This city is home to dreamers with a mission; people who have taken the passion for what they love and transforming it into positive change for the communities they reside in.
Whenever I think of this inalienable truth about our city’s creatives, someone who comes to mind is fashion designer Harsh Patel. His wholesome personality alongside his ingenuity and unyielding dedication to his craft, is what interested me in working with him this past spring, as he prepared to launch his 2017 summer collection fashion show.
Although Harsh has treaded his way into the Chicago Streetwear scene since early 2013, this past June was his debut fashion show.
As we discussed upon the success of his fashion show, it was inevitable to notice the shift in Harsh’s creative direction to his street-wear designs. When asked about the contrast between the street-wear appeal of his first collection to the eclectic appeal to his new collection, Harsh attributed his creative inspiration to his personal journey entering “Corporate America”.
“I really take pride in that I want to create things with meaning, I don’t like to make clothes just because they look cool. I want the clothes to be an extension of my emotions and thoughts. In particular, to this collection, it was inspired by my dislike of Corporate America. Going to school as a business major (Finance) and working a 9-5 corporate job, there were always rules to dress codes that made it seem like following them was the only way to succeed. Thus came the name Business Major Turned Major, which signifies a business major entering the Corporate world while implementing a strong anti-corporate idealism. The turning major part to me represents being able to make it somewhere in life without following the corporate path.”
He describes that his resistance towards the mundane lifestyle of the corporate world was reflected as he began to realize that being successful did not necessarily mean making it “big”/selling out” into anti-expressive lifestyle, but instead it’s a representation of making your dreams become reality and there is nothing more important than that.
“This collection definitely had a different feel to it this time because I wanted to mix in the street wear element to professional attire. I really dislike dress codes for corporate jobs because it people become deindividualized. When you walk into an office full of suits, all you see is workers. To me, the way someone dresses is the best way to learn about them, you see their personalities, interests, etc. So the first half of the collection, I focused on trying to flip professional attire into street wear and things that would be looked down upon in a corporate setting.”
Photos By SAMKFARE
Aside from rebelling against “the man” Harsh wanted to make sure that his fashion would be like no other, providing a space of artistic creativity and network, while supporting creative enrichment in education for students in Chicago.
Harsh tells us, “The events I’ve had in the past were really just for displaying the clothes. This time the whole idea of having an anti-corporate theme show was because I wanted to have a runway placed in an office environment. And to contrast the idealism that comes with that type of environment, the art gallery and barber were provided as a component and it was a great opportunity to expose people to multiple mediums of art. As a huge fan of collaboration, I love exposing people to different creatives in our city. Bringing a bunch of artists into a room was awesome because it opened the door for people to network and discuss on their passions. The barber idea came up as an add-on when I was talking to someone about supporting our local businesses. So I thought what better way to help support a local business than to help out a friend of mine who owns Royal Clippers. But ultimately I knew I want to make an impact with everything I was doing and I think hosting this show was a perfect opportunity to make an impact towards helping out Chicago’s youth. I wanted the message from my show to inspire our city’s youth to expand their minds on what it means to be “successful’, and with the current financial situation with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), I wanted to invest in continuing education enrichment. I was blessed to have found Ingenuity as the charity I partner with because they did exactly that. This non-profit strives to increase arts education access, equity and quality in CPS. And what I loved most is that each year Ingenuity collaborates with and supports hundreds of arts agencies, and coordinates their efforts to more effectively serve 380,000 Chicago students.”
Photos by: Jayrme Photography and LaSalle Smith
One thing I was curious to ask him was to talk a little more on his influences within the arts and fashion community. Humbly Harsh gave his respect and influence too many Chicago based artist and designers.
“When I think of influencers, I really look within Chicago. I think every designer and a lot of creatives would say the whole team over at Fat Tiger Workshop are a huge inspiration. They’ve build an amazing brand independently and continue to grow in every single release. Sheila Rashid and Whitney Middleton are huge inspirations for me as well. They’ve both create amazing iconic looks and are so original with everything they do. Bryant Giles is an incredible artist who ventures into art, styling and fashion. Photographers like Dennis Elliot and Swopes, who create such beautiful stories/emotion evoking photography, definitely inspire me to continue learning and growing because that’s how they’ve reached their level of artistry.”
It seems that Harsh’s unbending creativity continues to flourish, mentioning that although his future plans are still in progress, he’s definitely interested in experimenting with different mediums of art to elevate his clothing line and stimulate his mind. Harsh want to continue his artistry and remain dedicated to artistic empowerment, working diligently in all of his endeavors and cultivating his crafts.
“The key is honestly practice, practice practice.”