Fashion Scholar Gillion Carrara’s Favorite Things

The jewelry designer and lecturer lists 20 items she loves

Gillion Carrara
Oak Park native Carrara in her Lake View home

Gillion Carrara, 66, is as dedicated to fashion as she is to her black uniform and iconic glasses. “If I’m not making or studying it, I’m not happy,” says the jewelry designer, lecturer on the history of contemporary dress, and director of the School of the Art Institute’s Fashion Resource Center, which she founded in 1987 out of a coat closet. (Her collection of 300 garments, including rare pieces by Alexander McQueen, now resides in the Sullivan Center.) She sells her architecturally inspired jewelry at the home furnishings boutique June Blaker (870 N. Orleans St.) and the design store ID (3337 N. Halsted St.), which will host a trunk show of her latest work on March 2 and 3. “I find wonder in everything,” says the eternal student, “and I’m quite emotional about it.” See below for her favorite items.

 

 

20 Things Gillion Carrara Loves

Beata Kania Brooches
BEATA KANIA BROOCHES ($250 to $450 for similar styles, at Pagoda Red, 1714 N. Damen Ave.)
“These modern ribbon-and-bead brooches are made with a method that dates back to the 18th century.”

 

Anglo American Optical round glasses
ROUND GLASSES ($249 for style worn by Carrara above, at Anglo American Optical, 9850 S. Kedzie Ave., Evergreen Park)
“These remind me of glasses worn by various architects, and since I’m married to one, that’s a compliment.”

 

Nick Cave art
NICK CAVE ART
“It’s a repurposed piece of a fine corduroy shirt adhered to a Masonite board. It’s geometric with a very subtle surface treatment.”

 

Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russe
DIAGHILEV AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE BALLET RUSSE ($55, at amazon.com)
“This book features amazing costumes by luminaries like Gabrielle Chanel and Pablo Picasso that were exhibited in London two years ago.”

 

Gillion Carrara rings
GILLION CARRARA RINGS ($400 to $600 each, at June Blaker, 870 N. Orleans St.)
“I’m attracted to exotic hardwoods like ebony and briarroot. They’re dynamic sculptures for the hands.”

 

Photography: (Rings) courtesy of vendors; (all others) Anna Knott

 

Yohji Yamamoto dress
YOHJI YAMAMOTO DRESS ($16,900, by special order at Barneys New York, 15 E. Oak St.)
“I admire almost anything by Yohji. His pieces suit me.”

 

Kristin Mariani tunic
KRISTIN MARIANI TUNIC ($395 to $695 for similar styles, at June Blaker)
“I admire this local designer as an individual who is developing her art.”

 

Bird nest collection
BIRD NEST COLLECTION
“I recently read a book on aviary architecture, and I’ve fallen in love with birds and bird nests.”

 

Linen pastry cloth and rolling pin
LINEN PASTRY CLOTH ($6.95, at Sur La Table, 755 W. North Ave.) and ROLLING PIN (Carrara’s own)
“Just like the ones my grandmother used.”

 

Found objects
FOUND OBJECTS
“I started collecting these 40 years ago along the country roads of Tuscany. I find them all beautiful for different reasons.”

 

Photography: (Dress) courtesy of vendors; (all others) Anna Knott

 

Alfonso Carrara drawings
DRAWINGS BY ALFONSO CARRARA
“We’ve been together for 30 years, and his mind is so beautiful to me. The drawings are very abstract, personalized images of people.”

 

Hino & Malee smock
HINO & MALEE SMOCK
“Hino & Malee were designers in Chicago 30 years ago. This piece is classic.”

 

ModeMuseum in Antwerp
MODEMUSEUM IN ANTWERP
“We attended the grand opening of the museum on 2002, which featured the Antwerp Six [a group of influential fashion designers] and their early work. It was gorgeous.”

 

A lathe
LATHE
“This machine turns wood so I can shape it into a vase, cuff, or ring.”

 

Inside 2Sparrows
2SPARROWS
“This restaurant’s contemporary, minimal design is attractive. The service is quiet and formal, and the food is innovative without pretention.”

 

Photography: (ModeMuseum, 2Sparrows) courtesy of the businesses; (all others) Anna Knott

 

Kiri watch by Masayuki Kurokawa
KIRI WATCH BY MASAYUKI KUROKAWA ($145, asiaticakc.com)
“Tremendous piece from Japan.”

 

Issues of 'Fashion Theory'
FASHION THEORY ($89, bergpublishers.com)
“A very important journal from England edited by well-known costume historians. I learn tremendously from each issue.”

 

Designer shoes
DESIGNER SHOE COLLECTION
“I see shoes as sculptural objects. I’ve traveled all over the US, Canada, Britain and Italy to study their history.”
and
DESIGN HOUSE STOCKHOLM LADDER ($295, ID Chicago, 3337 N. Halsted St.)
“Useful for when I need to reach high shelves stacked with art books, literature, and poetry. Plus, Alfonso’s favorite color is red.”

 

Black files with acetate sleeves
BLACK FILES WITH ACETATE SLEEVES
“I use these for presentations when I lecture at national and international symposiums on the history of dress.”

 

Photography: Anna Knott

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