By  on October 25, 2007

When Doo-Ri Chung came to Chicago to help kick off Fashion Focus 2007, she learned an important detail about her Midwestern clients.

Namely, the designer, who is known for her distinctive draping and loves the beauty of an open-back top or gown, found some of her customers uncomfortable with that detail. "Everyone I've encountered wears a bra," Chung said.

That aside, shoppers, many of which turned out for an 11 a.m. luncheon and fashion presentation hosted by the owners of Jake boutique, took the party back to Jake's Rush Street store location still trying on samples, sipping Champagne, chatting with Chung and buying clothes until the late afternoon. The result was close to $50,000 in sales and Jake's best trunk show-personal appearance to date, co-owners Lance Lawson and Jim Wetzel said.

In particular, women scooped up Doo.Ri's Dolman sleeve silk blouse, $795; the fold over shoulder top in rayon, $750, or cashmere, $895, as well as a full cashmere skirt with boy shorts for $1,395 and cashmere bustier cropped top for $895.

In all, it was a fun adventure for Chung, who can be hesitant about putting herself out there, noting the Jake appearance represented her third trunk show after stops at Bergdorf Goodman last year and Forty Five Ten in Dallas earlier this year.

Although cool and calm before her runway shows, Chung admitted, "I'm very cautious if I'm doing something like this."

But the designer enjoyed encountering women who noticed key construction details, along with those who had followed her career and purchased items from earlier collections at Jake.

Chicago shoppers also took a liking to the shoes shown with the Doo.Ri spring collection, a good omen for Chung, who is developing a shoe line that may launch this fall.

"Working on my fall collection, that's priority number one," Chung said. "But I always develop shoes for the show and work with different designers. We were doing 50 percent of the work anyway, so it's a natural progression for me."

Chung said she is working with leather, suede and patent to create booties, some with jewel embellishments.

"If it doesn't advance the collection, we won't launch it," she said, "but we're having so much fun with it."Down the road, the designer is open to developing accessories, home furnishings, cosmetics or sunglasses as long as the timing is right.

"I don't want it to be forced," said Chung, who worked on her own before recently hiring a team of eight people. "I still find myself doing everything on my own."

While carefully expanding domestically, Chung hopes to build press in Europe, where she has yet to begin distribution, and in Japan, where she just signed with a distribution company and possesses some 15 accounts.

As the 2006 winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, Chung has found her growing popularity an asset. "When I'm calling a fabric company to see a line, I don't have to send a press kit," she said humbly and then reconsidered. "Actually, I still run into that."

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