With all of the hoopla given recently to New York City’s annual Fashion Week, you’d think the Big Apple is the only American city with a sewing machine. Well, think again. Custom-made, couture clothing can be found right here in the Windy City—and without Tim Gunn needlessly barking, “Make it work!”
French fashion designer Thierry Roger arrived in Chicago twenty years ago with an impressive pedigree. After studying fashion and art at L’ecole des Beaux Arts de Tours and later working for the House of Guy Laroche, Roger quickly made his mark designing a line of evening wear for Henri Bendel. This led to his eventual Roscoe Village boutique and the development of his personal brand, Collection Privee. Most recently his new appointment-only, Lakeview atelier, Thierry Roger Couturier, has allowed him to focus on his true passion—custom-made business wear and evening wear for women. And “custom-made” means just that: from consultation to measurement to pattern-making to sewing and fitting.
ChicagoPride spoke with Roger as he prepared for his upcoming fashion installation event.
PJ: (PJ Gray) What do you think of the current fashion scene in Chicago? How does it compare to 1990 when you first arrived
TR: (Thierry Roger) The fashion scene is changing a lot—maybe less conservative and more creative—and a great opportunity for young designers to showcase their creations.
PJ: You work with so many different fabrics and materials—from satin and silk to wool and leather. What is your favorite textile? TR: I love to work with wools. There are so many varieties and textures and colors that it makes the possibilities endless.
PJ: How do you think Americans (compared to Europeans) perceive custom-made clothing?
TR: For Americans it is still a luxury or only reserved to bridal. In my case, clients are always surprised by the fact that they can afford it and they can have any outfits made for them. The whole process makes more sense to me than ready-to-wear.
PJ: Your focus as a couturier appears to be women’s wear. What is the biggest fashion faux pas most women make when wearing clothing?
TR: There are a few. [laughs] For example, trying to look like someone else, wearing clothes that don't fit properly, or matching everything.
PJ: What is the biggest fashion faux pas that men make?
TR: Baggy Jeans by far.
PJ: You mentioned "trying to look like someone else." How would you recommend that a woman (or a man) find their individual style to help them prevent this mistake?
TR: Sometimes clients bring a photo of a celebrity and ask me if I could make the same dress thinking they will look like that celebrity. It won't work. The best thing to do is to try on different styles and look at yourself at every angle until you LOVE what you see and feel.
PJ: What fashion accessory would you recommend that all women should own in their collection?
TR: Shawls of any kind.
PJ: And for men?
TR: Nice shoes and watches. They are my weaknesses. [laughs]
PJ: What do you think of the designer contestants on television’s Project Runway?
TR: [They are] pretty good but I do not understand that you should be able to make ANYTHING. There are a lot of things I don't do and it is OK with me. It is just more work for people who do those things. And also the time frame they give you! OK, you have six hours to make an evening gown for Heidi to wear on the red carpet. Good luck!
PJ: Do you think the show gives the viewing public an accurate understanding of designers and the design process?
TR: I would say not for different reasons. Some of them I have just mentioned.
PJ: If someone wanted to study to become a fashion designer, where might they train locally?
TR: The International Academy of Design & Technology (IADT) is a pretty good school to start.
For more information about Thierry Roger Couturier and to request an invitation to his exciting October 1st event, go to www.thierryroger.com. His appointment-only design studio is located at 3166 N. Lincoln Ave, Suite 207 in Chicago, IL.