Budding independent fashion designers may be a rare breed in Chicago, but this Friday night, above a Chinese restaurant in Logan Square, there seem to be hundreds. In the small but charming Elastic Arts Foundation, surrounded by photographs and pumpkin-orange walls, creative types come together in the name of warm weather and sustainable fashion. As a showcase of original and secondhand designs, vintage dresses and vintage materials, Chez Mignon is hoping to ring in what all of Chicago has been waiting for: spring.
The fashion show is the brainchild of Michelle Pauly of Yellow Birdd and Michelle Dimitris of Dollparts Design, bloggers who’ve collaborated to treat guests with live music, free wine and cute desserts in a relaxed and consciously stylish atmosphere. Vintage and repurposed clothing glimmers from racks at the back of the room, waiting in silence for the buying frenzy that will follow.
Dimitris smiles from the stage, surrounded by her friends, friends of friends, and volunteers. “It’s a community,” she says afterwards. “My friend, a musician, composed something for it too.”
As the audience stands pressed against walls, soft live music, played by Sewing Pattern and Deep Deep Diver—friends of the Michelles—begins and the crowd hushes. Runway models begin to lace their way through the room. Bursts of color follow bursts of color, with floppy hats, floral dresses, men’s blazers and sequined hot pants in a variety of shades. The outfits, designed locally, are like apparitions from a kind of treasure trove of fashion decades, with accessories galore. Sellers include Dethrose Vintage, Alidade, Nonnie-Johns, Caroline Borucki, Dollparts and Yellow birdd.
When the show finishes, hungry shoppers crowd around the racks to covet vintage purses and trouser suits. Joyous exclamations of “Where on earth did you find this?” fill the air. There is no mercy in the post-runway buying experience, but it doesn’t matter. Many appreciate the frenzied intimacy, as keen shoppers are able to talk to a variety of vendors about their clothes and Etsy stores, and this sometimes proved more fruitful.
On this night, as warmth begins to finally descend on the city, a room full of designers have just reminded us that renewal and regeneration aren’t just meant for spring. (Lauren Kelly-Jones)