New Fall Outerwear: Coat Check Chicago

Fall fashion is one of the few things that gets me excited about cold weather.  And living in Chicago, outerwear is an especially important part of one's wardrobe.  A great coat or jacket is often the only thing you need to look and feel put together regardless of what you're wearing underneath.  This is why I'm especially excited to introduce you to Coat Check, a Chicago designed and manufactured line of beautiful women's outerwear using quality fabrics and ethical manufacturing practices.



Coat Check was started in 2016 by instructor of Fashion Design at Columbia College, Parson's graduate and Chicago resident Liz Williams.  After a favorite coat she had purchased needed to be replaced but she couldn't find anything similar that she loved in her price point, Liz designed and made her own.  The start of Coat Check was finally inspired by a dream to have her own line, her students, and a woman who checked and admired Liz's handmade coat at a restaurant in Chicago leaving a note in the pocket saying she was an interested buyer.

All Coat Check garments are made in Chicago and have been designed with longevity in mind using time tested tailoring techniques and ethical manufacturing practices.  The new movement in fashion calls for quality not quantity and as a huge "style uniform" believer, I love the idea of pieces that will be in rotation for many Chicago falls and winters to come.  A well designed coat that will last elevates your wardrobe, makes you feel put-together and confident each time you put it on and just makes life simpler...especially when you live in Chicago.



I'm so excited for Liz and the promise that fall brings for her and her new line.  I'm also super inspired by her courage to just go for it!  So many of us have ideas and dreams, but it's the execution that's the hard part.  When I asked her about starting her own line/business and all the logistics and details that go into that, she said she read a lot of books which left her more frightened than prepared.  It was her sister who gave her the advice to "take one day at a time and get everything you need to get done that day so you can get what you need done the next day."  She said she's literally operating on a day to day basis which keeps her from getting too scared about what's coming next month or next year.

Below is a little Q&A with Liz that I found very inspirational and honest both as a mother and aspiring entrepreneur.  

What has been your favorite part of starting/having your own line?
My favorite aspect is definitely the creative one.  I really enjoy immersing myself in the process of design through sketching, draping, and pattern-making.  The collection went through a lengthy process of proto-typing and re-work.  I'm rarely happy with the first product and enjoy seeing the pieces evolve through a series of improvements to the original design.

And the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect has been to find the right work/ life balance.  I have a part-time teaching job in the Fashion Department at Columbia College Chicago, I'm married, I'm raising two kids, and I have many strong friendships.  All of these aspects of my life require time, devotion, and attention.  It's really easy to pour myself into something but then I find the other areas start to suffer.  UnfortunatelyI think this is a problem that most modern women struggle with.  However, I think it's important that we still find time to care for ourselves... exercise, eat right, take care of own health, and simultaneously foster our own dreams and ambitions.   

Where do you find inspiration?
For Fall 2016 I was looking at a lot of vintage fashion photography, particularly that of Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.  I'm also inspired by interior spaces.  I love the current trends toward mid-century modern interiors that offer a clean color palette.   For next season I'm looking at the 1940's silhouette's and hunting jackets.  I'm trying to bring in more color and jackets that function in multiple ways.

Has manufacturing ethically been a challenge and do you see more ethical practices catching on and taking off?
Manufacturing in the US is not dead.  It is hard to find, but possible.  It concerns me greatly that we are shipping so many of our skills overseas.  My own department at Columbia College is starting to cut back on sewing classes since so much of that work is done in other countries.  It think it's huge mistake given the fact that garment construction is still done almost entirely by people, it' not automated or robotic.  I've noticed a lot of start-ups embracing US manufacturing.  And yes - I hope it takes off!
Liz and I also discussed how she went about marketing her coats and turned out to be a little luck and a lot of trial.  She was introduced to some editors at CS and NS magazines who ran pieces on her line which really helped.  She's also reached out to many Chicago boutiques to run trunk shows which helped her get her name out there, sell coats and some of the boutiques ended up placing orders.  Finally Liz suggested trying the markets for creatives like Dose and Renegade Craft Fair.  Even if you don't sell a ton, the exposure and people you meet are worth it.

Congrats, Liz!!
You can visit Liz and try on her designs at one of her Chicago area trunk shows and events including Felt Chicago in Logan Square on October 8th.   For more on what Liz is up to and what inspires her, follow her on Instagram at Coat Check Chicago.

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