It all started with the Michigan Avenue dress forms. Cesar Rolon was interested in purchasing one of the garden-inspired, student-designed frocks displayed along the Magnificent Mile. But when it came time to buy, he hit a dead end. “I specifically requested that I have a Latino student designer, and I was told that they couldn’t find one,” Rolon says. “I thought, ‘What are you talking about?’ There are three schools involved.”
Aware of the active and talented pool of local Latino designers, Rolon went in search of our city’s Latino-designed fashion, only to come up empty-handed. He found that just one department store (Macy’s) carries only one local Latino designer (Orlando Espinoza), while a search of neighborhood boutiques was equally as grim. So he hit the ground running. He contacted local Hispanic-owned retailers, Latino designers and those in the style community and in just over a month Rolon had organized the first-ever Chicago Latino Fashion Week, where our city’s most stylish Hispanic talent will get a chance to shine. Designers such as Ximena Valero, James De Colon, Orlando Espinoza and AOL Fashionista winner Anna Fong will showcase their pieces at trunk shows, cocktail receptions and a runway show at Galleria Marchetti. Each night features a swank shindig celebrating Latino fashion, and there will even be several celebrities making their way around the stylish circuit including model (and Humboldt Park native) Jaslene Gonzalez, former Ms. Universe Cynthia Olavarria and Nadine Velazquez from “My Name is Earl.”
With seven days of shows, events and parties, Latino Fashion Week is shaping up to have an unforgettable inaugural year. But Rolon is anticipating more than just a good time. “I’m really hoping that an awareness will come out of this,” Rolon says. “Latinos do shop on Michigan Avenue and State Street, we do have Latino designers.” But his ultimate goal runs much deeper. “We want to provide an anchor and a supportive arm for our designers and students here in Chicago,” he says. And if Rolon can build this foundation, Chicago Latino Fashion Week will undoubtedly be a hit for years to come. (Molly Each)
Chicago’s first Latino Fashion Week runs from October 29-November 4. Find out about event locations and times at chicagolatinofashion.com.
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