Shane Gabier and Chris Peters, the designers behind the amazing brand Creatures of the Wind, went from teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to winning a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund runner-up award in about seven months. Such groundbreaking recognition is somehwat unheard of in the fashion industry, though even more groundbreaking might be the fact that this duo’s designs actually live up to the hype surrounding them. They garnered attention for their innovative and meticulously crafted clothes, and have stuck to that vision through ups, downs, and awards.
I met up with the duo on a rainy morning just before Fashion Week to find out how Shane Gabier and Chris Peters manage their high-flying fashion life with their low-key Chicago based existence. It’s pretty unreal.
Fashionista: How did you meet?
Chris Peters: Well, I was a student and Shane was a professor [at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago], but he wasn’t my professor! After I graduated, I was about to leave Chicago, but then I decided I was going to date Shane. I made it happen. [laughs]
Shane Gabier: So then we started working together. It was really project-based in the beginning. We’d make small things ourselves, and do everything from making the patterns to sewing. Our first collection got picked up by WWD, by a string of incidents, and it ended up on the cover.
Chris: Things started going a lot faster after that.
And then you ended up at New York Fashion Week for Spring 2011.
Shane: We consider Spring 2011 to be the first “real” collection. That’s when we were producing things and working on a larger scale. That’s when we started working with Libby [their PR person].
Chris: Yeah, everything got “real.” It’s been a really, really, really fast growing process.
Shane: But we’re still trying to take it slow. Take one step at a time. Add new elements slowly. It’s like building facets on to what we’ve done. We’re all about organic growth, not forcing it.
What made you want to come to New York and show at New York Fashion Week?
Shane: Well, you have to, right?
Chris: It doesn’t make sense for us to make it more difficult for everyone else to see our collection.
Shane: But we’re making it more difficult for ourselves.
Chris: Yeah, but we are exposed to so many more resources in New York – our samples makers are in New York, our pattern makers are in New York. We just live in Chicago, which is kind of crazy.
Did you ever feel like outsiders in the New York fashion world?
Shane: Well, there was some prejudice, some adversity. You’d like to imagine that people are open minded enough not hold that prejudice. But it was actually really good for us because I think in turn we overcompensated by doing really beautiful production and using really beautiful fabric. It’s like, “Fuck that! We’ll show you how good we can be.”
Chris: That’s how we started working with couture mills and other high-end businesses.
Shane: We took that as a challenge. We wanted to make it [the clothes] more beautiful. And that’s what people like about it now, the really special fabrics and the special treatments.