With a new year, a new president and a new era on the horizon, there’s never been a greater time for change—just ask Verse Chicago owner Kortnee Doss. Inhabiting the space formerly known as Via Firenzi, Doss greeted 2009 with a moniker switch, a complete remodeling and open arms.
Taking over the Eurocentric Wicker Park boutique in July 2008, Doss had her work cut out for her. Plagued by very red and “very dated” walls and decor, Doss called upon her fiancé and interior designer, Ruben Quiza, for help. Less than six months later, the place was hardly recognizable. “He did everything,” she gushes. Ripping up the carpet to expose the hardwood floor and painting over the red with more subtle blacks and whites, Doss and Quiza opened up her space with lighter colors and fewer walls. But the changes didn’t stop there.
Infusing the shoe-heavy stock with more apparel and accessories, Doss has revamped both the focus and the concept of the store. Channeling what she calls a “Portobello market,” she has combined a collection of modern indie, quality-driven labels like Bill Tornade and Terra Plana with great vintage pieces from brands like Rockett Mansion. “What we had to do is kind of dissociate ourselves from the other store,” she says.
Accordingly, Doss had to revise more than her stock. She’s also been striving to improve the store’s image by making a positive name for herself and Verse in the local community. Featuring up-and-coming Chicago designers like Anna Fong on Thursday nights, Doss has implemented a weekly showcase to help local fashion. She also has plans in the works for a Fair Trade deal through the Peace Corp that would offer ladies trendy handmade items, like long socks. “Girls like those,” she says. She would know—she’s somewhat of a fashion expert. With both British and American degrees in fashion design and marketing, Doss has worked for big names like Guess, Gap and even Mr. “Project Runway” himself, Christian Siriano. “He’d come in and be like, nuh-uh, that does not go together,” she recalls.
Now taking the opportunity to “spread her wings and fly” on her own, Doss and Verse are still in transition. Unable to completely evade the economically driven retail recession, she has at least put her spare time to good use. Together with intern Justin White, Doss delves into every aspect of fashion in store downtime, from who they’d like to dress to what tights and boots would look good with a new item. “We’re like style incubating over here!” she jokes. “That’s what we love to do.” (Nicole Briese)
Verse Chicago, 1821 West North, (773)486-4434