Creatures of the Wind, the fashion label founded in 2008 by two alumni of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, is enjoying a windfall from a Los Angeles investment firm.
The investment from The Dock Group, headed by Matthew Walker, is significant enough that Walker, former president of The Row, the label founded by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, is assuming the role of president and chief executive officer for Creatures of the Wind. Creatures' co-founders Shane Gabier and Chris Peters are maintaining creative control, but can relinquish some tasks of running the house, which showed its first full collection in spring 2011.
"Up to now, Chris and I were doing all the physical labor ourselves," said Gabier, who also is on the faculty at SAIC. "We were packing everything, shipping everything, buying every zipper and button and doing all the invoicing. I don't know how we were doing it while I was teaching full time."
Creatures now can avail itself of Dock's knitwear design consultant, plus two production assistants, two more people to help with sourcing and fabrics, as well as a freelancer who's managing production in Japan, where 20 to 30 percent of the collection is produced.
"It's also going to allow us to hire a couple of new assistants, both former students of mine from school, Tamara Malas and Michael Walls," Gabier said. "Somehow we're still incredibly busy every day but we get to spend a little more time on things we used to have to rush through. We used to have to forgo special details because we didn't have the resources. Now we can get quite a bit deeper into those things."
Crippen is the only other fashion brand currently in Dock's fold, though others are expected to be acquired.
Dock is establishing a New York office, which also will serve as Creatures' design studio there. Gabier and Peters also have set up a "monklike" apartment on the Lower East Side, Gabier said, but will maintain their Chicago residence/studio in Humboldt Park. Gabier will continue teaching at SAIC.
Creatures of the Wind, which has been featured three times on the cover of Women's Wear Daily in recent seasons, is sold in about 20 retailers, including Net-a-Porter.com, Dover Street Market, Saks Fifth Avenue, Fivestory and Ikram in Chicago. Dock hopes to extend Creatures' distribution to influential specialty stores "but not in a forced way," Gabier said.
Chicago on 'Project Runway'
The 12th season of "Project Runway," which premiered July 18 on Lifetime, has two contestants with Chicago connections and atypical backgrounds: Kahindo Mateene, a native of Congo who designs and runs her fashion line Modahnik in Chicago, and Justin LeBlanc, an alumnus of the School of the Art Institute who is deaf.
Mateene, 34, who made the show on her fourth audition, has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Illinois Institute of Art as well as a bachelor's in business from Blackburn College. She worked in human resources until May of last year. Her African heritage influences Modahnik's (mo-dah-NEEK) bright and bold print dresses.
LeBlanc, 27, an assistant professor in North Carolina State University's School of Design, studied architecture there and was introduced to fashion design while competing in NCSU's annual "Art to Wear" event. After graduating from NCSU, he moved to Chicago where he received a master of design degree in fashion, body and garment from the School of the Art Institute.
"Being deaf has made me a more visual person," LeBlanc says in a video on Lifetime.com. "This naturally drew me to finely crafted designs." While a student at the Art Institute, LeBlanc interned in London at Alexander McQueen's studio.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun