Prague transplants Nicole Sivek and Silvia Kozonova talk about Sistercity Studio, a series of fashion-related events featuring some of the most remarkable Czech designers.
How did you come up with the “Sistercity Studio” concept? What is your goal with this project?
We came up with the concept while in Chicago together last winter. While visiting Dose Market we came across a lot of amazing local product designers and craftsmen, but we also noticed a big gap in the design scene when it came to fashion. We could see that there was a huge potential to fill this gap, and since we are so intertwined with Czech and other European fashion scenes, we thought “why not bring it over and introduce high-quality contemporary design to people who so clearly appreciate it?” The goal of our project is to build a bridge between American and European fashion, specifically among Chicago’s sister cities. We would like to open otherwise impossible markets to young designers as well.
Why did you pick Chicago to host this first “fashion exchange”?
We chose Chicago because Prague and Chicago have a twenty-five-year history as sister cities. Many Czechs emigrated to Chicago in the sixties and seventies during communism. We both have personal ties with Chicago as well. [Nicole is a Chicago native but has been living in Prague for more than five years and Silvia fell in love with the city after staying here for a few months.]
What events will be part of the Sistercity Studio series?
We are not only going to create a pop-up store; we also want to get people in Chicago involved in the fashion scene by networking, getting new information and having fun. With that in mind we are going to kick off the project with a fashion show at the Chicago Athletic Association in the newly renovated Stagg Court, promote weekly workshops with influential guest speakers from Prague and Chicago in various Dollop Coffee locations, and throw a Botas66 USA Release Party, as well as individual designer parties. There will definitely be something for everyone!
Could you tell me a bit more about your sponsor, Botas66 USA?
Botas66 USA is the contemporary version of a shoe brand established in the Czech Republic in 1949. They will be introduced to the American market on July 9th at their official release party, which is open to the public at our pop-up store. We are excited to unveil their uniquely designed products and proud to work with a brand who focuses on vegan designs.
When and where will the pop-up shop happen? Do you intend to make it permanent at some point?
The pop-up store will be located at Cat Von Kang Gallery at 1112 North Ashland, near Wicker Park. We will definitely be opening a permanent showroom after the pop-up—thanks to Botas66 USA we are able to do so. Chicagoans will be hearing about that very soon! During the pop-up we will solely be featuring Czech and Slovak design, but the permanent showroom will also feature fashion from other Chicago sister cities, such as Paris, Moscow, Accra and Mexico City.
What Czech designers will you be featuring? Could you briefly describe what each one of them makes?
The Czech designers that we will be featuring all have incredible design aesthetics and are selected from the best of the best in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There is Alex Monhart, which is a brand that locally makes minimal, contemporary bags; Leeda, which has been a staple brand in the Czech Republic for many years, with locally made garments as well; Botas66 USA, which we mentioned before; Buffet and We Are Not Sisters, both street-style Slovakian brands; CHATTY, which is amazingly tailored and has created the most buzz not only in the Czech Republic but all over Europe; PBG, a young brand focusing on leather and PVC bags that are minimal and European produced; ZORYA and Antipearle, in our opinion the edgiest and most successful jewelry brands in the Czech Republic; and finally we have ODIVI, a cool urban brand whose head designer will be flying to Chicago to speak in our first workshop!
How would you describe the Czech design aesthetic?
It is very wearable and functional, with the main focus on everyday life. Carefully thought out compared to American design.
How would you compare the Chicago and Prague fashion scenes?
Prague and Chicago have a lot of creative people who can appreciate original fashion and aren’t afraid to try a new approach. They are both geographically situated in-between fashion capitals, with small, tightly knit communities striving to establish their identities on the international fashion map.
Do you intend to collaborate with Chicago designers and brands as well?
We are in the process of opening our permanent showroom in Chicago. After our official launch we will begin to consider Chicago designers in addition to other international brands we are already in conversation with. We are interested and intrigued by the local scene and we believe that it is going to evolve and grow.
How can our local fashion scene benefit from Sistercity Studio?
We want to bring high quality fashion from different parts of the world and help develop a less commercial aesthetic for Chicago, building a community who will share experiences and learn from local and international fashion professionals.
—Interview by Isa Giallorenzo
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.