Monday, March 28, 2011

The Chicago Fashion Incubator Announces the 2011 Designers in Residence

Tuesday, March 15, 2011:
It was a surprisingly pleasant Chicago evening as I made my way over to The 900 Shops for one of my favorite events of the year.  I pushed through the revolving doors and began my way up the escalator to the 5th floor.  I collected my thoughts as I rode the steps and thought about this event, the year before...

It was March 16, 2010 - the very day that I met some of the talented individuals that I now call my friends.  They were bright-eyed and nervous - ready to showcase their collections and prove to Chicago that they all had what it took to succeed as designers on a real ready-to-wear level.  For the six of them, this was an opportunity of a lifetime to learn the skills that would set their careers in motion.  It was also the day that I made six new friends whom I have had the opportunity to follow as they flourished in their craft - each with a dream of their own.  Let me now congratulate each of you on all the blood, sweat and tears that has brought you to your Chicago Fashion Incubator (CFI) graduation.  My friends, the class of 2010:  Christina Fan (C/FAN), Donaldo Smith (Killian Gui), Jonnie Rettele (Nonnie Threads), Leah Fagan (ALIDADE), Stephanie Kuhr (Dottie’s Delights) and Miriam Cecilia Carlson (Miriam Cecilia) - I am honored to be a part of your journey...
 *Ryan now wipes a tear, takes a deep breath and pushes forward...*

As I approached the 5th floor, I could hear the hustle of the crowd and the set laid down by DJ Sye Young as it got louder and louder.  I took the first steps through the media check-in and there I was - surrounded by my favorite fashion folk - mingling with some of Chicago's rising stars and those already shining bright.  I started my night by checking out the work of my friends - the current CFI designers in residence, soon to graduate.  After a few photos, hugs and conversation - it was time to make my way in to see the newest batch of designers - the class of 2011.  
I walked into the open space and was immediately greeted with a dazzling set of looks created by the talented hands of Chicago's next class.  Though I only met a few of the new designers, I could tell that this year would produce a stellar batch of what is to come in Chicago fashion.  Models stood tall on platforms, wearing the current collections of the freshest round to join the year-long Chicago Fashion Incubator journey.   Please join me in welcoming the 2011 class:  Concetta Cipriano (Cettina Designs), Shavonne Dorsey (Siobhan Apparel), Eric Kipp (Eric Kipp), Kahindo Mateene (Modahnik), Taneasha Prunty (Gidi) and Crystal Simms (Crystal B. Designs.)
The 2011 Class:
Once I had a good look at the stellar collections, I was able to mix and mingle with the crowd.  I bumped into a couple of designers, including one of my new favorites - menswear designer (call me bias) - and a fresh addition to the class:  Mr. Eric Kipp.  He walked up to me, introduced himself and told me a bit about his collection (one suit, in particular, that he was wearing was to-die-for.)  His custom garments are "fully canvassed construction, hand cut, primarily hand sewn and always made in the USA."  He continued, stating that he "sources fabrics exclusively from Europe’s best mills and offer more than 5,000 textile options."  (All this from a newbie?)  I was already impressed.  He went on to describe that the ready-to-wear line he is developing as part of the CFI program will differ in make from the custom pieces shown on his website and bear a separate label.  "The new garments will still be fully canvassed and feature hand sewn armhole and chest pieces, but will include more machining. The ready-to-wear line will be very masculine (but refined), very tailored and have a strong emphasis on separates as opposed to full suits."  All I know - is that I want to get my hands on these suits.
After shaking Eric's hand and hearing the official introduction of the 2011 class - by two of my favorite people:  Sarah Burrows (Marketing Manager at The 900 Shops) and Lara Miller (CFI Executive Director and Owner/Designer of Lara Miller Ltd.) - it was time to journey on to my next adventure.  I made my way back to the escalator and took the ride down, thinking yet again what a truly amazing event this is.  None other throughout the year are able to speak so fittingly to my Chicago fashion heart, as does this one.  Set to inspire, teach and expose our fashion community, the Chicago Fashion Incubator program is truly an initiative that fights for the continued evolution of the fashion in our fine city.  I offer my congratulations to the newest class and wish them well as they move forward to give their very own blood, sweat and tears.  Just know that we are all here to offer a band-aid, wipe your brow and give a shoulder to cry on.  

The fight is yours now.

Make us proud.


The 2011 class with their designs:
Jessica McCafferty & Ryan M. Beshel:
Sarah Burrows & Lara Miller:
Christina Fan & Chelsea Lavin:
Ryan M. Beshel, Jessica McCafferty & Marcus Riley:
If you weren't able to make the launch event, please don't miss these upcoming events to get your eyes (and hands) on these amazing Chicago collections:

Friday, 1st, 12 to 6 p.m. – Dottie’s Delights & Miriam Cecilia Manicures & Mocktails

Saturday, 2nd, 7 12 to 5 p.m. – Spring into Glamour and the Future with Evil Kitty

Sunday, 3rd, 1 to 5 p.m. – Anna Hovet Trunk Show

Sunday, 3rd, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Buyer’s Brunch

Thursday, 7th, 6 to 9 p.m. – Kristin Hassan Fashion Show

Friday, 8th, 4 to 7 p.m. – Alidade Trunk Show

Friday, 8th, 8 to 10 p.m. – Zamrie Fashion Show

Saturday, 9th, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. –Dottie’s Delights Spring Pin Up Photo Shoot Event

Sunday, 10th, 12 to 3 p.m. – Zamrie Trunk Show

Friday, 15th, 6 to 9 p.m. – Nonnie Threads Trunk Show

Friday, 15th, 6 to 9 p.m. – Miriam Cecilia Fashion Show

Saturday, 16th, 2 to 6 p.m. – Alidade Trunk Show

Sunday, 17th, 12 to 5 p.m. – Kristin Hassan Trunk Show

Sunday, 17th, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. – Nora del Busto Trunk Show

Thursday, 21st, 6 to 9 p.m. – Killian Gui Informal Presentation

***Store hours: The retail store will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each Thursday through Saturday and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sundays through Saturday, April 23rd. The pop up shop number is (312) 649-9479.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chicago Fashion Foundation's 2011 Scholarship Benefit

Thursday, March 3, 2011:
I am always excited when I get an invite to a Chicago Fashion Foundation (CFF) event, as I am a great supporter of initiatives to further expose the local designers in Chicago.  So, when Meghan Turner, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of (and CFF Board Member) reached out to me to join her for the CFF’s 2011 Scholarship Benefit - the answer was an immediate 'YES!'  This annual event gathered nine contestants to compete in a design contest, in the hopes of winning their share of $6500 in scholarship funds.  The lucky contestants this year included Ana Laura Leon, Elaine Hoang, Emma Bottari and Meilin Schneider from the School of the Art Institute Chicago; Rebecca Lopez from Columbia College; K’Lynn Kennedy, Caitlin Lindell, Jasmine Mitchell and O’Ron Manson all from the International Academy of Design & Technology.  This year, the designs were to be inspired by Chicago music; including original looks that represented electronica, jazz and alternative.
The beautiful Meghan Turner of
After a most productive day at Agency Galatea, I made my way over to the Chicago History Museum - an incredibly beautiful venue for such an event.  I arrived and while waiting for a drink, the fantastic Taneisha Jordan (Second City Style) tapped me on the shoulder and joined me in line.  We caught up for a bit before mingling over to Miriam Cecelia Carlson (one of my faves), who was chatting with a few of her adoring fans.  Across the way, I saw the lovely Candace Jordan (Candid Candace) and went to see her and receive a big smooch before I gladly accepted her offer to have my photo taken.  I was excited to get a glimpse of Abby Zupancic (CFF Board member and producer of the show), who stopped me to gab about how things were going backstage.
Ryan M. Beshel 
(photo from
After catching up with everyone I could, the show was ready to begin.  I took my seat (thank you, Meghan for the stellar view!) and listened to CFF Board President, Kristen Amato, as she introduced the concept of the contest and introduced the judges:  talented designer (and friend) Lara Miller, 24/7 Chicago’s beautiful Catie Keogh, the lovely Amanda Monteiro (formerly with Giorgio Armani) and Chicago's very own Candace Jordan.  Before long, she also introduced Peach Carr (Project Runway Contestant - Season 8 and an official host of the event) who shared her excitement and voiced her support of the Chicago designers.  After a few words from Peach - and applause from the waiting crowd - it was time for the show to begin...
(L) Kristen Amato (R) Peach Carr:
 The judges (L to R) - Amanda Monteiro, Catie Keogh, Lara Miller and Candace Jordan:
I sat quietly and watched the plethora of designs glide past me on the runway.  Each look showcased a different point of view and you could really feel the musical inspiration in each piece (as well as the excitement inspired by the Florence + The Machine track I was seat-dancing to during the first looks.)  I kept my eye on the judges (trying to guess which look lifted their eye) as each one-of-a-kind design walked past them.  After a fantastic selection of garments made their way down the runway - it was time for the winner to be announced.  Coming in third place was Rebecca Lopez from Columbia College, who created an ensemble inspired by The Maxwell Street blues and in second was K’Lynn Kennedy from the International Academy of  Design and Technology for her ‘Classical Edge’ design.  The coveted first place scholarship of $5000 was awarded to Ana Leon, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who sent a satin silver gown down the runway, inspired by Chicago’s jazz scene.
A selection of the designer's looks:
The event was another great success for the CFF and the local designers the foundation hopes to expose - certainly one of my favorite events this season.  Congratulations to all of the participants - as well as the winners - and I wish them continued success in their journey to becoming top designers, proud to call Chicago home.


The 2011 CFF Scholarship winner, Ana Leon:
Chicago Fashion Foundation (CFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides academic scholarships to Chicago-area college students majoring in fashion related studies and coordinates educational programs for the Chicago fashion community. CFF's goal is to maintain and develop the fashion industry in Chicago through an annual scholarship competition, yearly fundraiser, continuous professional networking events, and mentoring programs. CFF is comprised of professionals and students who are dedicated to developing and retaining local fashion talent in order to raise the caliber of the Chicago fashion industry.
**Photos courtesy of Tutto Bene Photography, unless otherwise noted**