The wind was strong on Friday as small business owners and food trucks set up along a two-block stretch of Division. Tents flapped as they were raised and clothes were almost blown off of their racks. People walked around idly before the Do Division festival started, getting an early peek at the booths. Some sold clothes, other sold candles and jewelry, while still others sold artwork. The two music stages were almost completely set up by the time the festival officially opened; only a few behind-the-scenes people still ran around with coils of cords and microphone stands.
Walking around before everything got started let me get a look at some of the moving pieces that went into making this festival possible. I mean, there were 2 stages with 2 completely different set lists, tons of places to stop for food and drinks (both in the festival and on the side of the street), and booth after booth of things to buy, not to mention 2 full blocks of kids activities.
But while the music and food and artwork were all amazing, they aren’t the focus of this blog post. This post is all about how Anastasia “did” Chicago Fashion Fest.
The sky was cloudless Friday night as the Do Division festival opened and Division street filled with people. The festival began at 5 and not long after, the streets were packed: mostly West Town residents drinking beer and wine, perusing tents, and dancing by the stages where the bands were in full swing. People were walking their dogs up and down the street and sidewalks, so many that you couldn’t look in one direction without seeing someone’s furry companion. Some people had brought their young children, but since the kids’ section of the festival didn’t start until Saturday, there weren’t many. People milled around with plates and bags of food, sitting on the edge of the curbs and at the picnic tables to eat, and enjoying the bone-shaking volume of the music.
The Anastasia Chatzka booth was closest to the runway, north of Division about a half block on Hoyne. Two of its sides were lined with racks of brightly colored skirts, shirts, and dresses, as well as the new transparent raincoats. There were bins of patterned bralettes, panties, and wool hats and scarves. A table of $10 jewelry was set at the front of the tent and people filtered in and out, checking out the necklaces and rings and scanning the racks. There was a table set up on the third side of the tent with a sewing machine and seated behind it were some of Anastasia’s interns. One of them sewed custom tote bags out of t-shirts. Another intern gave out the bags to those who signed up for information about sewing classes. Upbeat EDM played by DJ EDLO kept the vibe energetic and fun as the festival reached its height.
I got my front-row seat to the fashion show about an hour before it was supposed to start, sure that the seats would fill up fast. The fashion stage’s only band, Babycuts, was setting up on the stage. As the sun set, they started the show. Their sound was somewhere between alternative and punk rock, with a lead singer who sounded straight out of an 80’s girl band. Babycuts mixed originals with covers, including Cigarette Daydreams by Cage the Elephant, and Zombie in a touching tribute to lead singer of The Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan, who died earlier this year.
After they got the small but enthusiastic crowd warmed up, we were ready for the main event to begin. The fashion show featured 13 designers and boutiques, most showing off their clothes, but a few displaying accessories, like jewelry, bags, and shoes. The complete list of designers is below, along with photos of some of the looks.
The diversity of styles captured the audience’s attention: from Micha’s loose-fitting, flowery pieces to Hidden Treasures’s tight, bold clothes; there was something for everyone. There were even a few pieces for men. Anastasia’s looks were somewhere in the middle of the lineup. She showed about 5 really awesome outfits. A few specific ones really stood out to me: a purple bathing suit with a pink raincoat over it, a floor-length blue dress, and a pink striped romper.
The next day, I was able to work behind-the-scenes in the fashion show. I helped the main organizer, Jen, sort the outfits, fit the models, and dress them once the show started. The tent was pretty tiny, and the makeup table and three racks of pieces to send down the runway took up most of the space. Each model was assigned a chair and above it, we hung the looks they would wear in the show so that they wouldn’t have to go searching for them.
Hours before the show started, the models slowly began to arrive with suitcases and bags of extra heels, tank tops, and makeup. It was relatively easy to assign outfits since some of them had been in the show the previous day. But some models from Friday weren’t coming and others were completely new, so there was plenty of reassigning to do. Another of Anastasia’s interns, Vivi, Jen, and I all helped models dress in outfit possibilities to see who looked best in what, and double-checked that no one was wearing the same brand twice, which had caused problems in Friday’s show (to my surprise, since it seemed to have gone very smoothly from where I was sitting in the audience).
The early models got their hair and makeup done and left to go explore the festival. This worked out well since there were more than 10 models and barely enough space in the tent for five people to move around each other. We labeled and organized clothes, and dressed and directed models.
Time flew and I was shocked when I heard Babycuts once again starting their set an hour before the show would start. As all the models came back from exploring, Jen assigned me to dole out jewelry to the models before they walked the runway. There were very specific brands that were paired together, and it took most of my focus to make sure I was handing out the right pieces and given back the jewelry after the models walked with it. In addition to that, I was called over to help models do quick changes when they were modeling for back-to-back brands.
The stress was palpable backstage as we helped the models undress, lending shoulders, arms, and heads for balance, and holding open clothes for them to step, shimmy, or climb into. We zipped up zippers that wouldn’t work, buttoned up buttons that slipped easily between fingers, and tied bow after bow.
Before we knew it, the last brand was up next: Anastasia Chatzka. I helped a model into my favorite floor-length blue dress from the day before while Vivi hurried models back into the tent for their last outfits. I threw a sash onto someone’s chair, zipped up a pair of black heels, and quickly scanned the room for anyone who still needed help. But everyone was lined up and ready to go. A few seconds later, the tent was empty. The host outside announced Anastasia’s brand and I hurried outside to watch the last bit of the show.
The models seemed almost larger than life up on the catwalk and I almost forgot they were gripping my arm while climbing into high heels just minutes before. Strobe lights lit up to the beat of the electronic music; Anastasia’s collection of garments were a hit with the crowd. There were 3 dresses, but also that purple swimsuit, the rompers, and of course, the transparent raincoat. People laughed and clapped and danced to the music. They cheered at the outfits and models they loved, and when each had walked, they formed a line and walked one more time down the runway. The crowd roared.
As the audience dispersed after the show concluded, music continued to play from the runway, and both the East and West stages, all mixing together somewhere in the middle of Division Street. People meandered around, most taking advantage of the generous number of alcohol vendors. The street lights and lights from the stages lit up Division. The night sky was clear, the moon bright. The festival and surrounding blocks resonated with music, laughter, and plenty of energy for the rest of the night.
Written by Miranda Marnik-Said
Designers Featured in the Fashion Show:
Baraka Ethnic Jewelry
Dynamic Salon Boutique
Locked and Layered
G.I.A. Luxe/Tulle Project