FASONE LTD.’S EUROCENTRIC FASHIONS ARE TRANSLATING INTO SOLID SALES AMONGST CHICAGO’S COUNTRY-CLUB CLIENTELE.
Byline: Lisa Bertagnoli
Its owners say the company name means “style” in both French and Russian. So it’s fitting that Fasone Ltd., a company founded last November in Chicago, is headed by a fashion designer and a former model.
Fasone got its start when Irene Donoshaytis, president and designer, and Lana Fertelmeister, vice president of marketing, met last year at a fashion show. Russian by birth, Donoshaytis trained as a designer in her homeland and created clothing that was sold in Russia and Latvia before she came to Chicago in 1990. She worked in several Oak Street boutiques and designed couture bridal gowns.
Fertelmeister, whose family moved to the United States from Russia when she was six years old, began modeling when she was 15 and did so throughout college. She was formerly director of marketing for Bigsby & Kruthers, the now-defunct high-end Chicago retailer.
After discussing their backgrounds, the two decided to pool their fashion talents. Donoshaytis, eager to begin designing again, had already scouted France and Italy for yarns and fabrics and found a factory in Latvia that would produce her clothing. Fertelmeister added her media contacts and marketing experience to the mix.
Since November, the two have made substantial inroads into the Chicago retailing scene. They have a 400-square-foot boutique in S. Garber Furs at Northbrook Court, an upscale mall in the northern suburbs, and will open another location with S. Garber in February in the 900 North Michigan mall.
The Fasone/Garber combination is a good one, said Barbara Garber, who with her husband, Jay, owns the fur salon. “The fur industry is not a year-round business,” Barbara said. “We wanted a clothing line to take up the slack.”
Fasone’s elegant designs appeal to S. Garber’s upmarket customers, she added.
Fasone also is sold at various boutiques around Chicago, such as the Village Set, with locations in Skokie and Highland Park, and at Nordstrom stores in the Chicago area, Columbus, Ohio, and Minneapolis. The company is represented at the Apparel Center by Steve Jacobson and has showrooms in New York and in Riga, Latvia. Fasone plans to open a West Coast showroom within the next year.
Fasone markets itself by hitting the country-club fashion show circuit, which in fact is how Fertelmeister and Donoshaytis met the Garbers.
Word of mouth also helps. “Our customers live together,” said Fertelmeister, meaning they travel in the same social circles. When a huge social event is on the calendar, Donoshaytis will get calls from regular customers to make sure other regulars aren’t wearing the same dress to that occasion.
Fasone’s designs definitely have a European look. Most of the pieces are in black and white or other neutral shades, such as a silvery light green, red or sand. Donoshaytis works her designs in a wool/polyester blend fabric or polyester knit. Fall pieces include black flat-front slacks for $190, an elastic-waist tweed skirt for $145 and a matching unstructured jacket with a tie neck at $335.
Donoshaytis uses the same fabric each year, so customers who buy a skirt one season can easily match it with a jacket the next. She also sticks with classic designs, occasionally adding touches such as a modest bow at a neckline, a ruffle on the edge of a skirt, or a flounce on a sleeve. She does the same pieces for regular and plus sizes and designs one-size-fits-all jackets as well.
Services offered by the company include free alterations as well as wardrobe consultations with Donoshaytis.
Fasone’s customers range from their late 20s to 100, according to Fertelmeister, and they definitely belong to the country-club set. They buy lots of special-occasion dressing and have even been known to refer to Fasone as a “European St. John,” she says.
The two plan to somewhat alter their approach when they open in downtown Chicago in order to appeal to the North Michigan Avenue crowd comprised of both tourists and more fashion-forward types.
The designs will be a little sleeker, done in rayon, linen and worsted wool as well as knits. Donoshaytis, harking back to her wedding-dress days, will also design one-of-a-kind evening gowns for the shop, made from chiffon and four-ply silk and priced from $1,500 to $3,000.
Though Fertelmeister would not release sales figures, “It’s enough to say we’re moving forward in a positive way.” she says. She does say, however, that the two plan to open a freestanding boutique, but when that might be Fertelmeister doesn’t know. “Another year can bring great opportunities,” she said. “It’s always been our dream to have a European-style atelier.”