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Fashioning the Future

Posted under by Petra Slinkard

CHM curator of costume Petra Slinkard recounts the history of the Museum’s FashioNext program and the upcoming Finale for FashioNext 2017.

FashioNext is one of my favorite Chicago History Museum events. It was born out of a program established in 2009 with the opening of Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum, where professional designers worked with the Museum to created one-of-a-kind garments based on objects included in the exhibition. In 2010, the Museum worked with another slate of professional designers on wedding attire, as the costume exhibition that year was I Do: Chicago Ties the Knot. The competition continued to evolve from year to year with subsequent iterations focusing on the work of college students and then finally featuring the work of teenagers from the Chicagoland area.

This year’s competition is based in part on the current fashion exhibition, Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier, and a narrative written exclusively for us by the Chicago-based young adult author Laura Ruby, entitled Snow 2072. The three-month long program kicked off at the end of January when the teens were invited to visit CHM to view Making Mainbocher, pick up their materials, and meet their mentors.

The success of this program depends on a complex team of people working both within the Museum and off-site. It is one of those instances where the adage “It takes a village” truly applies. In this moment, though, I want to thank the FashioNext mentors for volunteering their time and expertise to FashioNext. We couldn’t do any of this without the assistance of this incredible slate of distinguished individuals, all of whom are successful fashion professionals working in the city. Throughout the program, the teams are challenged with a variety of tasks, one of which is to interview their mentors. This is an excellent opportunity for the teens to get to know one another. The results were, in my opinion, quite inspiring.

FashioNext 2017 comes to a close this Wednesday, April 26, with all the teens returning to CHM to showcase their designs. The winning looks will be selected to go on view in an independent installation at the Museum from May through August. I invite you to join us to see in person the fruits of their labor. But in the meantime, I invite you to learn more about our remarkable mentors through the lens of their mentees—click on their name to read their interview. Enjoy!


Ariana Anderson, General Manager, Mignonette Bridal

Ryan Beshel, Founder and Principal, Six4 Creative, LLC

Jamie Hayes, Designer, Production Mode

Dieter Kirkwood, Designer, Hewn

Kpoene Kofi-Bruce, Creative Director, Mignonette Bridal

Mel Muoio, Stylist,

Andrea Reynders, Design Director, Chicago Fashion Incubator

Jessica Sheehan, Stylist, Evolve

Souk Supantavong, Stylist & Fashion Show Producer, styled. by souk

We are also grateful to Paramount Events, Azeeza US, Fishman’s Fabrics, Mignonette Bridal and Winzeler Gears for donating materials to the teams, as well as the Efroymson Family Fund and Randolph Street Market for offering financial and in-kind support.

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