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Chicago menswear designer George Zaharoff

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Lookout Chicago; there's a new suit in town! I recently had the pleasure of meeting George Zaharoff, Creative Director of the Zaharoff collection, at his showroom in the West Loop. Mr. Zaharoff is outgoing and warm, which perfectly fits the decor and mood of his showroom.

Zaharoff grew up in Chicago. His mother was a designer for the hit show Dynasty, as well as the Reagans, and owned her own showroom in the building Zaharoff's studio is now housed in. Mr. Zaharoff graduated from DePaul University, created a hit fragrance in the 90's, and was awarded the "Vendor of the Year" award from Neiman Marcus in 2000. Since then he has been working to cultivate his dream collection, which will be shown in Chicago area Nordstroms trunk shows during the month of October.

His Spring 2011 collection is filled with soft, beautiful suits, striped shirts, and architectural print ties. His fabric choices are breathtaking to see and touch, and the construction of his suits would make any man the envy of everyone at the office. After a tour of the showroom, we sat down to discuss the collection, and the state of men's fashion in Chicago.

MR: When did you realize you wanted to be a designer?

GZ: When I was four years old. It was hard then, because little boys were expected to want to be firemen or policemen.

MR: What is your design philosophy?

GZ: Luxury and quality, but most importantly, my designs need to be sell-able. The customer has to be able to relate to what I'm producing.

MR: Sum up your Spring 2011 in three words.

GZ: I just visited the island of Zanzibar and that inspired the collection, so that comes instantly to mind. Also blue, because the theme of the collection is blue and gray. And beautiful fabric.

*As a side note, I feel I need to mention again that his fabrics are absolutely gorgeous!

MR: What do you think is the Spring 2011 must have piece for men in Chicago?

GZ: Definitely a sportswear jacket! A linen and wool blend lightweight sports coat can be worn so many different ways, and can be dressed up or dressed down.

MR: What is your number one menswear fashion faux paux?

GZ: It's hard to narrow it down, I have so many [laughs]. Shoes make an outfit and so does a belt. I hate to see guys dressed well and then come to find that they're not wearing a belt. A belt finishes an outfit. Also, several different shades of black does not make a suit. Mixing blacks is no substitute for a nice crisp suit.

MR: What is your favorite piece in your Spring 2011 collection?

GZ: Well, this collection is about versatility. A man can wear a suit jacket to the office, he can wear it with a tie, and on casual Fridays he can wear it with a pair of jeans. Also, a lot of my [customers] travel, and I do too, so it's important to have a jacket that will go with three pairs of pants and you’re done. My favorite piece, and it's one of the ones Nordstrom took, is the linen, cotton, and wool blend blue and gray suit jacket. It feels like a second skin; it's soft, and you could wear it in the heat, because it breathes. I make it in a soft construction, so there isn't much in the way of lining so you're not covered in layers of fabric in the Spring. And it's a beautiful jacket with a bit of a different point of view.

MR: So, this jacket will be at Nordstroms nationwide?

GZ: This jacket and my Spring collection will be in select Nordstroms and specialty stores nationwide.

MR: What are you looking forward to most at the Chicago area Nordstrom trunk shows?

GZ: I look forward to connecting with the actual people that wear the clothes. The first thing I say is 'What do you do for a living?' and 'Do you travel?' because I want to know! I got an email a little while ago that a customer lost his luggage, he works at a PR firm here in Chicago, and he had his lucky suit in his lost luggage. It was the suit that he felt brought him luck in his business ventures. So he put on his Zaharoff suit, which has an affirmation message in the lining, so he said he got four confirmed signings with his firm. I am all about affirmations; throwing some good energy out into the world. At the end of it all, he told me he has a new lucky suit, and it's the connections like that with the customers that I just love.

MR: Do you just do ready-to-wear suits or do you do custom suits as well?

GZ: The suits start at $895 for sports coats, and they go up to $4000 for the custom suits. They're all made in the United States at a factory outside of Boston. It's a state-of-the-art, green factory.

MR: What other exciting prospects do you have opening up for you?

GZ: Well, I hope to open up a New York showroom soon, and my dreams are to show at New York fashion week this winter and eventually become a member of the CFDA. And I have to say that Nordstrom has been there from the beginning. They have been my biggest partner, and without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. I am so grateful to them.

During the tour of the Zaharoff showroom, I was consistently wowed by his fabric choices and the construction details of his suit jackets. He chooses fabrics that are unique and luxurious, without being ostentatious. His accessories are suitable for any Zarahoff man, and range from ties inspired by carvings on wooden doors in Zanzibar, to skull and crossbone cuff links made of silver and Swarovski crystals from England. Each suit has one of seventy different affirmations sewn in the lining, such as "I invoke positives", and "I am in charge of my own destiny".

George Zaharoff will be showing the Zaharoff collection at Chicago area Nordstrom trunk shows during the next few weeks. The first show will be this Saturday, October 16th, at the Oakbrook Nordstrom from 11am-4pm. Saturday, October 23rd, at the Old Orchard Nordstrom from 11am-4pm the following week. Yours truly will be attending the Saturday, October 30th show at the Michigan Avenue Nordstrom from 11am-4pm, and the final show will be Saturday, November 6th, at the Woodfield Nordstrom from 11am-4pm.

If you're in the area of any of these locations, visit the trunk show! Meet Mr. Zarahoff, and see his beautiful work first-hand. His collection is truly a work of art. It was amazing to have the opportunity to meet such a nice, creative, (and to quote WWD) "Wunderkind" Chicago designer.

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