Models in Doo. Ri designs

Doo-Ri Chung, center, flanked by Orlando Espinoza and CFDA chief Steven Kolb

Sometimes it’s hard to keep the grade-school humor at bay. What I mean, of course, is that Chicago hearts the designer Doo-Ri Chung, who paid us a visit earlier this week and played the role of guest celeb at a few of the Fashion Week festivities.

If you aren’t familiar with her or her line Doo.Ri, the petite fashion designer is one of the industry’s most recent success stories. She’s carried locally at Jake, and several folks in the fashion crowd are buying up her pieces. While chatting with her at an event a few days ago, she told me that grew up in South Korea, but moved with her family to New Jersey at a fairly young age. She now lives in New York but still identifies with her native country: “When I visit Korea, I feel like a New Yorker,” she said. And, of course, when she’s in New York, she feels Korean. I understand this: I actually feel the same way about Chicago and the Deep South, where I’m from. Neither feels exactly like home should feel, yet both are home. I started to tell Doo-Ri this, but at the first mention of “Alabama,” eyes usually start to glaze over so I cut the story short and moved on to another conversational point.

That point was inspiration. Where does she seek inspiration for her casually elegant designs? She told me she starts with a fabric she likes, and a dress form, and she drapes until something catches her eye. It was interesting to see her illustrate this on a model standing nearby; clearly, her stuff is great, which is why lots of stylish Chicagoans have been raving about her. But what I appreciated was how accessible she was, how willing she was to converse about her process and her life. Like the Chicago designers (there’s not a snobby one in the bunch, or at least not from my experience), she’s a real person who finds herself in an image- and ego-driven industry. I hope that, as she establishes more of a presence, she’ll keep on keeping it real.


Photography: Cassie Walker