One of my favorite things about running TCLB is the ability to share and support local artisans, businesses, and fashion designers as they grow their success. However, to call Chicago-based designers Lisa Rigney and Liz Patelski “up and coming” almost seems like a misnomer, because while their line Remi Canarie is far from the house hold name it will be in the future, their designs and garments show a sophistication, quality, and genius typically reserved for the runways of New York, or the racks at Barney’s. These are not the girls who like shopping and decided to try to be fashion designers for fun. Liz and Lisa are artists who have a world class art education, heavy hitting industry mentors and talent too good to be ignored behind their debut line, Remi Canarie.
You two first met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). What drew each of you to the school?
Lisa Rigney: I was drawn to SAIC because I wanted to study art history without sacrificing my studio art practices. I loved that SAIC didn’t constrain students to one department, and allowed for real exploration and encouraged an interdisciplinary education. Though, my art history practices ended after I took Intro to Fashion my first semester there. I fell in love with the Fashion Department and never looked back!
Liz Patelski: I transferred to SAIC after a year at Boston University. Originally, I was drawn to Art History, but during my first year at SAIC I took classes in several different departments. I was most excited by fashion because I felt that I could draw from all of the mediums I was interested in.
Was it difficult deciding to go into business together? How do you resolve differences?
Lisa: The decision to go into business together really wasn’t a difficult one. Things seemed to align and we went for it without over-thinking. Liz and I both have sisters who are close in age to us, and the dynamic is similar. It’s prepared us to resolve issues in an effective and civilized manor. And if I really want to get my way, I just pinch her until she gives up.
Liz: Lisa approached me about working together while we still seniors at SAIC. The initial idea was that we would work on a small project together until we figured out what we were each going to do post college. I knew pretty quickly that our dynamic was good and I wanted to go into business together. It was really exciting to know Lisa felt the same way. Both of us were seriously thinking about pursuing jobs in Europe, so when we first started I never seriously considered there was a possibility of staying in Chicago. As far as settling arguments, I am unflappable; Lisa’s pinching never works.
What is the meaning behind the name Remi Canarie?
Lisa: Remi comes from the character, Remi Boncoeur, from Jack Keruac’s On the Road. Canarie comes from Canaryville, a Chicago neighborhood that was formed around the Union Stockyards back in the day. We wanted to pick a name that was androgynous and sounded like someone we wanted to know.
What do you each bring to the collaboration?
Liz: We have pretty complementary skill sets, meaning that we’re each really good at different things. I tend to be a bit more technical and Lisa looks at things in a more abstract way. At this point we work so fluidly that its hard to define separate roles.
What is the story you’re trying to tell with your SS15 collection?
Lisa: The inspiration for the SS15 collection really came from the photos Liz took on a road trip to the National Parks on the West Coast. We wanted to showcase the vibrancy of the landscape and created pieces that interpreted classic American themes through a modern lens
Do you have any favorite pieces in the collection?
Lisa: I really love the crocheted sweater and the navy cocktail dress. It’s a dress that is so easy to wear and makes you feel so special.
Liz: The printed shirt dress is one of my favorites. I’ve worn it with sneakers and with heels. Its a real standout.
We were instantly drawn to the graphic prints. Can you tell us about the process that goes into those garments? From the photography to the printing?
Lisa: It’s actually a very simple process. We chose photos that Liz took on her road trip that had beautiful colors and composition, adjusted it to fit the scale and designs of the garments, and then sent it out to a digital fabric printer.
You just moved into a beautiful new studio space! What opportunities and inspiration have arisen from being in a shared, incubator-type environment?
Lisa: Having the opportunity to move to Space (444N. Wabash Ave.) was such a blessing! We are in a beautiful lofted space, and it’s so great having the energy of new businesses around us. Above all, the location is more accessible, a few blocks away from Michigan Avenue, and we have the opportunity to hold appointments with personal clients.
What’s it like working from Chicago with so much of the fashion industry in New York?
Lisa: Working from Chicago is a nice place to incubate while we’re establishing ourselves in the industry. It’s unfortunate sometimes to not have the opportunity to mingle with our peers in New York, but at the same time, it’s a good opportunity for us to be able to find our own path without having our competition in front of us all the time. Things like sourcing and networking are so much easier in New York, so we have very calculated and efficient trips when we go there.
What do you view as the line’s greatest success to date?
Lisa: We were named Chicago’s best new fashion line in Chicago Magazine right after our first collection, so that gave us great confidence in our business right away. Most recently, we were one of six finalists in an emerging designer competition held in St Louis. We were given the opportunity to show our work to some of the top leaders in the industry, and presented our line along side some of our most talented peers.
You recently debuted the new collection in a very interactive, performance art heavy, presentation at Soho House. What is your philosophy on presenting collections? Will we ever see more traditional runway shows or should we come to expect the avant-garde aspect?
Lisa: We decided to do a performance instead of a traditional fashion presentation because we really want to take the opportunity to do something different. Since we’re in Chicago, we’re going to be viewed as outsiders, and we want to embrace it! We will definitely present during New York Fashion week when it makes sense for us, but until then, we’ll keep working with other artists in Chicago who complement our work.
Liz: A runway show just didn’t feel like the right fit. We started working on the idea for this event before Soho house opened, and we were both excited about exhibiting our work in the first few months. We both love challenging ourselves to show our work in fresh, new ways.
Who have been your mentors during the development of the label?
Lisa: Designers Shane Gabier and Chris Peters of Creatures of the Wind have provided incredible guidance for us. Shane was an instructor while we were studying at SAIC, and Creatures of the Wind was just starting to take off while we were students. Being able to witness their growth first hand has been an incredible education for us. They grew their brand in such a smart way and have really maintained their integrity. We have a lot of respect for them, and hope to follow in their path.
Who would it be a dream to dress?
What’s next for Remi Canarie?
Lisa: We’re currently developing the FW15 collection, and we are so excited to bring it to fruition. We can already tell that it’s going to be our tightest and most directional collection to date. We’ve definitely found our groove. We’re also beginning to plan some exciting events surrounding the launch of the collection in February, so stay tuned!
Last but not least… Where can we shop??
Right now you can shop by appointment at our showroom or on our online store via our website!
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]