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Christina Karin on Her Spring/Summer Line, Chicago's "Expanding" Fashion Scene

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Need a visual break from the winter greyness? Take a peek at the new spring/summer line from designer Christina Karin. The local fashion pro has infused her latest collection with bright prints and splashes of orange and yellow ("my vision of happiness," the designer says of the vibrant hues.) Read on to learn more about the girly separates, life as a Chicago fashion designer, and Karin's take on power dressing.

Before entering the world of fashion, you were in finance. Did you find the dress codes stifling in that field?
Well, the financial world is a much more serious place than some of the other more relaxed industries, yet I didn't really find it stifling as I added my own twist to the basics and accessorized heavily with jewelry, scarves, and shoes. I tried to think outside of basic black by adding unique textures and shapes for suiting. I actually can say I enjoyed the challenge—and I didn't know it at the time, but I was honing my design skills all the while.

Do you think there's a way to incorporate pretty, feminine looks—like your own designs—into high-power work wardrobes?
Absolutely! I think that subtle feminine touches are fine for high-powered work wardrobes: [think] Hermès scarves, some elegant studs, and a great pair of shoes. Maybe add a little metallic here and there in the form of accents or a belt, but sequin and lace are definitely for off-hours—as much as I love them! I always include a few day-to-evening styles in my collections that, when paired with a great blazer and pumps, would rock a work environment. Examples are the Cannes Sheath or Striped Muse knit dress in my SS14 Collection.

Now that you're in the fashion field, what's your daily uniform like?
Well most recently, when I have been in my studio designing or with clients, I've been wearing my leather leggings and signature hand-painted silk tops. I just adore silk and the way it feels on the body, and of course how it looks. You just can't beat silk. It's the real deal. When I have an event I typically step it up a notch and wear one of my designs, usually a dress. I would say a majority of the looks have an urban-glam feel to them. Sophisticated always, but a slight and subtle edge that's modern and sexy. That's my signature.

Where do you design, and what's your studio like?
Well after completing my Designer-in-Residency at the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's last year, I opened my own studio and showroom in Bucktown where I develop my collections and see buyers and customers. I call it my "think tank," and it's a work in progress. The goal is for the space to exude everything about my brand: In a nutshell, Old Hollywood meets modern-day muse.

What's a typical workday like as a Chicago designer?
I start my day pretty early—with an-11-month-old son, life is certainly packed!—and typcially catch up on overnight emails and such. I then spend the bulk of my day with sales appointments, buyers, and clients and usually a few hours in the later day to early evening to develop more collections, sew, paint, draw and get my creative energy out. I also work throughout the weekend, but when work is your passion it's not a chore. Rather, it's the air in my lungs.

What are the advantages and fun aspects of having a fashion business based in Chicago? And, are there any major drawbacks?
I moved here from Boston seven years ago, but have always felt a deep connection with Chicago. From the day I arrived I knew this would be my home. I feel it really has everything to offer—great people, lots of culture, a cosmopolitan feel, and space! The fashion scene is definitely expanding rapidly with more and more talent and creativity arising each year. I feel Chicago is a great city to enter in the business because people here are always hungry to find and support new talent, and they pay much more attention than in other highly competitive and saturated markets. That being said, I do travel to New York on a monthly basis to manage production and sourcing, and I also find it very diverse and inspiring. As a designer, travel and seeing other places and cultures are pivotal to my collections and vision for the future.

When did you begin designing this SS14 line, and what inspired the collection?
The entire process started a year ago as seasons move very quickly. I was inspired by a few recent trips I had taken to Paris and the West Coast. I found [inspiration] in the California beach culture and the exaggerated motion and detail of the Baroque period seen throughout Europe in the 1600's...My mood board had a great deal of textural objects, from seashells and sand to tattoos and graffiti, as well as ornate Parisian bridges and architecture.

What are the main fabrics, colors, and characteristics of this collection?
The collection's primary fabric is hand-painted and printed silks, such as [my signature] vintage tattoo print, along with punches of gold lace and hand-embellished sequin accents. The chartreuse yellow and sherbert orange are interwoven throughout to represent my vision of happiness, life, and celebration—a boldness we cannot live without.

If you could design a Chicago day for your customer, wearing pieces from the SS14 line, where would she go and what would she wear?
I love this question, as I truly love the Christina Karin woman and all she stands for...She is social, she is charasmatic, and as smart as she is, she doesn't take herself too seriously—she is playful when the lights are low. She likes to explore. She might visit Michigan ave or Bucktown or Logan Square for the latest adventure, whether it be a charity event, an intimate gathering with friends for drinks, or time spent with family at the Art Institute or antique market. Above all she is diverse and compassionate, and to her the world is her oyster and she intends to leave her mark. Some of her favorite spots in Chicago include: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pump Room, Pops for Champagne, Doc B's, shopping at Comfort Me on Armitage, Citizen Stone, Intermix on Rush, Fred's at Barneys or Le Colonial for power lunches.
· Christina Karin [Official Site]
· Chicago's Own Christina Karin [Haute Life Chicago]