WINDY CITY STYLE: It was a night to celebrate Chicago fashion designers.
Nigel Barker and Cynthia Rowley came to town to present “A Celebration of Chicago Style” last week, which spotlighted emerging fashion designers and honored one of the city’s best-known designers, Maria Pinto.
Held at the 21c Museum Hotel, the event was presented by fashion startup The Curio, which was established to promote Chicago-based designers. It featured a runway presentation showcasing four rising star designers: Ajovang, Lola Elan, Production Mode and Sheila Rashid, and concluded with current and archived Pinto pieces. The event also included a cocktail, reception and shopping experience that featured three local accessory designers: jewelry by Viviana Langhoff, bags by Laudi Vidni and footwear by Il Fratellino, the collaboration between Brian Atwood and his little brother Zak Rodríguez.
Backstage, Pinto praised The Curio for shining a light on new designers.
“In the way that Ian [Gerard, cofounder] To set this up, the designers didn’t have to pay anything and for an up-and-coming designer to be able to have a runway presentation at no cost is a great gift,” Pinto said. “You are exposed to between 300 and 400 potential customers.”
Pinto showed four looks from her current M2057 collection, juxtaposed with four pieces from her 2010 line, the latest one inspired by tango.
“I thought it was a good mix,” Pinto said. “So people can see what this current collection is informing, which is more minimalist, simplistic and architectural.”
The archived pieces are “quite over the top,” with heavy beading, sequins and a dress that featured 30 yards of chiffon.
The designer, who rose to world fame dressing Michelle Obama, said today’s women shop differently.
“Luxury is wonderful, but how many $2,000 to $3,000 dresses are you buying? We’ve been through a lot and I don’t think we’re willing to give up comfort post-COVID[-19] especially,” Pinto said.
Barker, who serves as the creative director of the 21c Museum Hotel Chicago, said what makes the city’s fashion unique is its ease of use.
“There’s a lot of great talent here,” Barker said. “Tonight’s designers are the most personable, authentic, down-to-earth people creating silhouettes that are meant to be worn. Sometimes fashion can be over the top and not very practical.”
Before the show began, Rowley, who is from Chicago and attended the Art Institute of Chicago, told a packed audience that the most important thing for a designer to create is to be “in your happy place.”
“When I graduated from the Art Institute, I just packed up my U-Haul and headed straight to New York because the physical place where fashion was taking place was so important, but now it’s not,” Rowley said. “You can be anywhere.”