Women to Watch, Part IV



April 09, 2016



Georgy Ann Peluchiwski

Georgy Ann Peluchiwski, with daughter Leah, at a Latin School Awards Dinner.

Georgy Ann Peluchiwski, with daughter Leah, at a Latin School Awards Dinner.

Just named Chairman of the Board of the Latin School of Chicago, Georgy Ann Peluchiwski brings transformational skills to any community she joins. As co-founder and chair of the Chicago Chapter of Impact 100, she leads a process that delivers four membership-funded $100,000 grants to non-profit organizations yearly. Just five years ago, she learned of this national organization that invites women to give $1000 a year and participate in vetting and voting on which non-profits will receive life-changing funds.

“We began with 125 members and now have 400. There is a suburban chapter that started in Barrington that has 200 members, so, in total, Impact 100 gives $600,000 a year, with some smaller gifts to runners-up. In the fall, non-profits send in proposals and by December 21, we know how many have applied. In January, we split the applications among our members, who are invited to participate in the review process. We fund projects in education, health, family, culture, and sustainability. Each committee makes three site visits and names their top choice. There will be four finalists, with the winner named at our annual dinner. Each finalist makes a 10 minute talk, without help from technology, and then we vote live.”

Key to the success of the project is the scrutiny that members bring to the process. Not only are careful studies made of the organization’s financials, but also specific contracts, a formal payout schedule, and statements of progress towards goals are required of the winners.

“Our best sales pitch to interested members is our past grantees.  The Night Ministry used their grant to fund an outreach bus to use in their work with homeless teenagers. Last year, Turning Point in Skokie, which supplies mental health intervention, was a recipient.  They wanted to re-engineer their intake process so that clients could receive same-day access in emergencies. That is game-changing work.

“Some of our members choose to do hands-on community work when they learn of programs through the research process. One woman heard about homeless teens in public schools and put together backpacks filled with useful supplies for the school in her area. Another chose to work with RefugeeOne, a runner up in last year’s process, and is helping a Syrian family. But it is guilt-free – many of our members want to just write their check and vote.”

Georgy Ann earlier this week at the dedication and open house for Free Spirit Media.

Georgy Ann earlier this week at the dedication and open house for Free Spirit Media.

A former banker, Georgy Ann said that she and her husband Bill were struck by the volunteering projects in the larger community that their children have worked on at Latin as part of the curriculum. 

“I was frustrated reading of the inequities in the newspapers and wanted to see if I had anything to offer. At Impact 100, we have 21 groups of 12 people who go into communities they might not have visited before. We go there, talk to families, and discover that they want the same things that we do.”

Georgy Ann has been a Latin School Trustee for the past eight years. Her abilities to listen, learn, and lead are inspirational, so it comes as no surprise the Latin community is anticipating her term as Board Chair; she will be only the third woman to ever hold this post.

Annie Barlow

(Clockwise from top left) Annie and her three daughters; shopping for a client; and on a date with her husband.

(Clockwise from top left) Annie and her three daughters; shopping for a client; and on a date with her husband.

Who is your style icon?

With clients ranging in age from thirty to seventy-two, popular personal stylist Annie Barlow uses this question to help get her clients sartorially to where they want to be.

“Of course I have several who say Audrey Hepburn and speak about her classic, feminine, and tailored style, or mention socialite Olivia Palermo, classic Kate Middleton, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s minimalistic look. However, 98 percent of the time, the answer is Jennifer Aniston. It is her approachable and down-to-earth style that they choose.”

When she first meets with a new client, she explains that her work will be part closet analysis, part strategizing on each client’s style, and part filling wardrobe holes with items that speak to that style.

Sessions with Annie begin with filling out a written profile, which then gives way to a closet visit. Here Annie helps them go through each item and deciding what to keep, what to sell, and what to give away. After these steps comes the best part: a trip to her favorite boutique’s dressing room, where she has already organized items in her client’s style.

“A fun way to start is to think about five words that describe what style you are – or want to be – and make sure that each piece in your closet can be explained with these words. Empower each piece in your closet by saying goodbye to those that don’t fit the description. Style is innate in all of us, and through conversation and time spent, we can get people to where they might want to be (and maybe even a little outside their comfort zone).”

The seventh of eight children, with three older sisters, Annie, who grew up in Portland, Oregon, said she always has known how to be resourceful with hand-me-downs.

“Ever since I was little, I laid out my clothes on the floor each night for the next day to see what went together best. I always was interested in fashion and thinking out of the box. My prom dress was a J. Crew cover up, which was a great success.”

Annie sees some clients once a month and often for “one big shop per season.” Clients often send photo texts with the message: “What about this?” Annie is always happy to reply. A personal stylist for nine years, with some of our city’s most beloved style icons as her clients, Annie graciously offered some general advice on getting to your fashion goal:

Every piece in your closet should be defined by your style. For example, if you are classic and tailored, get rid of those MC Hammer pants. Only keep what fits you now. Many of my clients have just had kids and some have been pregnant on and off for the past five years. It is time to get rid of those larger clothes if you aren’t planning on more children.

“For work, think: comfortable, appropriate, and powerful.  Separates have replaced suits. Your closet should be 50 percent core items, such as the perfect black dress, perfectly fitting black pants, and the perfect blazer. To these stapes, add prints, colors, and patterns, but make sure each piece works.

“Forget the old theory of dressing for you season, being a ‘fall’ person, or whatever. If you like yellow, and feel that it makes you happy, wear it in an accessory; it doesn’t have to be right next to your face.”

A detail of a look from a recent photo shoot styled by Annie.

A detail of a look from a recent photo shoot styled by Annie.

A friend recently described Annie as always looking “comfortable, but with flair – jeans with great jewelry and shoes – and always making casual dressing look equally fun and elegant.”

“My style icon is constantly in flux. I love to experiment and be resourceful. I love Audrey Hepburn but also Twiggy, with a little bit more of a modern and edgy vibe. I also like designer Rosie Assoulin and the blogger Leandra Medine [of Man Repeller], as well as Julianne Moore. My five phrases would be: layered, modern preppy, city chic, a little edgy/whimsical, and resourceful.”

Annie said her three little girls have fashion minds of their own.  She reports that “Agnes is the very organized first child, Ruthie is my tomboy, and Francie will only wear dresses, tights, and big hair bows.”

“Most of all, I love confidence in dressing; if that means someone likes to wear 1950’s house dresses everyday, then get the best fitting ones and wear then with pride. I love them, by the way.”

Photo credits:

Brooke Hummer

Annie Barlow

Clea White

Clea White with son Everett Knapp (center), and sculptor Colin Nicodemo.

Clea White with son Everett Knapp (center), and sculptor Colin Nicodemo.

On October 23, 1833, London-born Charles Cleaver bought twenty-two acres of land near 35th Street and Lake Avenue in Chicago, an area where only a few woodsmen and fishermen lived.  Not long after, he built a successful soap factory, establishing a company town there, which he named Cleaverville (now known as Oakwood). Fast-forward to the present day, when his great-great-great-granddaughter, and namesake, Cleaver White has started her own bath product business, with the same entrepreneurial spirit.

The daughter of beloved Chicagoans Joyce and the late Quincy White, Clea now lives in Cold Spring, New York, but champions her Chicago roots (and her close relationship with her sister,  Chicagoan Neelie Fritz). The website for Clea’s company, Sutton on Hudson, goes live today.

“I’ve never wanted a nine-to-five job and have divided myself between genealogy, where I am proud to say I have several Chicago clients, and a vintage company, Esty. I researched salts, creams, and balms online one winter when my son Everett and I had particularly dry skin. I found that many products had cornstarch in them, which I felt wasn’t needed. For six months it was trial and error as I tested new recipes and found molds in clever shapes.”

Soon the mudroom off her kitchen looked like a science lab, with pure beeswax melting in beakers for soothing shea butter, new oil essences and bath salts piled like sandcastles, bundles of dried lavender and thyme, and bowls of rose petals. She bleaches down her kitchen table to ensure a clean working surface and keeps everything 100 percent organic. She blends her products in an industrial sized mix master. Her finished products are salts shaped like hearts, jars of shea butter, and other products in lovely pastels and attractively packaged for mailing.

Sutton on Hudson Lavender and Rosemary Bath Bombs.

Sutton on Hudson Lavender and Rosemary Bath Bombs.

Friends and family are already devoted to her products, including sister Neelie; mom Joyce; close friend Lester Fisher, former Director of the Lincoln Park Zoo; her son Everett; and partner and talented artist and sculptor, Colin Nicodemo, whose hands were affected by napalm while he was in the Navy.

Clea shares that while she is currently developing a line specifically for children, she tries to keep all of her products – be they for mature or younger audiences – as natural as possible.  

“For sugar scrubs I use pure cane sugar, and for other products I experiment to find just the right oils, be they olive, grape seed, or avocado. Witch hazel is an excellent binder. We want scents that are stress-reducers, such as lavender, vetiver, rosemary, freesia, and eucalyptus – very good to clear the sinuses. I can’t wait for spring, when I will plant two types of French lavender and herbs used in medieval monasteries. We have tried to be economical with almost of our products under $15.”