Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Inclusive Style: Alison Cuddy on the Chicago Humanities Festival Spring Series

Photo by Ben Gonzales*

We recently sat down with Chicago Humanities Festival associate artistic director Alison Cuddy to talk about their new spring series, “Style.”

When I heard the upcoming Chicago Humanities Festival would be themed “Style,” I thought you’d mostly feature people connected with the design industry. But the lineup is actually a lot more encompassing: names such as Andrew Solomon and Arianna Huffington, though very remarkable, don’t necessarily evoke the subject. What was your selection process like? What kind of speaker were you looking for?
We have a pretty broad and inclusive notion of style. That’s how we tackle all our themes–we want to both satisfy and surprise people in the way we go about interpreting them. So fashion and clothing is a strong through-line of the fest but we also view style as a mode of communication–a way of expressing individuality or community. Huffington played a huge role in changing the style of news media–how we consume, distribute and engage with media–and in that sense she fits within our theme. We do a lot of creative thinking to make connections to our theme that aren’t always obvious.

Why would a seemingly superficial matter such as “style” deserve a whole festival centered around it–especially one usually dedicated to deeper ideas?
Oh, style is definitely deep! It is both everywhere (music, fashion, dance, film, politics, etc.) and elusive. That makes it a rich topic to dive into. Major cultural shifts, hip-hop for example, might happen through style, by affecting not just the music people listen to but the way they dress and speak, their attitudes and lifestyles. Style is about politics and economics–we have programs about the impact of cheap, disposable clothing and the variety of practices around and interpretations of hijab. Who wouldn’t want to talk about all this?

What does style mean to you? Is it a big part of your life?
I love clothing and fashion. I totally embrace the idea that style is a way to express yourself. I’m also fascinated by style as a mode of conformity and fitting in. That’s a theme of Margo Jefferson’s fantastic memoir “Negroland,” which explores how style is often something we don’t really get to choose, and the consequences of that for identity, individually or culturally. I can’t wait to hear her at the fest.

This is the first CHF happening in the spring. Should we expect two festivals per year from now on? Why did you decide to make this addition?
We’ve been expanding our programming and finding ways to engage audiences year round. People know and love us for the festival experience so we are excited to try it out at other moments of the year.

What differentiates the CHF from other events such as Chicago Ideas Week?
When we started out over twenty years ago there weren’t many people doing this kind of programming. I love that now there are more festivals and organizations in the game. It helps to elevate our citizens and our city. I think what makes CHF continue to stand out is that we are humanities-based, which means we are interested in exploring not just how, but why, things are the way they are. This world doesn’t come with easy or quick answers and I think audiences have proven to be up for embracing that complexity.

The tickets for the Iris Apfel talk** sold out like they were… going out of style. Any comforting news for the fans who won’t make it?
Yes, most of our programs are recorded and we try to upload to YouTube as quickly as possible. If you love Iris and couldn’t get a ticket, I encourage you to check out Isabel and Ruben Toledo, a dynamic husband-and-wife design duo known for their high-end, avant-garde clothes and collections for Lane Bryant. We are thrilled Chicago’s Maria Pinto will be with us, in conversation with Rachel Roy. So there are other great options!

The Chicago Humanities Festival “Style” series happens from April 28-May 1. More info at chicagohumanities.org.
Originally published in Newcity.

*In the picture above, Alison Cuddy is sporting a Rachel Comey dress and a pair of Repetto shoes she got on "deeeeep" discount. Both purchased at p45, one of her favorite Chicago boutiques.  

**Unfortunately Iris Apfel's talk has just been canceled due to an acute bout of sciatica she's suffered.

Jena of ChiCityFashion

Photograph by Heather Talbert / Courtesy of ChiCityFashion 

Chic Chicago: Interviews With Style (Bloggers)
In this series we will be featuring some of the movers and shakers of our fashion culture. We’re starting with the best-dressed ladies of the local blogosphere.

Jena Gambaccini of ChiCityFashion
Instagram: @chicityfashion

Blogging since? December 2009

Why did you start blogging? I liked fashion and I was bored in college and long story short… ChiCityFashion was born.

What do you love most about blogging? The freedom to write about what I want, when I want is great and all. But I love when a reader tells me about a certain post they read that really inspired them or that they especially enjoyed. Whether it’s in person or simply a blog comment, it means the world to me.

Favorite fashion blogs and magazines? I read more fashion news websites like The Cut, Fashionista, WhoWhatWear and the online versions of Elle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. I really enjoy magazines with super-unique editorials like Wonderland, AnOther, and CR Fashion Book. I also love newer publications Majestic Disorder and Collective Quarterly.

Style influences? Definitely travel. Even if the style in that particular city isn’t really my style, I love to see how people dress in different cities. Everything from all black and grungy in Berlin to effortless and chic in Paris—it all inspires me! Also Julia Sarr-Jamois is my spirit animal.

Styling and shopping tips? Don’t wear what you don’t feel comfortable in. There’s a fine line between taking a risk and just feeling completely not like yourself. When you’re confident in what you’re wearing, it shows and it’s great! As for shopping, don’t invest in anything too trendy (I’ve learned this the hard way). It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what trends are going to stick around or disappear so be sure to only invest in things you’d love regardless of its trend status. And when shopping at fast fashion stores, this is where you’ll find the trends, but be careful: you don’t want to get too caught up in them. or what I like to call #trendsontrendsontrends.

Originally published in Newcity.



Punk-bunny fashion

On his way to a party in Bridgeport, Gabe shows that rocking all white is not just for the summer. I love his mix of textures and his pitch-black eyebrows and bleach blonde hair—it's the perfect balance of sexy and edgy. What better look for partying?

Originally posted in the Chicago Reader.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Hip Hop artist Towkio from the Save Money collective pulled out this killer Junya Watanabe jacket to show me.




According to Katie's friend, her jacket has been sported by Elaine Benes on Seinfeld and featured in Twin Peaks during that fabulous/hilarious fashion show on Season 2. Now that is a garment pedigree!




A butterfly by day

"Fashion is at once a caterpillar and a butterfly," Coco Chanel famously said. "Be a caterpillar by day and butterfly by night." Stylist, clothier, and model Lexi Kingery (@clear_bones) subverts Chanel's rule by being a butterfly in the light. "I'm so sick of black and white," she says. "Right now I'm giving you a mixture of 70s flow with some colorful 60s mod realness." In preparation for the spring sartorial season, Kingery says, "I've been really exploring the Gunne Sax and Victorian region of the vintage realm, and I'm excited to present that more." By night, this fixture in the local club scene favors sexy and "very small" pieces that are "just shiny enough to be tacky or trashy." Some of those very items are available for purchase on Kingery's Instagram clothing shop, @shopbluedream.

Originally published in the Chicago Reader.


Oh, Couture

Coriama Couture is a triple threat—or should I say a triple A? The artist, aesthetician, and activist is writing and hosting a soon-to-debut webseries about nonconforming identities and queerness in Chicago, and helming the monthly discussion series and podcast Sex KiKi, which she created to celebrate liberated femininity. And she has designs to open a shop inspired by gender and sexual fluidity. When it comes to shaping her style, which is informed by the local "Afro-surrealistic" collective Zo//Ra Multiverse, Couture draws upon what she calls "the ABCS"—art, beauty, culture, and sexuality. Keep up with her many projects at coriamacouture.com.

Originally published in the Chicago Reader.

* Coriama Coture will be speaking at the Chicago Humanities Festival in their upcoming STYLE edition, more info at coriamacouture.com.


Sarah has been featured here in the blog before, her interview is one of my faves - check it out here.


Conversation Starter

Attorney-at-law Jay Kumar (jaykumarlaw.com) was barhopping with some friends in Wicker Park. He is semi-famous around town for his outfits.

Could you tell me a bit more about your jacket? How often do you wear it? Where did you get it? How does it make you feel?

The jacket is a replica Michael Jackson “Beat It” jacket I got made for me online. I collect Michael Jackson jackets as well as other forms of eccentric fashion—from sparkly blue motorcycle jackets to shiny silver blazers and white tuxedos with studded ties. I almost always wear something interesting when I go out, and often during the day, though less flamboyant. This jacket is my favorite so I wear it the most—at least several times a month. I never feel like I’m a guy wearing a costume, I just wear things I’m attracted to that I think complement my personality and make me feel like myself. I get tons of people talking to me at bars and clubs so it’s a great conversation starter.

Do you also incorporate statement pieces in your work wardrobe?
I don’t think I usually incorporate statement pieces for the sake of making a statement, but I usually only buy things that I think are especially interesting. So I usually don’t have any boring outfits.

If you could wear anything to practice law, how would you style yourself?
For the most part, I do wear what I’d like to wear to practice law. I’m a fan of very slim fit, dark or grey three-piece suits with bright, solid or regimented pattern ties. I love to accessorize with tie-bars, pocket squares and watches. Most lawyers in state court don’t dress that well, so I like to look really sleek and put-together, especially to build credibility as a young lawyer whose opposing counsel are older. Men’s formal fashion is more or less a pretty dull affair without much variation so we tend to innovate in the small harder-to-notice details like the aforementioned tie-color/pocket-square combos.

Who inspires your work wardrobe? How about your party wardrobe?
I don’t think anyone in particular inspires my work wardrobe. It’s more or less a formalized version of my normal outfits. I dress with about as much edge as I can get away with in court. My “going out” wardrobe has an eclectic set of influences ranging from Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, to hip-hop and goth and metal sub-cultures.

What’s your fashion philosophy?

I think fashion is one way for people to express themselves. You broadcast information about yourself whether you’re conscious of what you wear or not. I’m very confident, extroverted, bold and a huge risk taker, so I tend to be attracted to clothes that reflect that, although my overall look seems to elude categorization into any specific subculture and usually transcends class or race boundaries. I also have a performer personality—I’m a mentalist (a mind-reading magician who performs on stage) which fits a trial lawyer well. I love to talk to, persuade and entertain large groups of people. I’m an advocate of throwing aside conventional, arbitrary fashion norms, which serve to repress individuality. I think it’s important to be bold and craft one’s own identity.

Originally published in Newcity.


Are you a mod or a rocker?

Few people I encounter are more qualified to talk about trends than Chelsea Perryman. As visual manager at a major clothing retailer, she's responsible for leading a team of merchandisers who style mannequins and create eye-catching in-store displays. With spring on the horizon, "denim is back and so are the 70s, satin neck scarves, and lots of suede. There's also a very feminine Romantic-era trend coming back in, with loose silhouettes and soft lace," Perryman says. "For me, the classic clean-cut mod look will continue. Razor-sharp bangs and a powerful shade of lipstick, she says, are "a winner every time."

Originally published in the Chicago Reader.


Feel the Mood

Fashion designer Marcela Andrade (@ma_zinha) was on her way to a meeting in West Town.

How do you usually style yourself? What’s your process, where do you start?
It might seem a little cliché, but I think I start from the way I feel and the mood of the day. Then I take a look at my closet and pick out an item that really speaks to me, and build a look around it.

What do clothes mean to you? When and why did you start paying attention to them?
Clothes mean fun, expression and versatility. They can convey who you are or who you’d like to be on a given day. I think I started being mindful of clothing when I was five years old and my grandma gave me an armoire filled with these gorgeous dresses she sewed for me.

What are the elements that make a great outfit?

Knowing oneself—very deep, I know. But I think when you know yourself you end up figuring out what shapes and colors work best for you. And also not being afraid to dare a bit and try something new.

Who are your favorite designers at the moment?
There are so many! Dries van Noten is an all-time favorite, but right now I’m also loving Alessandro Dell’Acqua for No 21 and Cine 732, a Brazilian accessory brand.

What inspires you the most?

People and how they relate to their environment, art, music and fashion. More of my inspirations can be seen at pinterest.com/boardnumberone.

What magazines and fashion websites are you into right now?
Lula Magazine (from England), Teen Vogue, Vogue Japan and Apartamento (a Spanish arts and culture magazine). Now with Pinterest and Instagram I don’t really check out websites anymore…

What do you expect to bring to your customers?
Versatility, practicality and fun!

Marcela’s line of embellished T-shirts will soon be available at boardnumberone.com.

Originally published in Newcity.
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