was able to get a taste of both the fashion world and the art world. Although both worlds have similarities, they also have differences."

    As fashion design is rather ubiquitous, the answer to what it is, is commonly understood. As for graphic design, well that may not be as clear. According to AIGA, the professional association for design, graphic design is a complex combination of images wrought through an applied and ancient art that when successfully achieved portrays a distinctive, exuberant, surprising, subversive or deeply memorable result. Simply put, it is the art of symbolically visualizing ideas.

    Wanting to express these differing arts, Heras struggled to realize their unification. " I labored to find a way to satisfy both passions in my work while striking a balance. The main theme in my work is in finding the balance between my passions and satisfying them to the fullest."

    According to Heras, "I fully express myself in this collection. I chose colors that represent my brand and myself -- beige, mint green and peach. I hand painted some of the garments using a graphic-like style with linear and geometric shapes. I make collages with magazines onto muslin fabric and I incorporated all of this art into the collection."

    Izzy Heras' 2014 Where Art Meets Fashion Collection may be experienced at The Fashion Market's Spring Fashion Event, part of Chicago's Spring Fashion Week.

  • For The Sake of Fashion

    FOR THE SAKE OF FASHION, a runway show to benefit UNICEF, was held last night at DePaul's Cortelyou Commons. It was a joint effort by StreetStyleChi.com and Ford Models. The show's message was strong, the evening's fashion was bold and the overarching theme was dualistic.

    Beginning with the sponsoring partners, the patterns of dualism reverberated throughout the program. From the very outset, as DePaul's UNICEF Chapter president, Khalil Pillai, placed in the foreground the stark statistical realities of lives lost around the world due simply to the lack clean drinking water while rows and rows of free, clean, potable water created the venue's backdrop -- lining the walls in the lobby -- thus launching the theme of duality.

    The duality continued with the show's program -- blending student designers with seasoned designers. This example, however, showed not contrast but consistency. Consistency in talent, skill and artistry. Among the student designers represented in the show's lineup was Columbia College junior, Ellis Peters. Peters proffered a pair of avant-garde tee shirts from his current collection -- a collection which focuses on dualism. According to Peters, his line, Defiant Order Clothing Company, is a streetwear line which "...focuses a little bit on high fashion but not too much. It is monochromatic, so all black and white. We focus on patterns -- placing them in unique and different spots on the piece".

    The evening's lineup of fashion consisted of a healthy dose of streetwear juxtaposed against the elegance of evening. Among the more seasoned designers who helped to round out the evening's spectacular show were Rodnell Harris of Chicago Playground  who presented his line of modern-day vintage varsity classics; Lagi Nadeau, a designer-in-residence for the 2014 Chicago Fashion Incubator program at Macy’s on State Street, who offered some pieces from her collection of elegant and urbane dresses; Christina Karin, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, offered up a few pieces from her line of cocktail separates; and Iridium, a Chicago-based lifestyle brand shared a few selections from their fashion-forward streetwear line.

    According to the show's organizer, Alexandra Moresco "we are hoping to create a greater awareness of UNICEF and it’s mission - to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential”.  

    There is no doubt that last night's event successfully and creatively made it's point while raising funds for UNICEF. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the evening were donated to the charity.

    Let's hear it for this very successful charitable effort and For The Sake of Fashion.

  • From New York to Chicago: Crochet on the 2014 Fashion Week Runway

    Crochet in couture design stretches back at least as far as the early 19th century. The art of crochet as a method of creative fabric construction, has persisted through the years, maintaining its relevance despite the ebbs and flows of fashion's trends.

    Crochet is a complex art which may be created from ribbons, metal wire, yarns and other truly exotic spun fibers. Additionally, there are a variety of techniques or methods that may be employed in the art; there is Filet crochet, Tunisian crochet, tapestry crochet, broomstick lace, hairpin lace, cro-hooking and Irish crochet -- all variations on the basic method.

    This very beautiful art form takes patience, persistence and years of practice. Chicago's own Patricia Ghonda-Zola, a masterful crochet artisan, began perfecting her art when she and her sister were just little girls. "We carried our crochet hooks and yarns in our little purses just so we [could] crochet wherever we were going. It didn't matter where. I remember hiding in my mother's fashion studio just to crochet," recalls Ghonda-Zola. "...we got older and our talents got better, however I find myself being the only sister with the passion to continue crocheting."

    Ghonda-Zola is the creative energy behind Anzehlika Crochet, a fashion line that creates children's apparel and accessories. "I followed my heart and started creating more and more crochet items and sewing some children's pieces...[this is how] the idea came to create a business with exceptional quality, cutest design, modern look and affordable prices," reflects Ghonda-Zola. "Today, I make various handmade children crochet and sewn apparel as well as accessories for the whole family. "

    While crocheted fabrics have continually had a place in fashion, since 2011 there has been a revival of crochet on the runway. Project Runway has made wide use of the fabrication by the designers on the show. Christopher Kane, The Row, Chloe, Benetton, Oscar de la Renta and Rodarte have all incorporated crochet in recent collections. As a matter of fact, Sister by Sibling's entire Fall 2014 collection -- ''Temple of Love" -- is filled with crocheted items -- skirts, shawls, throws , dresses, jackets, evening wear, sweaters, blouses, and even swimwear. And just four days ago, John Rocha's Fall 2014 collection boasted several amazing, mixed media, crocheted items in his evening wear collection.

    Not to be outdone, Ghonda-Zola's Anzehelika Crochet will premiere her 2014 collection during Chicago's Spring Fashion Week runway show at The Fashion Market's Spring Event on April 19th.

  • Sustainable, natural jewelry artist Deborah Kerr at Deer Path Art League Gallery

    From the dawn of time, we, humans, have decorated our bodies with exotic objects from nature. Early humans started by donning necklaces made from the bones, claws and teeth of slain animals. In more modern times, when we think of exotic, natural jewelry, shiny pieces of corals, pearls and precious or semiprecious stones come to mind. But more recently, some of the most unusual and striking jewelry in the world comes from plants. In fact, in terms of aesthetic beauty and intrinsic value, plant jewelry may rank as high as any gemstone.

    Chicago's Deborah Kerr is a Brazilian born sustainable jewelry designer whose jewelry collection is made from natural, plant-based materials harvested from her native country. Sustainable jewelry is jewelry which has been produced using socially and environmentally responsible practices and methods. These practices begin at the harvesting stage and continue through the design and production process. "I have been traveling to the Brazilian rain forest over the past 15 years. During my trips I’ve learned about the wide variety of plants and trees found in the forest and, in particular, in the Amazon region" said Kerr.

    Kerr's travels have proven deeply inspirational. "[On my trips], I’ve come in close contact with the indigenous groups of several regions and have learned about their rituals and celebrations. Every detail of their daily lives has been a revelation. From the patterns in the clothes they sew to their body paint to their tools and their basketry and pottery. These trips inspired me to start designing jewelry pieces using indigenous seeds, nuts and pods. This started about six years ago with the objective of creating unique hand-made pieces" says Kerr.

    Today, Kerr includes a vast array of plant-based materials in her work. She uses the semilla, or seeds, of unusual plants with truly exotic names like huayruro, camajuro, abrus, and acai. Kerr makes use of the bat pollinated sea bean, which in Spanish is called "ojo de buey" because of its striking resemblance to the eye of a bull. Kerr incorporates the nickernut seed (nicker is an old English name for marble) which was used by natives as an amulet to ward off evil spirits and had other magical powers including a cure for dysentery. Kerr employs mescal beans, coral bean seeds, seeds from the soapberry tree, guanacaste seeds, precatory beans, jimsonweed seeds -- to name only a few. Kerr's unique, closed loop and exotic collection of plant-based jewelry promotes compassion, socially responsible working conditions, and fair labor practices for her native suppliers. According to Kerr, "by purchasing materials directly from various indigenous groups, I’ve been able to contribute to the local economy and create a sustainable art jewelry business".

    Deborah Kerr's sustainable, wearable art collection is currently on display at the Deer Path Art League Gallery, Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest, IL, now through February 14, 2014.