A life of a model is challenging, however it could also be fun, exciting and glamorous. And, as one of Chicago’s own had discovered, the life of a model could also be unpredictable.

“Will be there in 5,” shows up the text on my cell’s screen. I get a table for two and look over the menu. “I’m here,” my cell had announced and I look up. With the hair tied loosely in a high bun, oversized sunglasses, wearing a dark tank top and a short jean skirt, she looked stylishly comfortable and radiant.

She gracefully walked across the restaurant and sat down at my table.

Aya Jackson is a freelance model in Chicago who’s resume includes a long list of appearances in fashion show and showcases. Aya worked with many fashion designers and her portfolio includes shoots with renown photographers.


Born in Kazakhstan, Aya has a very exotic look, making her stand out in the crowd. And having many photographers wanting to work with her. However, modelling was not her goal at first. “I haven’t even thought about it, really,” says Aya.

One night, while out at a club, she was approached by a photographer asking if she would be interested in doing a test shoot. Fast forward two and a half years, Aya is a regular in the fashion scene. That first test shoot happened to be the first of many that followed.

After having build her portfolio and contact list, Aya decided to step on the runway. Modelling clothes by emerging and established designers, she’s walked the walk in countless fashion shows. From swimsuits and casual to bridal gowns and avant garde, Aya seems to be able to pull off any style.


Earlier this year Aya had put her skills to a new test, this time in front of a video camera. She starred in CFC’s fashion editorial video depicting a futuristic Chicago and featuring avant garde designs.

In light of trying new things, Aya applied to participate in Miss National Asia Pageant and was accepted. “This might be my big year,” she says smiling hopefully, “But I need Chicago’s support.” The contestants are required to bring a national costume, floor length evening gown and a swimsuit. Designers she had worked with in the past, Laurel Bridal and Rosina Mae, had agreed to help her out.

The pageant is taking place in San Francisco at the end of July, leaving little time for final preparations. “With each day it’s becoming more and more real”.

Few years ago she wasn’t even thinking about modelling and this year she’s taking on new challenges and not letting anything stop her. Yes, as Aya Jackson discovered, life of a model could be quite unpredictable.



On the near north side of Chicago sits the well-established art community of River North. In the area between Michigan Avenue, Chicago Avenue, and the Chicago River, shoppers can find everything from galleries to boutiques to furniture shops to national retail stores.


During the late 1800s River North was the highly industrialized home to many Irish and Sicilian immigrants. At the time the neighborhood was filled with so much industrial pollution that it was commonly referred to as the “Smokey Hallow”. In the wake of WWII manufacturing took a dive and River North lost its industrial purpose. In the aftermath of this downfall many of the factories were briefly transformed into warehouses and showrooms before being completely abandoned only a few years later. Around the 1970s artists and other creative minds began to move to River North in search of cheap studio and loft space. Today River Park is one of the city’s most vibrant places to live and work. Although the neighborhood is still inhabited primarily by artists, other trendy young professionals have begun to move to River North in recent years.

During the first weekend in August, the neighborhood of River North hosts one of Chicago’s largest art fairs, the Gold Coast River North Art Fair. During this three-day long juried event artists come from all over the world to be judged on their wares.


On weekends tourists and Chicagoans alike flock to the River North district in search of trendy shops and galleries. Nearly every street in the neighborhood has something unique to offer. On the edge of the neighborhood is part of the Magnificent Mile, where shoppers can find any and every national brand.

Multi-story malls, high-end boutiques, and chain stores line this famous Chicago shopping destination. The rest of the neighborhood is made up primarily of galleries, antique shops, and furniture stores. And although they do not dominate the area there are several chic boutiques scattered throughout the neighborhood. While many of these boutiques only carry national designers there are a few neighborhood gems that stock the house brand or one or two Chicago designers.

There is a trendy, artistic vibe that runs throughout the neighborhood of River North that affects both the clothes that are sold and the people who wear them.



Chicago Fashion Connect got a chance to take a look at behind the scenes of a bridal photoshoot at the Vertigo Sky Lounge. The shoot combined two different styles of traditional bridal gowns, western and eastern. Watch the video to see the photoshoot in progress or read on to find out more about the team that put it together and the designers.

Chicago Fashion Connect got a chance to take a look at behind the scenes of a bridal photoshoot at the Vertigo Sky Lounge. The shoot combined two different styles of traditional bridal gowns, western and eastern. Watch the video to see the photoshoot in progress or read on to find out more about the team that put it together and the designers.

The photoshoot was organized by VIP Chicago Brides. Founded by Anita Arsova, the VIP Chicago Brides provides the ultimate “VIP” bridal experience by bringing the hair and makeup services directly to the bride’s location. Services are based on a personalized approach and are customized to each bride’s needs.

Vertigo Sky Lounge located in the heart of downtown on the roof of the Dana Hotel was a great location for a photoshoot. Floor to ceiling windows fill the lounge with light and provide the most amazing view of the city.

Deb and Dave

Charisma is an upscale South Asian fashions boutique located in Westmont. Run by Ritu Boorgu the boutique carries collections that are distinct in styles and silhouettes with traditional and modern embroidery in a variety of fabric combinations. Charisma carries saris for special occasions and events. The boutique also caters to brides that want to have a traditional South Asian wedding. Ritu Boorgu had showed some of the designs at the Latino Fashion Week, which CFC covered in Nov 2011.

Lauren Bridal is a family run business that keeps old fashioned values and aims to ensure their clients have the most memorable day. Laurel Bridal carries many unique elegant European bridal gowns.


Monica Johnson
Rachel Phillips
Lina Survilaite
Michelle Echevarria
Stevie Finedore

Ray Manrique
Emily Gualdoni

Anita Arsova

Anita Arsova
Kara Lozanovski
Ivana Triff

Makeup product:
Motives Makeup

Garrick Peterson