art chicago

SAIC's The Walk 2015

Monday, June 01, 2015 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

The SAIC fashion show “The Walk” 2015 was a few weeks ago. I wanted to take some time and really sit on the images and ideas that were portrayed and share my thoughts in a manner that truly shined light on the creative visions that I witnessed. I will be honest and say that so many of the recaps I read over the last few weeks were very trite. Now, don’t get your panties in a bundle, I am not trying to diss the major local media, but what I am saying is that every single one mentioned the following statement: “Chicago isn’t known for its fashion”. 

All photography by: Eli Borrowman for Halfstack Media
Let me make my opinion on this matter clear. That statement is a load of cow manure. I am so sick of hearing that idea and reading it time and time again. The SAIC students as well as many a student from the many schools of fashion in the area have made a statement this year. It’s Chicago’s time to shine. 

People tend to go to the coasts when they think of fashion, but before LA and NYC were fashion mainstays, Chicago was building the industry. Chicago's reputation as a trendsetting metropolis in the past was also due in part to the city's film industry. Charlie Chaplin and his cast of stylish starlets inspired women all over the city to  copy every hair style and look they saw on the silver screen. Even after the film industry moved west to Los Angeles, actors and actresses traveling to New York City regularly stopped in Chicago when they switched trains downtown. By World War II, Chicago, the "City of Big Shoulders," became the place to start a career as a fashion designer. We had Marshall Fields, we had a booming manufacturing hub and our garment district wasn’t one to be messed with. Whenever I hear that Chicago isn’t known as a fashion city, the historian in me just shakes her head.

The creativity that came from the SAIC 2015 presentation truly highlighted that these young Chicago designers are hungry, have vision and are not afraid to use their imagination. The students weren’t afraid to push the limits of style and taste. They truly created walking art this year and brought skills that ranged from accessory design to modern sculpture to textile manipulation. The SAIC students were on their A-game and the fashion industry needs to keep their eyes open or Chicago might just come in with an upper cut to the jaw and knock the industry to the ground. 

The City of Chicago has taken a back seat when it comes to fashion the last two years, but I am hoping Rahm will add it to the list of things we can cultivate to help the city grow in terms of business. The fashion students and creatives are choosing to stay here for a reason. There is a booming industry, small, but growing nonetheless and it needs to be nurtured and maintained to grow.

The fashion that was showcased this year at the annual SAIC Student Fashion Show ranged from avante garde to ethereal. While much of the work wasn’t “commercial” per se, it still had relevance and made an impact. The inspiration ranged from Halston’s 70s to tribal to a 90s throwback. This year THE WALK featured THE DOLLS, a performance by renowned artist Claudia Hart, and honored Legend of Fashion Diane Pernet.

More than 1,000 people attended the daytime fashion shows, and nearly 500 people attended THE WALK. The event raised more than $500,000 to support the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) fashion program and student scholarships.

Highlights of the show included Laila Fattal’s woodland fairy inspired flowing dresses, Kaleigh Moynihan’s cartoonish sculptural creations, Fiona Li’s beautiful take on draping that hinted just slightly towards a modern take on Halston, Eunjae Oh’s well tailored Huck Finn vibe and Allison Shaftel’s twist on the 1950’s housewife that almost felt like Fran Drescher meets Barbie meets pinup girl.

The menswear this season was out in full force and ranged from retro feeling barber to modern asymmetrical styles that screamed urban warrior. Many of the students incorporated beautiful draping, quilting and pleating that paid homage to traditional techniques, but with a modern touch. Students did a beautiful job of showcasing their abilities to work with a wide array of textiles that ranged from fur to knits to beautiful silks. My pick for the most commercial and retail ready collection went to Samantha Sipos. Her gorgeous gowns and amazing beading techniques were juxtaposed with badass leather and fur pieces that gave her collection an overall sophisticated edge.

The students who participated in Walk 2015 truly wowed with their talent and skill this season, in this city so many are quick to say isn’t known for its fashion. The crowd was pleased, many from the industry continue to be impressed and the students continue to innovate. SAIC is truly where art meets fashion. 

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