Chicago’s biggest music acts—like Chance, Jamila and friends—are just as quickly becoming not just the city—but the world’s—rising style stars.
Though their corresponding styles couldn’t be more different—Woods regularly rocks futuristic afro-bohemian inspired looks while Chance has become known for his seventies inspired sweaters, bombers and overalls—one woman is behind handpicking the pieces that have become staples in these musicians’ signature outfits.
Meet Whitney Middleton.
The Joliet, Illinois native’s love for music has followed her throughout her entire life, and Chicago’s immensely talented music scene is what encouraged her to find a career pathway that incorporated her love of music, fashion and the Midwest.
“It was always my goal to live and work in Chicago. Once I started to go the creative route [in my career] I just felt like Chicago agreed with me and would be a really good place to develop my eye and my personal taste,” said Middleton. “I wanted to take a more unique approach then just simply heading to a coast—I figured it would be a different perspective and a fresh perspective to have it all come through here.”
Chicago’s creative scene is made up with a group of incredibly diverse musicians, artists, designers and more all wanting to work with the other and searching for the same goal—recognition and success. The city’s recognition of being a hard worker’s town and also the creative magic that multiplies when artists from different walks of life come together is what constantly inspires Middleton and her decision to stay and work in the Windy City.
“The industry is really taking shape here and I’m excited to kind of see where it goes because Chicago is a city of people who are multifaceted,” said Middleton. “So much of my inspiration is really rooted in the music industry here and I'm getting to experience that in a new perspective. That's what's going to keep Chicago most unique is that those of us working on the wardrobe end are going to have a very versatile set of clientele in all genres and bringing fashion and style to the faces of this creative renaissance that we're doing. It's a really cool, collaborative take on what the fashion world could be.”
Never being one to seek inspiration from seasonal trends, Middleton looks to her star clientele instead and bounces off what’s currently inspiring them when curating their looks.
“I think it's a really exciting opportunity to be a trend inspiration point for the fashion industry [rather than from it],” said Middleton. “I think someone like Chance does this really well because he has such a specific look that he wants for himself and his fans understand that and there's sort of a pattern and a formula to it so they can emulate that—and that's kind of how trends are born.”
Middleton also has a deep faith in the next generation of independent designers and fashion students coming out of Chicago and uses their pieces when applicable for her clients to prove that their work is valued and appreciated in a non-fashion-first city.
“The people coming up in art schools really should be encouraged as much as possible to not only keep creating but create here in Chicago for the amazing artists we have here,” Middleton stated. “I would love to work more with students in more schools to encourage that group to keep on and keep going.”
As for what’s next for Middleton after a fast few years of success after success, she hopes to grow her personal styling into a full blown creative business—having a set core of clients who she not only styles but helps curate their overall brand as artists.
“I would want to have a full service operation for [artists] in terms of wardrobe and the brands that are looking to collaborate with and being that liason to make sure they have everything they need for appearances, stage and everyday life,” Middleton explained. “Having someone who is an advocate for your image is so important because there are people out there that when they work with an artist they might not be rooted in who the artist really is—you really have to have someone who is going to stand up for that overall cohesiveness and artistry that [the client] brings. I'm not trying to create an empire anytime soon. but I would love to have a great fulfilling team of a few employees and clients that inspire me.”