Designer Gary Graham, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago 2010 Legend of Fashion honoree, is grateful for the accolade but leaving little to chance when it comes to his small business.

“Our goal this year is to become as consolidated or as independent as possible,” said Graham, who recently discontinued using a showroom. “Our approach is DIY with everything. We’ve brought it all in-house, and not just for financial reasons.”

Meeting with wholesale customers himself provides a more authentic, meaningful experience, said Graham, who was named a finalist in the 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and opened his own Tribeca store last year. “They’re getting more of me and the brand.

“It’s important that your customer knows you care and that you’re putting all you have into it,” said the designer, who’s doing as many trunk shows as possible. “With wholesale, you just can’t count on it like you could five years ago.”

Graham streamlined operations so that every employee multitasks and has more direct communication with customers. He said spring bestsellers include a $385 silk and cotton hand-knit cardigan and a $580 lace and silk georgette tunic dress.

Graham’s growth plans include launching e-commerce this summer, rebuilding his Web site to feature more short films and blogging to discuss his design inspiration. He’s also toying with the idea of introducing a bridge collection.

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