FOUNDER OF CHI CITY FASHION
Written and Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey | Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker
Far from frivolous despite its societal connotation, fashion is one of the universal languages we all “speak.” Whether subconscious or blatantly conscious, we’re all making a statement with the way we clothe ourselves each day. It’s just a matter of articulation.
A warrior against the mundane, Jena, the founder of Chi City Fashion, meticulously edits her personal style in a way that reacts to this ironic cultural norm. Her eye for detail and creative dressing are fueled by her love of design, her desire to continuously help inspire women to feel more powerful and to bring a heightened sartorial awareness to Chicago, a city overshadowed by coastal powerhouses like New York City and Los Angeles.
Communicating her vision with a neon palette and witty approach, Jena’s exemplary style boldly proclaims that we should never take fashion too seriously. We must always remember to have fun with it and use it in a way that’s an authentic extension of our own unique personalities.
“We have to eat everyday. Does that mean we should stop striving to discover new flavors, dishes and inspirations from different cultures? No. The same goes with fashion. It’s part of our daily routine. We should embrace it as a gift and use it to our advantage.”
A self-confessed sucker for graphic t-shirts and quirky catch phrases, Jena likes to unexpectedly add in humorous, even slightly sarcastic elements to mix the mood up and does it enviably well.
Among her collection are a sequined top by Ashish reading “Some Things Are Not Important” and a Muppets x Opening Ceremony sweater that stand out and cleverly embody Jena’s playful attitude. Paired with woven-paneled, geometrically inspired leather ankle boots from Proenza Schouler, Jena approaches youth culture with a savvy disposition.
Jena’s aesthetic can easily be distinguished by her consuming fascination with design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the power couple behind the coveted Proenza Schouler label.
“They design the most ridiculously gorgeous garments inspired by snorkeling trips in the Caribbean, geometric shapes and hippie tie dye dresses. They take ideas and modernize them. Their pieces are saturated with color and bring to life the most insane structural concepts.”
Walking into Jena’s office, Sean and I can instantly see how explosively imaginative she is. Style for her is not about surface level excitement or over marketed trends. Opposite her desk is her wall of inspiration, a sight that ignites conversation and curiosity.
Standing proudly in their spots on the shelves, her pair of Nicholas Kirkwood highlighter yellow and pink lace pumps and Christopher Kane see-through acid green gel-filled PVC clutch are a vision. Heavily inspired by vibrant street murals, the insanely dramatic colors used in the Proenza Spring ’10 collection and architecture, Jena displays her sartorial treasures like contemporary art. Exhibited like a precious Warhol or Picasso, each piece showcases forward innovation.
Jena’s love for fashion was apparent from the early stages of her life. Born and raised as an only child in Northbrook, a northwest suburb of Chicago, Jena spent her time curating extensive wardrobes for her Barbie dolls, creating arts & crafts and as she subtly puts it, “probably playing dress up longer than I should have.”
After high school Jena went on to earn a degree in marketing from Miami University Ohio. It was during her final year there that she began Chi City Fashion, launching in December 2009.
“I spent a lot of time reading Style.com and Women’s Wear Daily. Through these publications I discovered the fashion presence on Twitter. I loved the amount of accessible information and began following industry leaders and tweeting style tips myself. Out of that grew Chi City Fashion.”
Chi City Fashion is much more than a blog. Jena has dedicatedly put Chicago on the map as a fashionable, cultured city and a true force to be reckoned with. By displaying an authentic representation of the city and gaining the trust from her readers rests Jena’s mission.
“I could move to New York and blend in with everyone else or do something different in Chicago. I’d rather encourage people here and educate them about how great it feels to put on an outfit and feel good. I want to create an impact and sense of empowerment through fashion while showcasing Chicago’s role in it.”
The perfect stylistic recipe, Jena highlights pioneering designers like Peter Pilotto, Prabal Gurung, Azeeza Khan of Atelier Azza, Dana Levy of Dana Rebecca Designs and Clover Canyon. She frequently discusses her own take on personal style and her role as Proenza Schouler’s number one fan. At the end of the day, Jena strives to emphasize the importance of shopping locally (Atelier Azza and Dana Rebecca Designs are both Chicago based) and the booming fashion scene in Chicago.
Standing in an opulent baroque inspired black and burnished gold Moschino dress, Jena pauses for a moment, “there’s a power to getting dressed and a cultural identity to explore. It begins by dressing confidently and surrounding yourself with down to earth people whom you admire.”