In episode 22, I talk with Elizabeth Williams – founder, designer, and patternmaker behind the outerwear brand Coat Check Chicago. Elizabeth shares her journey from costume seamstress to New York fashion designer, to fashion professor and how the skills she gained through all these experiences now help her run her own brand.
Elizabeth Williams resides in Chicago with her husband and three children. She studied Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design and Theatre at the University of Colorado. Much of her early career was spent behind the sewing machine re-creating historical garments for the stage. During those years she became increasingly shocked by the poor quality put out by fast fashion chains and exploitation of sweatshop labor while admiring vintage garments of the past and their quality construction.
For the past ten years Liz has worked as an educator in the field of Fashion Design, instructing students in patternmaking, draping, sewing, design, and fashion theory at Columbia College Chicago.
In 2014, Liz launched Coat Check Chicago a women’s outerwear brand, focussing on longevity through it’s classic styling and quality construction. All of her coats and jackets are ethically Made in Chicago. Liz was recently quoted in the New York Times in the article “Don’t Count Out The Cloth Coat” and was named a “Power Player” by Michigan Avenue Magazine.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What prompted Elizabeth to go back to school for fashion design after working a career in costuming
- The differences and similarities between designing and making a garment for stage versus ready to wear
- How Elizabeth’s strong sewing background helped her turn a New York internship into a full-time position
- What surprised Elizabeth about fittings in the fashion industry versus fittings in costume design
- Why Elizabeth decided to start Coat Check Chicago
- What aspects of her business she does herself and which parts she outsources to other Chicago area professionals
- Elizabeth’s tips for choosing a coat style and styling your coats with different outfits
- The special reason why Made in USA is important to Elizabeth
- How Elizabeth navigates fabric minimum order quantities as a small brand
- What the Chicago apparel manufacturing scene is like
- Elizabeth’s thoughts on the significance and future of coat fashion
People and resources mentioned in this episode:
- Coat Check Chicago website
- Coat Check Chicago email
- Coat Check Chicago on Instagram
- Coat Check Chicago in the New York Times
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