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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, November 30

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Fashion Wed Mar 30 2011

Fierce Competition at Kenmore Live Studio's "So You Wanna Be a Designer?"

This story was submitted by freelance writer Christopher Gray. Photos courtesy of Kenmore Live Studio.

Some traveled down the path of fashion from the very beginning.

"I started designing things for my Barbie — I thought her clothes were ugly," said Tonya Pierce.

Others took long detours before ditching their careers to follow their bliss.

'So You Wanna Be a Designer?' at Kenmore Live Studio, Chicago
(from left) Fashion designers LaTonya Williams, Stephen Curd and Tonya Pierce
compete on "So You Wanna Be a Designer?" at Kenmore Live Studio.

"I had a corporate job in Atlanta for 10 years," said LaTonya Williams, who like Pierce went through Chicago's International Academy of Design and Technology. "I moved from owning a four-bedroom house to living in one bedroom in my parents' house."

And now six hopeful up-and-coming designers are getting the chance to move their dreams to another level, thanks to "So You Wanna Be a Designer?" — a Chicago answer to "Project Runway," that's being shot for eight weeks through May 12 at the Kenmore Live Studio, 678 N. Wells St. in River North.

"New York and LA are both big fashion meccas, but Chicago has a lot of talent. It just hasn't enjoyed its moment in the spotlight," said Emily Rose Giddings, one of the show's producers. "Chicago has a lot of underground, edgy talent."

Giddings said the reality contest was born out of a series of fashion shows at the Kenmore Studio that she helped conceive. Like those shows, "So You Wanna Be a Designer?" is aired on Facebook as well as before a live audience, who are free to stroll in off Wells Street.

The designers will fill time between shows with a lengthy assignment in the studio, and another challenge during the webcast. Contestants will be eliminated each week after a vote by the judges. One of the six will walk way at the end with $20,000 and new appliances from Kenmore to help them caretake their creations.

'So You Wanna Be a Designer?' at Kenmore Live Studio, ChicagoThe show kicked off last Thursday, hosted by local fashion mogul Debbie Jagel and her sidekick, stylist Isaac King (shown at right). Jagel has worked as a model and sells clothes of her own design at her Ootra store, which moved to Naperville last year after several years on Michigan Avenue.

"I wanted to teach them, 'So you design this dress, now what are you going to do with it?'" Jagel said. "I want to meet designers, who do not always have a good business mind, and I wanted to teach them the business."

Jagel, who prefers to be called the Ootra Girl, brings 29 years of fashion industry experience to the show, mostly in Chicago. She'll open up her network to help out the budding designers, with modeling agents, stylists and salon owners like Michael Anthony serving as judges.

She said she was impressed with the show's talent, most of whom came to Chicago from other places to go to design school or just take part in the city's fashion scene.

Michael Pazmino, who grew up in Ecuador, took one drapery class at Columbia College, but dropped out, moved to New York, and taught himself all he knows from books. He now makes a living custom-making dresses for a high-end clientele in Chicago. "It's made to last. It's made for her," Pazmino said. "I sit down with a client and ask them what they want to feel like."

The show airs again on Thursday at 7pm, when the first of the six will get the axe.

'So You Wanna Be a Designer?' at Kenmore Live Studio, Chicago
Designer Stephen Curd shows off how he's styled a model on
"So You Wanna Be a Designer?" at Kenmore Live Studio.

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LaShawn Williams / March 30, 2011 12:18 PM

Nice--really nice!!

beth / April 1, 2011 11:00 AM


Beth / April 1, 2011 6:27 PM

Ok, is this competition for real? One of the contestants is good friends with the producer Emily. That sounds like a fix.

tracy / April 4, 2011 9:56 AM

really!?? That is hilarious? Which contestant Beth?

Beth / April 5, 2011 8:37 PM

The blond. Not sure of her name. So much opportunity for unfairness. She could have all of the tasks in advance and a huge advantage

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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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