|Lives of the party: (from top) Nordstrom salespeople Cliff Countryman and Sarah Hrejsa at a store designer preview; Désiree Rogers, the president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, and Chicago magazine’s fashion director Stacey Jones with the Proenza Schouler designer Jack McCollough at Ikram’s fifth anniversary bash
The secret is out. Insiders have always known that Chicago is a fashion city. Now the rest of the world is catching on. This year, I have attended parties in the city that would rival any fashionable New York fete in style and drama. Chicagoans have turned out wearing the latest from Zac Posen, Yves Saint Laurent, and Martin Grant. To satisfy the city’s shoppers, famous-name and independent boutiques are opening continuously. And recently, to promote Chicago as a worthy center for designers and manufacturers, Mayor Richard Daley founded a Fashion Advisory Council.
When I attended the fall/winter 2006 fashion shows in New York and Europe earlier this year, I was inundated with questions and comments less about Chicago’s temperamental climate and more about its sources for great shopping. In fact, in a felicitous blend of the two subjects, many of the new collections seemed to have been conceived with both our women and our weather in mind. Designers sent out layer upon layer of thick knits and furs, as shown in our story The Art of the Layer. With the ladylike clothes of past seasons being pushed to the backs of closets, a streamlined silhouette has come forward-see Urban Warriors. Menswear-inspired clothes also dominated the runways, introducing an aggressive new sexiness. Check it out in Gender Benders.
But then, change is what fashion is about-a new season, a different way of dressing, a novel way of looking at our times. Now it is the design world’s turn to look at something new: Chicago’s confident emergence as a fashion force.
Photography: top Robert F. Carl, middle and bottom Selena Salfen