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Thrifty Chicago design--for a cause

Lakeview Employment Group channels 'Project Runway' for charity event

(Justin Sullivan / Getty…)
October 31, 2013|By Lauren Krause | For RedEye

Anyone who’s seen “Project Runway” has heard Tim Gunn’s famous "make it work" pep talk. In this case, however, “Make It Work” is the name of a fashion competition sponsored by the Lakeview Employment Group, a nonprofit dedicated to helping increase jobs in the neighborhood.

Each using a $75 budget, nine designers must purchase clothes from a resale shop and transform the items into a work-appropriate outfit. A panel of three judges will provide feedback during Saturday’s charity event, but ultimately it’s up to the audience to choose the final winner.

Proceeds will go toward opening a new resale shop in Lakeview, which the group hopes will provide even more opportunities for the chronically unemployed. The idea came from LEG founders Cari Henson and Liala Beukema.

“We thought, ‘Hey wouldn’t it be fun to see what people could do with resale items?’ " said Henson, who cited Beukema’s love of the Lifetime reality show as the catalyst for the event. 

The group offers a 15-week paid internship, but Henson, a 42-year-old Oak Park resident, says that’s still a short amount of time for people to work, so the shop will provide six months of further employment to those who complete the internship.

“If this event is successful and people like it, then we’d love to keep going,” said Henson, who hopes to open the store by April. “Especially if the resale shop is a success.”

Columbia College student Kelcie McCurdy, 19, was able to recycle some of her previous purchases into something more office-appropriate.

“I have a thrift store close to my apartment in Hamlin Park that I go to all the time, and I love buying men’s clothes because they’re too big for me. This competition was really exciting because it allowed me to turn some of those clothes into something modern and wearable,” McCurdy said.

Aly Forsythe, 22, cited the easy entry and $500 prize as her main incentive for entering. The Mount Prospect native found black and red velvet dresses at Salvation Army and reworked them into a three piece look with her 18-year-old model, Kaitlyn Ekvall, in mind.

“She told me it was a business-inspired look, so I like that it isn’t a traditional garb that people would wear for the business industry,” Ekvall said. “It’s a younger perspective, and she took what I wear into consideration.”

Fashion design student Yesenia Villarreal found inspiration in dance. “I’m really attracted to movement, the theatrical aspect and the romance,” said Villarreal, a 21-year-old South Loop resident who said she would love to work for the Joffrey Ballet someday. 

Other designers had specific goals in mind when deciding which thrift store pieces to choose. Haley Hogan, 20, normally would walk past the women’s suit section at Village Discount in her hometown of Aurora, but this time she decided to use the power suit in a new way. Using the suiting material as panels, Hogan manipulated the outfit into a dress.

“I wanted to stress that I feel it’s important for women to show off their femininity, and they don’t have to wear the traditional suit to feel powerful,” said Hogan who used her 16-year-old sister, Hannah, as her model. 

“Every day after work she’d come home and make me try the dress on again,” Hannah Hogan said, smiling.

LAUREN KRAUSE IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

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Make It Work fashion competition, sponsored by the Lakeview Employment Group

7 p.m. Saturday, Slaymaker Gallery (936 W. Roscoe St.)

Tickets: $25, lvemploymentgroup.org

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