For their fall 2008 debut, Creatures of the Wind designers Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters were inspired by creepy Sixties communes. “I wouldn’t say the Manson family specifically,” says Gabier, “but, you know, that kind of undertone.” For this spring’s collection, the duo turned to pagan imagery. The theme for fall 2009, meanwhile, began withNASA’s Golden Record, an audio-video time capsule launched into space in 1977 on the Voyager spacecraft. Among its contents: a greeting from Jimmy Carter, Morse code, cricket chirps, the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
Given such influences, it’s no surprise that in their tiny Chicago studio—the basement of the house the couple shares on West LeMoyne Street—you won’t find any portraits of old-time Hollywood muses, no pouting Veruschkas or far-flung Saint-Tropez–meets–St. Barths wanderlust, the stuff of which countless fashion collections are made. “We’re not going for glamour,” Gabier, 35, remarks. Rather, their designs eschew slicked-up femme fatale gloss in favor of a mood more folksy and unassuming—homey frocks with a fringe overlay; a high-collar blouse that doubles as a shirtdress—with extra intrigue in the details, such as origami-esque folds. The line is stylish in a rustic, charming way. “There is,” says Peters, 25, “a kind of outsider quality we like.”
But then, the two are based in a city that’s not exactly a fashion hot spot. And despite the sartorial limelight cast upon Chicago by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose patronage of Maria Pinto elevated the local designer to household-name status, Gabier notes that the city’s fashion scene is still lacking. “You have to work twice as much for barely the same recognition,” he says. “It’s hard to say there’s any sort of fashion community here. There are people doing things.”
He alludes to the artists’ clique that revolves around the famed School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The designers’ ties to the institution are extensive. Both are alums, and Gabier is a professor in the fashion department. Moreover, the pair met when Peters was a student there. Each season they cultivate their network of friends to delightful advantage, with one terrific collaboration after another. The spring lineup, for example, sees no fewer than four creative contributors. Eia Radosavljevic, who teaches at the school, made the hats (a pointy raffia design described by Peters as a squashed witch’s hat), while fellow graduate Stephen Eichhorn—known for his hand-cut plant-theme collages—created the prints, and Ryan Davies the acorn-shaped jewelry.