Founder, Dirk Denison Architects
Known equally for his architectural work as his support of the artistic community, Dirk Denison is a longstanding faculty member in IIT’s College of Architecture, serves as an executive board member at the Cranbrook Schools, and is active in various roles with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. His office is nationally recognized for its high-end residential and hospitality work—including the high-profile Chicago restaurants L2O and Terzo Piano—with projects covering the United States.
Fashion Community Liaison, City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE)
When Mayor Richard Daley appointed a “fashion czar” and initiated Fashion Focus Chicago as Chicago’s response to Fashion Week in 2004, hopes were raised that the city’s relatively low profile in the rag trade would soon be history. But though some fun fashion shows were produced, and a whole lot of networking took place, the city’s waning fortunes in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and a lack of adequate focus on year-round, soup-to-nuts apparel production left the program with an uncertain future. However, the good news is that the newly reconstituted DCASE under Mayor Emmanuel is not throwing in the towel on fashion. Project manager Ann Hickey, who last year created the Chef du Jour culinary showcase as part of Taste of Chicago, will be helming the city’s fashion enterprise, including this October’s Fashion Focus and July’s Sidewalk Sale on Daley Plaza. Hickey, whose educational pedigree is all business, looks to tilt her project in that direction. Though plans are still nascent, look for more “work,” i.e. building on the success of the Chicago Fashion Incubator project as the city tries to jumpstart a real industry, to go with the “play.”
Founder, Designer, Lana Jewelry
Typically men buy women the bling, but jewelry designer Lana Bramlette changed all that. She started out by designing a fourteen-karat-gold necklace with then-boyfriend Rob’s nameplate on it (now husband) back in the heyday of “Sex and the City,” and took her first order in the 900 North Michigan building, when a lady saw the necklace. Fred Segal and Neiman Marcus followed, as did a bevy of celebrities from Cameron Diaz to Jennifer Lopez to Chelsea Handler. Now in its eleventh year, the eponymous line from the self-proclaimed “Queen of Hoops” is sold in more than 300 stores in Chicago, New York, London and elsewhere.
Principal, Morlen Sinoway Atelier
It’s telling that Morlen Sinoway Atelier’s neighbors on Fulton Market tend to be contemporary art galleries, as Sinoway advocates for highly crafted functional art objects that transform our homes into beautiful places. Sinoway’s shop is filled with work by local artisans and internationally known design studios, as well as Sinoway’s own custom furniture line. Sinoway hosts an annual Guerrilla Truck Show, which brings great design to the masses each summer. The next one is June 11.
Founder and Managing Director, Firebelly
In addition to founding the influential Firebelly design company in 1999, Dawn Hancock finds ways to give back to the community that supports her. She was named one of the eleven Most Generous Designers by Fast Company for her extensive passion projects: Firebelly University, a “real world alternative to an MBA” for would-be entrepreneurs that have an interest in social change; the Grant for Good, an annual donation of Firebelly design services to a nonprofit; Camp Firebelly, a hands-on internship for young designers; and Reason to Give, a community group working to make Humboldt Park a better place to live.
Nena Ivon is no newcomer to the Chicago fashion scene: She all but invented it during her fifty-plus-year run as the special events manager/fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue. Ivon retired from the company in 2009, but she certainly hasn’t retired from the style scene. Ivon’s fashion resume continues to grow, with stints as a fashion director for the Randolph Street Market, a founder and partner for TALKSCHIC (a coalition of professional speakers in specialized industries, such as fashion), a professor of fashion at Columbia College, and the president of the Costume Council for the Chicago History Museum.
Owner, Robin Richman
Bucktown boutique owner Robin Richman made her bones in Chicago by dressing women up with an aesthetic described as feminine yet tomboy. A textile graduate of SAIC, Richman started out with a hand-knit sweater business, later switching to hand-picking European fashion favorites like Marc Le Bihan. Fifteen years later, North Damen pioneer Richman is still bringing Italy and Paris to Chicago, from Guidi man boots to frequent trunk shows featuring designer appearances. Expect a casual vibe at the store, where Richman and her five cohorts (“neighborhood girls”) work with artistically inclined and fashion-adventurous women, creating a singular look that has made this boutique one-of-a-kind.
Owner, JNL Graphic Design
Jason Pickleman is the go-to for exhibition-related graphic design needs, including all of the visuals for the upcoming Expo Chicago art fair on Navy Pier and exhibition catalogues for the University of Chicago. Pickleman has also produced graphics for a thirty-foot wall at IKRAM, as well as restaurant visuals for Tre Soldi, Fish Bar, MK, Eleven City Diner, as well as the CTA. He is also a poet.
Chief Designer, Museum of Contemporary Art
It was a coup for the Museum of Contemporary Art when, in 2010, they snagged James Goggin to lead their Design, Print, and Digital Media department. Since then, the British designer, who formerly headed Practise, has completely revolutionized the museum’s graphic identity with visually enticing exhibition graphics, catalogue designs, and marketing materials. Although the museum lacks a design curator, Goggin has occasionally stepped into that role, and his efforts are currently being celebrated in an exhibition titled “Designing Art” at Northeastern Illinois University. However, at press time, the department is in transition and Goggin’s new title is Chief Designer, focusing on specific design projects related to the MCA’s new vision. Correspondingly, Alfredo Ruiz has been promoted to senior designer.
Kirby and Whitney Kerr
Founded two years after Kidrobot in NYC, and on the frontier of the grown-up-toy-design market, Rotofugi, owned by Kirby and Whitney Kerr, is Chicago’s top retailer of Japanese-inspired toys. In 2007 they partnered with Squibbles Ink to produce unique designer toys by local artists.