BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
A VIP party this week assembled the Costume Council’s ten Men of Style, proving for the sixth year that the Chicago History Museum’s savvy group has an eye for our city’s most exciting and fashion-forward fellows. Be there September 23rd when the 10 winners of the Chicago Men’s Fashion Awards are introduced on the Museum’s newly renovated plaza.
Anne Foreman, of the Luxury Client Group at the RealReal and co-chair of Men of Style with Dustin Erikstrup, describes the party at the home of Pam and Al Capitanini: “We got to really get to know all the winners. We talked about fashion, art, interior design, upcoming exhibitions, and even our kids and dogs! I loved seeing a dancer from the Joffrey talking with a health care executive and a fashion designer for professional athletes!”
She adds, “This year, one of my nominees was Shawn Frank. He is a wonderful young man who is a stylist. He is very talented and I’ve been following him on social media for awhile. I really admire his sense of style, his wit and playfulness with clothes, and business hustle. So I reached out to him via Instagram to ask if I could nominate him. I think he was really excited. Telling him he was actually one of the winners was really impactful for me. I think it is always rewarding and uplifting to be noticed for your passions.”
The Chicago Men’s Fashion Awards were created as a way to honor men’s fashion in Chicago and shine a light on some of our city’s sartorial leaders. Foreman says it is quickly turning into the Council’s most exciting annual event. Every year they scour Chicago for a diverse group of gentleman of all ages and backgrounds and from a variety of industries, best known for bring style to their daily lives. The committee then gathers names and nominations through conversations with friends, colleagues, and even former winners.
“The evening is always fun because the winners are so different and usually bring their friends along. It makes for such a great party! It’s so interesting to see such a mix of men all together,” Foreman shares. “Many of the previous winners return to celebrate. In fact, many of the previous winners join the Costume Council and the awards committee. I think that involvement is key because it allows us to continue to grow our audience and ability to represent the diversity of menswear and what it means to be stylish.”
The Costume Council is the organization that stewards the fashion collection at the Chicago History Museum, raising money for the care of the collection and fashion exhibitions through a variety of small events and larger galas. Maggie Morgan serves as Costume Council President.
The Awards will be one of the first events to be held on the Museum’s newly renovated outdoor plaza. Michael Anderson, the Museum’s director of institutional advancement, says, “We’re thrilled to be hosting it in the gorgeous space. The plaza is overlooked by the Museum’s massive columns and Georgian façade and surrounded by the brand-new landscaping of the Jaffee History Trail. Additionally, the outdoor venue allows for ventilation that will help keep our guests safe.”
We talked with Peter Billmeyer, Founder and Managing Principal of Bespoke Commercial Real Estate, about the recognition at this exciting event. Born in Omaha, he moved to Chicago in 2004. The former soccer star and devoted golfer describes his signature look as “loafers, a custom blazer, jeans and a Smathers & Branson needlepoint belt. I wore a shirt and tie for 12 years and now prefer this alternative. If you head a company named Bespoke, you have to appreciate style. Custom tailored is paramount to what we do.
“I think my wife, Audra, was a little surprised at first when I told her that I wanted a big, walk-in oak closet in our home for myself. I am not a reader of fashion magazines and don’t do research on it or look for collaboration. My clothes really go with my activities. We have three little boys who are more in the bouncy house stage of life, but we can’t wait to spend time at the Chicago History Museum with them. I was very happy to do this for charity, but when Anne Foreman called me I thought ‘oh, boy.’ ”
Brendan Fernandes, an internationally recognized Canadian artist now living in Chicago places his work at the intersection of dance and visual arts. He echoes Billmeyer’s enthusiasm about the museum: “I would really like to get more involved with the Costume Council and help in finding young talent in our city. We need to boost Chicago-based design.”
Born in Nairobi, he credits his grandmother with the development of his sense of style, saying “She always made our clothes and insisted that we got dressed up for church.” And he will certainly bring that sense of occasion to this month’s event: “For September 23rd I have chosen a Thom Browne suit, with a pencil skirt, shirt, blazer, and tie. There is something about a Ford suit that makes me feel not only comfortable when I walk but also makes me feel empowered.”
“Fashion is an extension of the body and is so important for movement,” he continues. “I collaborate with fashion designers as I choreograph my dancers. Fashion definitely adds character as well.”
Fernandes has also written for the current Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum’s “Willi Smith, Streetwear Genius” exhibition. (Watch for more about Fernandes coming soon in Classic Chicago.)
We asked Foreman, who has worked in fashion at both Hindman and The RealReal, what trends she is seeing in men’s fashion. She says that the pandemic has elevated athleisure, streetwear, and the use of performance fabrics: “I’m seeing so many men reject traditional suiting,” she says. “Sneakers are obviously huge too. At RealReal, men’s sneakers are truly one of our biggest and most important categories!
Next week, new trends are sure to be set by the sharp dressers being honored by the Council. For more information about the Men of Style event taking place September 23 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., visit chicagohistory.org.