Fashion designer Anastasia Chatzka plans to move her sewing studio into the site of her shop. Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

Anastasia Chatzka, one of the city’s most prolific fashion designers, will close her self-named Ukrainian Village boutique this weekend after four years. Chatzka, a Reader Best of Chicago pick in 2015 and 2016, will be selling her designs and the fixtures in her meticulously decorated storefront at 60 to 70 percent off throughout the weekend, from noon to 7 Saturday, then at a closing party from 11 AM to 4 PM Sunday, March 12, at 1001 N. Damen.

Named a “sewing ambassador” by sewing machine manufacturer Husqvarna Viking thanks to her sewing education efforts (which can be seen on her Sew Anastasia YouTube channel), Chatzka, who’s also worked with Anna Sui and Betsey Johnson, will keep teaching sewing courses in her new design studio, which is slated to reopen this spring in the same location on Damen. I spoke with her about the future of her business and the future of fashion more generally.

How would you describe your experience of owning a boutique here in Chicago?
Owning a boutique in Chicago is both exciting and challenging. I love the diverse community here, the support my patrons have given me as a local designer, and the freedom to design what I want. As running a small business goes, some parts are definitely challenging, though. The winters for sure make it hard to sustain a constant level of business throughout the year, and those months are always difficult. As with any city, the fast fashion that a lot of people are gravitating towards makes it hard too. But there are also a lot of people here who respect and support local businesses like mine, that manufacture and design locally, and that’s amazing.

What are the main reasons that made you decide to close your boutique?
The idea of a regular boutique almost seems just as passe as malls are becoming. No one wants to just go into a store and shop. You can buy anything online and with one click have a garment at your door the next day. People are looking for experiences, and with the new rebuild [of the store] it’s going to be all about the experience of creating a custom individual garment or purchasing ready-to-wear that is extremely special in its details and fabrication. I love the idea of making something special and personal for each customer that they can feel great and unique in.

Where do you see the future of fashion going?
This is such a loaded question, but in short I see it becoming very personal and specific to the individual. I have been designing and creating custom looks for years, and the demand for customization is outweighing regular retail. This has inspired my new direction towards the modular custom concept and demi-couture.

Could you define “modular custom fashion” and “demi-couture”?
Modular custom fashion is being able to choose different options in a garment’s design that will fit together to make a complete look or garment. Demi-couture is fashion that is made at a higher and more limited quantity than ready-to-wear.

Do you think fashion design is going back to the old days, when everyone could either sew or had a trusted seamstress to create clothes for them?
I think fashion is going back to the old days in ways of knowing how to sew because it’s new again. Almost no one knows how to efficiently sew. It used to be taught at middle and high schools as a life skill, but almost all of those programs have been cut. I think it’s new and exciting again. I think it’s hard for people to find a seamstress for custom clothes because most of those people went out of business with the rise of malls and fast fashion. I can’t wait to see how this industry unfolds in the next decade.

How has the fashion scene changed from when you started? How has business changed over the years for you?
When I started the city had a fashion program and an incubator program. The city was trying to support a fashion community here. The city used to have so many boutiques. A lot has changed. There are no more programs or funding from the city, and . . . there are barely any independent boutiques left compared to when I started. It’s really scary to see as a fashion designer. This past year has been brutal on retail. I feel like the entire Wicker Park-Bucktown retail scene has almost flipped. There are barely any existing business that were there when I started nine years ago. Which is just sad that in this huge city we live in, small business has such a hard time surviving.

What are the effects of the rise of fast fashion on local and national retail? How can people reverse that tendency?
The effects of fast fashion on local and national retail are devastating. You’re basically taking clothing made under horrible labor conditions and marketing it as hip to own. Is it easier to not care about that and go buy a $5 T-shirt at Forever 21? Sure. But how much will you value that shirt? And how long will it even last? Most of that stuff is sewn and made so cheaply that in my experience it falls apart rather quickly. Not to mention that you’re supporting a corporation that doesn’t mind putting people’s lives and safety at risk to maximize revenues. The working conditions in some of those factories are so bad, and most people don’t make near a living wage. I frankly think it’s sad those companies have so much influence that PR-wise they can just sweep it under the rug. So I think it’s pretty awful to support that. Those companies are just getting bigger and bigger, though, which puts small businesses, artistic creativity, people’s lives, and individuality at risk. What can you do? Avoid those companies. Spend a bit more to buy a quality garment that is made and sold locally and manufactured under good conditions. Embrace the uniqueness that will give your sense of style and be proud of that. If you appreciate your local businesses, shop them. Otherwise, they’re going to be forced to close their doors.

You said you’ll be reopening with a new concept in the spring. Could you further describe this concept?
I call it modular fashion. We’ll have muslims of sleeves, bodices, dresses, skirts, etc, made in size runs. You’ll be able to try different combinations of these depending on what you’re looking for. We then fit it and customize it to your liking. It really streamlines the custom-garment process, which is what I love about it. That process is just normally so timeconsuming and costly, but this will be different. Of course we can make pretty much anything you want, but the modular part of what I’m going to do is what really excites me.

Do you have an idea of what the price point will be? Will customers be able to bring or choose their own fabrics?
The price point of the garments will be affordable and will depend on the details that you choose. Ultimately the cost of the garment is up to you. You can choose high-end finishes like French seams and silk linings, which will cost more then plain seams and no lining. I am letting the wearer choose the garment construction methods, details, fabrics, etc. Everything is appropriately charged based on time spent creating it, fabrics, details, and construction methods. The customer will be able to choose fabrics from one of the many fabric books. I will have thousands of fabric choices. It will be preferred to choose fabrics from my selections, but we will be open to the client bringing in a fabric that they have. We are also offering custom-printed fabrics. If you can dream it, we can create it. I really want this process to let the wearer make the garment speak to who they are and their personal aesthetic, which I will hopefully help them express and realize to its fullest.

How do your sewing courses work?
Sewing classes are six weeks long and have a specific start and end date. We meet once a week for two hours in my design studio, and students are taught in an open studio, which means everyone is working on a different project at their own pace. I keep the classes small so that everyone has all the attention they need from me to complete their project. You can come in as a total beginner or someone with experience looking to create your own patterns. The good thing about how I teach is that you can move at your own pace at any level you want. It’s a real personalized approach, which I think is a lot different from other programs out there where you might just sign up to learn how to make a pillow case or something like that.

What changes do you expect to bring about with your courses?
To help people understand and appreciate what it really takes to make even a simple garment. It’s really a whole process, and I think that the more people understand that, the more people will take a second look at what they’re buying—and just look at clothing with more appreciation in general. I also just really really love sewing, so being able to spread the joy of that makes me really happy.

Could describe your role as the Husqvarna Viking sewing ambassador?
I spread the love of sewing through my sewing classes, Instagram, and my Youtube channel, where I have sewing tutorials. My sewing studio is outfitted with the latest technology in sewing machines—we have digital sewing machines with touch screens, embroidery machines, sergers, cover stitch machines, and so many others, all of which you can use in my classes. The first machine I ever saved up for and bought (because of the quality of the brand) was a Viking, so it’s really exciting for me to be a part of helping them promote a love of sewing.