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Chicago Toy and Game Group Turns Fashion into Playtime

“It’s the ultimate unconventional challenge.”

This is how Project Runway star Peach Carr describes the PlayCHIC fashion show produced each year by the Chicago Toy and Game Group (ChiTAG).

One of two looks Peach Carr designed for Kickboard USA
One of two looks Peach Carr designed for Kickboard USA

PlayCHIC is a fashion show that focuses on fun. It pairs fashion designers with toy and game makers to create an original, imaginative and playful look.

On November 21, the second annual playCHIC show was held at the River East Arts Center. It featured the work of some big name designers, inspired by big name toys.

The lineup included Carr, who created two looks inspired by Kickboard USA scooters; Gibeon Tolbert, who created a look inspired by Bananagrams; Joan Severance, who designed and modeled a look inspired by txTylz, a game she invented herself; Elda de la Rosa, who created a look inspired by Leap Frog; and Michelle Tan, who created two looks inspired by Mayfair Games.

“Fashion, as an industry, is really grownups playing dress-up for a living,” said the director of PlayCHIC Anna van Slee. “Mary Couzin, who’s our CEO and founder of ChiTAG, had the idea of a fashion show that would not just celebrate dress-up as a play pattern but bring the fashion industry together with the toy and game world.”

Couzin was inspired to create PlayCHIC after attending the Chocolate Show in New York, which featured entire garments made out of chocolate.

Photo by Kelcie McCurdy
Michelle Tan designed these two looks for Mayfair Games.

“There’s a lot of guilt around fashion,” said van Slee. “People are often accused of being vain or shallow if they care about fashion. But when you think about it, it’s a form of communication. It says a lot about who you are and what you care about. PlayCHIC is a way to get around the baggage of fashion and vanity. It’s a way to jettison all the baggage of adulthood and just get back to the pure joy of fashion.”

Carr, who competed on both Season 8 of Project Runway and Season 2 of Project Runway Allstars, specializes in sportswear and evening wear.

“I think it’s the epitome of creativity,” she said. “My line is very sporty. I thought [Kickboard USA and I] were the perfect match.”

Julie Hawksworth, co-founder of Kickboard USA with her husband Geoff, was equally happy to be paired with Carr.

“Her product is very quality-oriented; we loved both designs,” said Hawksworth. “The inventor of the scooter was here from Switzerland. It was a thrill for him to be involved.”

Carr had only eight days to construct the two garments she designed. Van Slee said that the amount of time each designer had to work on their looks ranged from three months to two weeks, depending on when they came on-board.

Photo by Kelcie McCurdy
Gibeon Tolbert and his model wearing a look inspired by Bananagrams

One of the looks Carr designed for Kickboard USA will be produced in her next collection.

“There were a few looks I thought, ‘I could wear that for Halloween.’ The black and white look [by Carr] I thought was wearable,” said N. LaQuis Harkins, a graduate assistant at Columbia College Chicago.

Tolbert’s look, inspired by Bananagrams, was also a favorite with the audience.

“I loved the Bananagrams look. She looked very intelligent,” said Gianna Kennedy, owner of X Plus Products, a Florida-based toy company.

“She was remarkable,” said Harry van Sambeeck, founder of Thenq, a toy company based in the Netherlands. “While I was standing here, I got a new idea.”

PlayCHIC was the kick-off event for Chicago Toy and Game Week, which features professional conferences and a toy and game fair.

“We’re hoping that this will be an ongoing and recurring event,” said van Slee. “I’d love to have 10 to 12 looks in 2014.”

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