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.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF: