Chicago Fashion: Sign of the Times

By Amanda Harth

One of the most dangerous places to live is in the past. Human beings have a tendency to hold onto things that meant something; memories, objects, dreams, people. We’re taught always remember or never forget, but what good does acknowledging the past do if you don’t learn anything good from it. As artists using what happened as a muse has allowed us to pour out some of our best work and has stayed as a source of inspiration. Sometimes as artist we get stuck and become content with what worked in the past and fear change especially when it becomes unavoidable. Fashion is one of the oldest industries in the world and in 2019 a trillion dollar industry that evolves into something different daily with new ideas, technology, trends, and emerging designers.

So what the fuck is up with Chicago fashion?

A portion of the fashion community in Chicago are still stuck in the past and clinging to the glory days, another portion keeps to themselves once they reach a certain of notoriety, and the emerging designers do their own thing. Why can’t we move forward and why do these designers get fashion degrees at highly recommend institutions in Chicago only to leave because of the lack of opportunities in the fashion field? The Chicago fashion community is currently seen as just entertainment and essentially an afterthought. Chicago’s fashion industry was a flourishing community in the eighties, but in the nineties more companies began to get things created overseas for much less. It got worse after the economical down spiral following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. More funding was cut and investors pulled out to put their money into something safe, fashion not included. Now random shows take place throughout the year featuring a combination of experienced and inexperienced designers and unorganized show coordinators that pray on young designers because it could “be a great opportunity to gain exposure.” Designers pay fees to be a part of the show and don’t receive much of an ROI for taking this risk.No buyers, no boutique owners, no members of the media, and no current or potential clients attend these shows.

Being an independent designer gets real expensive real quick and it’s a craft that’s under appreciated because of these microwavable outfits (that’s another conversation). They’re quick, cheap, and will get you through the afternoon. So if you are organizing a show or a market that will be great exposure YOU HAVE TO DELIVER. As a designer by trade and an events coordinator I’ve experienced disappointment on both sides due to various factors, but that’s time and money you can’t get back, so you have to deliver. There are designers based in Chicago that all have success stories and have been able to consistently make a living so it’s not impossible.

Designer Ray Moreno of Impavid (and co-owner of the new store front 2048.C in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood) is flourishing and has his finger on the pulse of what’s next in elevated streetwear. Sheila Rashid is a self taught bespoke denim designer, that took time to learn the skills and do business her way. Her work has been featured on,The New York Times, and worn by Bella Hadid, Zendaya, Chance the Rapper, and Lena Waithe. Chelli Look, founder of the handcrafted leather goods brand CHC, is a self taught artisan that created her business in 2013 and has been featured in WWD, Allure Magazine, and CS Magazine. She recently returned back to Chicago after taking time to expanded her knowledge by taking leather handbag making classes in Florence, Italy for three months. Amy Mokris has a background in photography and product development and was able to create a plan to raise a portion of her funding on Kickstarter to start her unisex watch brand Le Coeur Watches. In 48 hours Amy raised $10,000 and still runs her headquarters out of Chicago. Artist/designer Gabriella Meyer created her brand from her senior thesis project in college. After working as an intern, networking, and experimenting with used scraps of denim she was able to develop the brand Denimcratic which has been featured in Nylon Magazine, The Rolling Stone, People Magazine, and The New York Times. Without any major marketing or advertising Suzette Opara has become the designer of choice when it comes to creating prom gowns on the South Side of Chicago. The self taught designer is known for creating one of a kind prom dresses and gowns for women across the country.

Chicago has a perspective in fashion that is starting to be discovered because of the current state of the industry. We don’t need a fashion week to define the quality of our fashion community, but conversations and a collective effort to build an industry in Chicago can be a great start to a solution.

We’ll continue to explore the topic of Chicago Fashion monthly and would love feedback from the readers. Feel free to email us at or message us on Instagram and Twitter @Runwayaddicts

Amanda Harth