Sophisticated with a dash of swagger—these Chicago trendsetters prove that style is indeed a state of mind.
“Style is personal,” says Catherine Sarr, founder of luxury jewelry brand ALMASIKA (almasika.com). “It’s about knowing yourself and feeling confident in yourself. It’s an attitude and a story you’re telling on the outside and in spirit.” The France-born, Chicago-based designer has a world of experience in the fine jewelry realm, with years spent at De Beers and a globe-trotting career with stops in Paris, London and Abu Dhabi before landing in the Windy City. As she prepares to unveil a new collection centered on sound meditation, this fashionista and mother of four reveals her style inspirations.
How would you describe your personal style? My personal style is influenced by the Parisian style I saw growing up. I favor an understated silhouette that showcases the subtlety of a design— simple, polished staples that are timeless and effortless. I also really appreciate a thoughtful contrast of colors and fabric.
What item of clothing can’t you live without? I have several brocade and Jacquard pants. They are so chic and showcase beautiful craftsmanship; I really treasure high-quality pieces that I can wear forever.
What are your essential accessories? Necklaces, especially ones you can layer down an open blouse in the summer or over a chic turtleneck in the winter. Our ALMASIKA Vidi signet ring has also been a recent addition to my go-to jewelry; a signet ring highlights the power of sentiment behind jewelry.
Who are your favorite designers of the moment? Gabriela Hearst’s simple, classic and timeless designs are always a favorite. Jeune Otte, a Chicago-based brand, not only makes a perfect pair of trousers, but they do so while upholding a sustainable ethos. I also really like Christopher John Rogers’ bright, bold colors.
What is your proudest achievement? From the beginning, I was driven by the philosophy of finding what we have in common with others. Seeing our customers around the world, who are discerning and put a lot of thought into their purchases, connect with the meaning behind my jewelry has been such a rewarding feeling. I am also really proud that I have been able to pursue my creative and professional passions while being a mother to four.
What are you most passionate about right now? I am passionate about my work on an initiative around economic empowerment in diamond-producing countries. Jewelry should not only empower the wearer but also the craftsmen behind the piece.
What is your hope for the future? I hope that after such a divisive time we find a new balanced and sustainable way of living. I strive to live by the ethos of fewer better things and see such important shifts happening that point toward more sustainable practices, lifestyle and consumption.
Few Chicagoans have made as much of a creative impact on the city as entrepreneur, creative director and award-winning producer Emily Dahlquist. You could call her the Queen of Experiences: From 2015 to 2018 she was co-leader of Canvas Chicago, producing high-profile activations all over the city; most recently, she served as executive producer and creative director of the Womanish Exhibit Experience in both Chicago and Miami, and now leads her own company, The Super Producers (thesuperproducers.live). As she bounces between Chicago and Brooklyn, L.A. and other U.S. cities bringing her various visions to life, we got her take on personal style and the passion that drives her.
What does style mean to you? Style, to me, is a person’s physical aura. It is the one thing each day that requires a creative thought if nothing else does.
How would you describe your personal style? Random and unique. I don’t dress to impress; I simply dress out of mood and my level of feeling creative. I would say my style fluctuates heavily, from tomboy grunge to high femme.
What are your essential accessories? Hoop earrings, fresh nails, Super Producers hat (I do a unique colorway each year) and meaningful rings that I never take off.
Who is your favorite fashion icon? Heather May of Chicago, Iris Apfel and my friends
Who are your favorite designers of the moment? Monday Blues, Rob Valentino, Sheila Rashid and Joe Freshgoods
What is your proudest achievement? Being able to create experiences from my own mind instead of a brand’s and being able to create foundations for other creatives to realize their talent through these creative productions.
What are you most passionate about right now? Creating art and experiences through the experiential lens that carry a purpose and new perspectives.
There’s something about Chicago and talk show hosts. From Phil Donahue and Jenny Jones to Steve Harvey and—of course—Oprah, the Windy City has been a major magnet for charismatic personalities with the gift of gab. The latest star on the rise? Oklahoma native and Roscoe Village resident Whitney Reynolds (whitneyreynolds.com), who parlayed a post-collegiate internship at Good Morning America into a morning anchor gig in Oklahoma and Texas at the age of 21 and debuted The Whitney Reynolds Show on PBS/WTTW in 2013. Now, more than 150 episodes later, Reynolds is a nationally syndicated and Emmy-nominated presence known for her tactful treatment of difficult topics—and her eye-catching wardrobe, which ranges from Chanel and Louis Vuitton to Prep Curry and Emy Mack. As she readies for the debut of a new season, this mother of 5-year-old twins shares her outlook on looking and feeling chic.
What does style mean to you? Style is a way for me to express myself without saying a word. In a world where I talk for a living it’s nice to have a little quiet time and let my fashion fill the gaps!
How would you describe your personal style? Glam-‘mom’-our. I love to glam up on date nights and for my show, but let’s be real... I am also a mom. Sometimes I am rocking yoga pants with my Chanel earrings.
What item of clothing can’t you live without? High heels. I am just over 5 feet tall, and despite how big my personality is, heels always make me feel a little more confident and in my element.
What are your essential accessories? My Rolex—it was a pushing present (twins). It always makes me smile and reminds me the time we have here is precious. Most days, you will see me rocking my sling LV, simple diamond studs and my watch!
Who is your favorite fashion icon? When I first moved to Chicago I got introduced to Corri McFadden; not only did she have amazing style, but she also was a kind person. It was cool to see her build a brand around fashion, in Chicago, and still be a kindhearted person.
Who are your favorite designers of the moment? Teri Jon has believed in me and my show since day one. When I was engaged, they actually had me come to their design house in downtown NYC to see dresses. They have continued to support me and my looks for several galas! I also love Prep Curry, Emy Mack and Borris Powell.
What is your proudest achievement? We became nationally syndicated during a pandemic. I’ll never forget receiving the call—it’s one of those moments that has changed my life forever.
What are you most passionate about right now? I just want to see everyone winning. We all went through a lot last year and I am in the camp to support people in whatever way I can.
Chicago’s stages may have been dark for the past year, but theater dynamo Lanise Antoine Shelley (laniseantoineshelley.com) has been more prolific than ever. The actor and educator spent quarantine writing the full-length play Pretended about her intercountry adoption, and also launched the podcast When They Were Young: Amplifying Voices of Adoptees—all in the span of seven months. Her next act? Stepping into the plum role of new artistic director of the acclaimed House Theatre (thehousetheatre.com). As the always eye-catching Shelley—who describes her style as “Edwardian drama meets West Indian bohemian chic”—prepares to welcome audiences back this fall, we get her take on head wraps, the power of rings and her hope for the future.
What does style mean to you? In Chicago, style is a constant conversation with the seasons. I like to add texture, layers and color to the dreary days and match the rare warm weather with playfulness.
What item of clothing can’t you live without? My head wraps. They are armor and adornment.
What are your essential accessories? Rings. I have collected rings by Aziza Handcrafted for the past year; each one commemorates a large or small triumph. They remind me of my resilience and my ability to manifest an exhilarating life.
Who is your favorite fashion icon? Haitian blogger Paola Mathé from Finding Paola. There is a dynamic vibrancy to her style that has inspired me for years. I actually learned how to wear head wraps from her posts. The patterns and textures that she uses are unapologetically unique and inventive.
Who are your favorite designers of the moment? Aziza Handcrafted, SIKA by Phyllis Taylor, Nicholas K and Natacha Baco
What are you most passionate about right now? The reopening of The House Theatre of Chicago is my primary passion these days. We are fervently working on bringing live storytelling back onto the stage.
What is your big news? The House Theatre of Chicago has an exciting reopening program. I’ve adapted a magical and puppet-filled production of The Snow Queen for this holiday season. We also have a virtual space called The Rumpus Room where we can host digital content from artists from all over the world.
What is your hope for the future? That the reopening of theater spurs communities into indelible action to take care of their artists, apply anti-racism and collaborate in brave ways.
Photography by: THUMBNAIL BY OREL CHOLLETTE; DAVID KASNIC; BRADLEY A. MURRAY; CALEB PICKMAN; OREL CHOLLETTE