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Dancing Queen

Katrin Schnabl designs draping, wrapping clothes that reflect her appreciation for movement.

Photography: Lisa Predk
Katrin Schnabl, wearing clothing from her collection

Trained as a dancer in her native Germany, Katrin Schnabl designs draping, wrapping clothes that reflect her appreciation for movement. Since she came to Chicago from New York in 2004 to teach at the School of the Art Institute, Schnabl’s designs have captured national attention (www.katrinschnabl.com). This month, the 41-year-old fashionista moves to Portage Park with her six-year-old son, Sebastian, and marries her fiancé, Peter Sullivan, a New York divorce lawyer. After a small ceremony in Chicago, the newlyweds will jet to New York and Europe to visit friends and family. “We decided we’re just going to celebrate for the rest of the year,” Schnabl says, laughing. “That way, we get to wear our outfits more than once.”

Personal style: “Very, very comfortable. I mostly wear something from my collection like my striped corduroy pants or textured linen skirt (3 below) and mix it with vintage items, clothing from other designers, or even my students’ pieces. It makes me feel fresh to wear something not originating from me. It’s a daily snapshot of how I’m feeling.”

Current obsession: “I’m intrigued by Asian art and gardens. I like the Osaka Garden at Jackson Park; I’m inspired by stones, tree branches, structures found in nature. There’s also a wonderful Asian art room in the Art Institute. You walk in and suddenly the world stands still. One of my favorite pieces of clothing is a floral-, dragon-, and cloud-printed kimono that I wear as a blouse. It was a vintage find; I think it cost about $8.”

Dance and fashion: “My dance background gives my work a spatial relationship. I create a visual continuity, so the fabric flows all around the body. I like spirals and asymmetric elements because they reflect how the body moves naturally through space, through life.”

On conducting “research": “To me, shopping is research. I love the shoes at Niche [1566 N. Damen Ave.; 773-489-2001]. I just bought a pair of leather boots (4 below) that feel aged, a bit like you’ve walked around the globe in them. I really enjoy Blake [212 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-202-0047] and Ikram [873 N. Rush St.; 312-587-1000]. I also love vintage shopping along Milwaukee Avenue. It reminds me of all the possibilities that are out there.”

Her wedding wear: “My engagement ring is a vintage Russian ring with a star sapphire. I will be wearing a platinum silk dress with some black detail on the sleeves and an asymmetric hem, custom designed by [New York designer] Ruben Chapelle.”

Inspirational spot: “The studios at the School of the Art Institute make me want to be an art student all over again. They’re phenomenal: everything from metalworking to wood building to clay making to silversmith workshops.”

Can’t live without . . . “Chocolate! La Maison du Chocolat [in New York] is a once-a-year kind of treat.”

The last five things she bought: Collage-print tote (2) by Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, her former student; slouchy leather boots by Moma; Doves jeans by Ruben Chapelle; Comme des Garçons ivory wallet (5); This Craft of Verse, by Jorge Luis Borges (1).


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