Who’s Fabulous Pieces are in Your Closet? Chicago Local Talent – Fashion Edition

Left: Verneccia Etienne (Photo:Leicester Mitchell) Right: Ian Hargrove (Photo: I. Hargrove)

Changing trends. Vintage finds. Timeless pieces of clothing hanging in your closet. Ever wonder about the designer? Who they are?  How they came up with the concept, idea, design? Meet two talented Chicago fashion designers that I have gotten to know – Verneccia Etienne and Ian Hargrove.

 If the names sound familiar, it is because they may have appeared on your television screen. Verneccia Etienne appeared on the TLC reality show “Hayley Ever After : The Dress” winning the competition by designing the reception dress for Kaitlyn Bristowe of the popular “Bachelorette” show on ABC. Ian Hargrove appeared on the 15th season of Project Runway on Bravo respectively. 

Design: Verneccia Etienne. Photo: Day Still

Verneccia originally hails from Texas. She had an interest in fashion as a girl, but she went to school for psychology. Having taught herself to sew,  she staged fashion shows with her own designs to raise money for various nonprofit organizations. After graduating, she freelanced creating unique pieces and worked full-time.  One day, Etienne decided to take a leap of faith and follow her passion for fashion. She quit her job, and moved to Chicago. She enrolled in the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and received her Fashion degree. 

Design and Photo: Ian Hargrove

Ian is from Illinois. For him, the path of fashion design originates from his love of art, specifically painting, and encouragement from his mom to explore this area. Sketching fashion designs, Hargrove’s love for fashion grew and he enrolled in design school. However, he did not know or realize that a big part of designing wasn’t just sketching ideas but sewing which is something he eventually learned how to do. 

Design: Verneccia Etienne. Photo: Melissa Morley

Both of these designers center around women’s wear. While Verneccia focuses on bridal, formal, couture, and custom wear,  she also has a collection of androgynous ready to wear oversized knit scarves, and accessories under the name Etienne by S2 and does personal styling. Ian designs contemporary, high-end ready to wear, and custom wear for clients. 

Design and Photo: Ian Hargrove

And what is the inspiration behind their designs? Hargrove says that he finds inspiration all over. With music, art, Chicago as a city…he recalls how one of his collections was inspired by a picture of an albino peacock. Etienne draws her inspiration from The Phi Theory (AKA The Golden Ratio), as noted on her website, it is a mathematical equation found in nature that is not only a huge mean for overall creation, but also makes things unconsciously appealing to the eye. She also mentions how she is inspired by Ann Lowe; the first noted African American couture designer who also designed Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. 

Design: Verneccia Etienne. Photo: Leicester Mitchell 

Accomplished designers in their own right, I asked both what their  proudest moment has been thus far. Verneccia replied that appearing on “Haley Ever After” has been her proudest moment. She says that the other New York designers in the competition were more experienced and she was the only designer who was from Chicago. Her winning design was a huge accomplishment. Ian says that his last show in Boston was one of his proudest moments. While things don’t always go the way you want it to, this show went exactly how he wanted it to go. This particular collection he designed was different from others and showed how much he had grown in terms of his style. 

Design and Photo by Ian Hargrove

With two talented fashion designers in front of me, I had to ask what advice or tips they would give someone about fashion.

 Ian replies with “Listen to other people that you trust.” and “It never hurts to try something on.” Those people who you trust will tell you the truth and what you need to know. He says that he has come across people that are used to dressing one way and are stubborn about trying anything new. While you might think something might not look good, clothes look different on than when on the hanger. The last tip he gives is that he believes white clothing is equally as important as having  classic black pieces. White never goes out of style, and it does not matter what season we are in. 

Verneccia says to spend more money on classic and statement pieces. For example, a classic or statement blazer will always be in style. And only spend money on what you will wear. If there is a trend that you don’t like or does not work for you, then it doesn’t work. Don’t force yourself to buy or wear something that you don’t like. And for those aspiring designers? “Define your own success.” You can make things things happen for yourself on your own terms. 

And what is next for Etienne and Hargrove? Verneccia says she is working on more designs and new collection while working with clients for custom wear along with personal styling. Ian is regrouping as a designer and is also working with clients for custom wear. He says he may have a show next year. 

With their amazing and unique designs, I can’t wait to see and hear more from Ian Hargrove and Verneccia Etienne in the future. 

To view and  learn more about these two local talents, take a look at their sites below.


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