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Feature Mon Mar 24 2008

An Interview with Chicago Swap-O-Rama-Rama's Katie Hawkey

On Saturday, March 29, trudge your unwanted garb on over to the Chicago Swap-O-Rama-Rama (SORR), a clothing swap and series of do-it-yourself workshops that promotes clothing reuse and recycling. In exchange for a $20 donation and a bag of clothes, participants can root through the big collective pile of duds and take an unlimited amount of whatever they find -- whether it's 17 cotton Old Navy shirts, or just one Balenciaga bag. Chicago SORR organizer Katie Hawkey is a "lifetime crafter" who moved here a few years ago to jump into the theatre scene, but ended up pursuing a career in marketing and Web development. She took a few minutes from organizing and coordinating with volunteers to answer a few questions about thrifting fashion and the Chicago SORR, which takes place at the AV-aerie, 2000 W. Fulton (*310), from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

What should people expect?

SORR Chicago is going to be a completely unique event. In addition to swapping clothes, we will have workshops going on throughout the day -- everything from embroidery to silkscreens, from fixing your own sewing machine to weaving a hand bag, from frogging to trashion. In addition to the group workshops, there will be plenty of helpful volunteers on hand to give one-on-one assistance with any project. Plus, we will have competitions, walk-offs (a la Zoolander), photo shoots, live music, MCs, and fashion runway walks in which everyone can strut their stuff. It's going to be a blast!

How did you get involved in SORR?

My mother read about a SORR, held in San Diego, in a crafting magazine last summer. She was looking for ways to raise money for a Folk Art School she is working to build downstate in Chillicothe, and we both thought that holding a SORR in Chicago would be a fun way to start the fund-raising campaign.

Are you a swapaholic?

SORR will actually be my first clothing swap, although I am a lifetime crafter. But I have always loved garage sales! I found a box of these great old silk scarfs from the 1960s at a sale a few years ago that I just love; I wear them all the time. The woman who sold them to me told me great stories about how she used to wear them out to dances. They're so colorful and graphic, with bold patterns and retro-fabulous flair. Sometimes I find amazing old clip-on earrings for 50 cents, and rewire them onto hooked earrings or into a necklace.

What is your fashion background? Your personal style?

I'm not much of a fashion buff or girly-girl. My closet is pretty much stocked with basics that I can put together in any combo, but I always try to throw in one thing that is unique to me, like a skirt my mom made, or an antique necklace my boyfriend gave to me, or a pair of my current obsession -- giant retro earrings. I usually wear things that are easy to take care of and look good without a lot a fuss, because I'm always on the go and refuse to slow down for anything.

How did you choose the location?

I found out about AV-aerie from a friend of mine who attended Depart-ment last spring. Once I visited the space, I fell in love with the giant ceilings, gorgeous view of downtown, and creative energy that surrounds the place. The staff was excited to have a chance to do another project that would involve the crafting community. It was a perfect fit.

You're organizing another swap downstate. Tell us about that.

The SORR in Chillicothe will be held April 12 at Three Sisters Park. This is actually the park that will build the Folk Arts School my mother is working to start. It will be similar to the Chicago SORR, with similar workshops and tables. My mother and her crafting buddies are running it, and these are the ladies (and gents) to learn from: They have been crafting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving and creating for most of their lives. They've got some mad skills, and they are eager to help anyone and everyone learn.

Who are your favorite reused clothing designers?

Kerri Van Auken is my favorite reused clothing designer. She's a good friend of mine, and every time I see her, she looks fabulous; she's wearing something I've never seen before, and I KNOW the whole outfit cost her less than $20. She's one of my personal heroes that way. When she compliments something I'm wearing, I remember and make sure to wear it more often! I am so often inspired by the people in my life who can see beauty in anything, and I really admire those who have the ability to bring it out so that others can see it, too. They remind me that all I have to do to find beauty in my surroundings is to look. Cheesy, but true.

[I was going to throw in a cheese joke here, but it didn't work ...] So, what are you plans for future swaps?

I'm just trying to get through this one! But if it goes well, you can bet there will be a Swap-O-Rama-Rama-Chicago 2009. Wanna help?

About the Author:

A native of Johnstown, PA, Lauri Apple is a contender for the title, "world's most renowned bag lady," thanks to her somewhat popular (at times) website, FoundClothing. Lauri has a JD and doesn't know why, but it will take about 30 years for her to pay it off, and that worries her. Her favorite cities are Prague, Pittsburgh, Austin and Chicago. When she's not looking through people's trash, she's either painting, taking pictures, or making/thinking about making cartoons about her weird life. She will be running the "Trashion" workshop at this year's Swap-O-Rama-Rama.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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