Posted Sun, Jun 25, 2006
I was mentioned by Melissa Turner in an interview with writer Jennifer Berg, in this article that appeared in NEWCITY CHICAGO on 6/13/2006.
First Fashionista: A conversation with Melissa Turner, Chicago's new fashion director
Last week, Mayor Daley announced the formation of Chicago's Fashion Advisory Council, a group dedicated to keeping local talent from fleeing to the coasts. The council will strive to help designers overcome career obstacles that may be more prevalent in the Midwest than in fashion-centric cities like New York and Los Angeles. Heading up the group is Melissa Turner, who recently made the transition from courtroom to couture as an attorney turned Director of Fashion Arts and Events. Despite her chic title, Turner remains humble about her own style-savvy--when we asked the former legal eagle which fashion faux pas she would make illegal, she joked: "considering I was an attorney for seven years and only wore `institutional suits,' I'll leave that question to the stylists." However, when Newcity tracked Turner down for a Q&A, she had plenty to say about style in the city.
What led to the creation of a Fashion Advisory Council for Chicago?
After the huge response to Fashion Focus Chicago in 2005, it became clear that Chicago has some dynamic designers but needs assistance in centralizing the industry and pooling the many resources that are already here.
Tell us a bit about the individuals who make up the nineteen-member council.
The members were chosen by Mayor Daley and represent a cross-section of fashion industry leaders. [Our board represents a variety of perspectives, from] designers to a marketing, manufacturing, finance, selling and distribution perspective. The young designers [in our group will enlighten us on] what it takes to transition from being a design student to a successful career in this very competitive industry. The designers identify which tools are here for them and which ones are not; what works for them and what does not. Our overarching goal is to help support and promote Chicago fashion, to elevate and educate our Chicago designers and to help promote the amazing retail stores that call Chicago home.
What are some of the challenges that face designers who want to stay in Chicago and how does the Council plan to provide transitional assistance to young designers looking to start a career?
[Chicago-based designers] face challenges with production and learning the business of design. [We plan to] establish mentorships with successful designers and internships in designers' studios.
What advice would you give up-and-coming designers looking to make a name in Chicago?
Young designers need to understand that they won't come out of fashion school and immediately be design stars. They have a lot to learn and the best way to do that is to shadow an established designer and take whatever jobs that designer gives you!
How would you characterize fashion events in Chicago as compared to similar happenings in NYC or LA?
Fashion events in Chicago represent something for everyone, from events showcasing avant-garde fashion in an avant-garde manner to wearable, fiber art displays to multimedia and fashion events that are on par with anything happening in NYC or LA.
What kind of Chicago fashion events can we expect in the future?
Soon, Chicago is likely to have a Fashion Week of runway shows occurring at the same level [as those in LA and NYC]. We are already on our way with the second year of Fashion Focus coming up September 20-October 1. There will be runway shows in Millennium Park September 26-28 and shopping events.
What are some of the most memorable fashion events you've attended in Chicago this year?
[I went to an] avant-garde fashion show at the Garfield Park Conservatory labyrinth. The fashion shows for local design schools this year [featured] student work that was really strong and exciting.
There is so much talent out there right now! Some up-and-coming student designers that stand out for me are Cassandra Scanlon, Xochil Herrera
and recent graduates Kristina Sparks, Moire Conroy and Ana Cantillano.
Can you tell us a bit about the Chicago Design Shop that is planned for Macy's?
I'm excited to let established designers know that the call for Macy's Chicago Designer Shop is coming in July, so keep your eye out for that! [Buyers] will look for menswear, contemporary womenswear and childrenswear designers. Also, young designers will have the opportunity to show a sketch or sample to Macy's experts during Fashion Focus at "Distinctions in Design" on September 26. The Chicago Designer Shop will launch this year on September 8.
Now let's talk about shopping in Chicago! What are some of your favorite local shops?
Just a few favorites? What I love about Chicago retail is that you can find anything here. If you want something that's limited edition and won't be seen on anyone else, or you just need staples, Chicago's retailers can take care of any need.
Are there any stores that are, in your opinion, underrated or deserving of more attention?
Not necessarily underrated, but there is a comeback story, Towanna Mitchell, who will soon open a boutique at 1877 North Milwaukee. In the 1980s, she was happening! She designed for the likes of Oprah Winfrey; she's incredibly talented! I look forward to seeing her again.