By- DeoVonte “Deo” Means
In a time before party hosting became a lifesaving career for the unemployed, under employed and society rejects; there was one name that gathered the socialites of the city and set a standard. That name was Stevie…as in Stevie Edwards! Regardless of what demographic or sub-culture of the community you identified with, receiving a Stevie Edwards party invite was not only coveted, but also a sign that you were one of the top within your demographic! He did not disappoint! Stevie’s parties were INVITE ONLY and held in downtown and Northside condos. The elite of the city STORMED and was welcomed with catered appetizers, great people and an open bar of top shelf liquor. But this was not his source of income, just a hobby. Stevie also owned an independent boutique just off Oak Street which sold designer men’s and women’s Italian shoes. He introduced the city to names such as Allessandro Dell’ Acqua, Versace, John Richmond and Dolce & Gabbana. His closest competitors were G’Bani and Chasalla, but we as a community made sure he won the sales battle each month. His parties and business was most respected because he embraced a mindset of paying close attention to detail and having a FIRM understanding of what makes your targeted demographic gasp in awe! Upon entering these well planned and executed events; Stevie greeted you and made you feel welcomed and at home. The night carried on and many did not depart until mid-morning the following day. Although this era appears to be long gone, Stevie left a tangible and ever present mark upon many of our lives. He has solidified himself as the preeminent father of Chicago sophicated partying. He defined true “Grown & Sexy” two decades before it became a cute hashtag for the masses. I heard in 2017 that after a hiatus, he plans to not only re-debut his business line but also host a few events. Strategically, he is a beast and I wanted more info!
Stevie Edwards was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago and attended Dunbar vocational high school, majoring in tailoring. He proceeded on his journey and attended the Illinois Institute of Art as a fashion design major. It was here where the iconic Eunice Johnson (Ebony, Jet) purchased items from his collection to be included in the international Ebony Fashion Fair show. An editorial piece in Ebony magazine led to an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show as a Black Designer On The Rise. As his name and skill-set began to grow, he partnered with Chicago’s legends Barbara Bates and Reginald Thomas, thus becoming a “third” of Chicago’s “ Fashion Tri-une. “ Stevie transitioned this success and launched the legendary men’s/women’s luxury footwear boutique, Collezoni. At its height, Collezoni had locations in Hyde Park, Oak Street and West Loop. Stevie’s design genius has become an editorial jewel as well. He’s appeared in the pages of Vogue, W Magazine, Chicago Social, Hyde Park Herald and the Miami Herald. His clientele roster consists of R. Kelly, the late Whitney Houston, D’Angelo, Diana Ross, Jody Watley, Patti Labelle, Lisa Ray McCoy and Terisa Griffin. In 2017 Stevie is set to re-open his free-standing boutique that will carry his full collection of men’s and women’s wear. Stevie also plans to return to the social scene and host a few highly anticipated parties this year. We spoke with the Chicago legend and here’s what he had to say.
FL– Using 5 adjectives, describe the real Stevie Edwards.
SE– Mmmm, let me see. I would say Vivacious…Determined….Unapologetic…Spontaneous…and Shady…lol…(no just kidding) but lastly, focused.
FL– Returning after your hiatus, how would you describe the current state of the scene?
SE– The current state of the scene is very different from 5 years ago. I guess the millennials that’s were underage are all grown up and now on the scene. In my opinion, I’m not really seeing the kids bring it as far as originality and style. Most of them just do not know how to REALLY party.
FL– Many would argue you are indeed the Father of Chicago’s Grown & Sexy party scene. What are the major differences between now and then?
SE– Well I’ll embrace that, but nothing was intentional. Remember I’m spontaneous! The major difference is that today they are all over the place! No consistency or stylish people. When I was giving parties it was very intimate…sexy…fashionable people… The who’s who’ of the social scene! It was all put together with class.
FL– You are planning to host a few invite-only events this year. What are the five major components that makes up a Stevie Edwards event?
SE– Yes, I am planning several parties this year. Including my legendary New Year’s Eve Party and several for Chicago Pride. I would say the components that makes up my parties are: Great Music, Unlimited Cocktails(on the house), Beautiful and Fashionable people (handpicked by me and my boi Sean Prada-who I throw the parties wit), Great Mood, Grown & Sexy environment.
FL– Those unaware of your parties and capabilities might doubt your ability to return and produce a successful event. What is your response to them?
SE– My last party was New Year’s Eve 2009…..the ambiance was hot….the music was bangin…the people were stylish….INVITE ONLY….Veuve Clicquot…Cristal…Top Shelf Liquor…Unlimited all night long…partying all night! There was no shutting down time! So come on now… that’s my message to anyone who may be unaware of my parties…It’s like how Studio 54 was …but in my house and in 2017!!
FL– As a guest/patron, what can we expect you to bring back to the scene? What unique difference will you make?
SE– Expect me to bring back Sexy…Class… intriguing people! Of course I will select some of the younger kids to attend and get a taste of what a real grown & sexy party feels like.
FL– There are many more players in the game now compared to yester-year. What do you think will distinguish a Stevie Edwards event from the rest?
SE– Well first I don’t charge for my parties. Here’s the thing, I’m a socialite and artist by trade. I like to have a good time without the drama and with good people around. I want you to personally get invited by me which makes guest feel special. Each invite will include a “plus one” but that’s it! As always, I will have complimentary drinks, catered food and maybe some live entertainment. Trust me, you will not want to leave.
FL– In the fashion industry, your boutique, Collezoni, set a standard in Chicago’s LGBT community that has not been matched since. How do you plan to surpass your previous accomplishment and take it to the next level?
SE– Collezoni set the standard period. Not just in the LGBT community, but in the fashion community at large. I was a black, gay business owner who owned 3 high-end shoe boutiques in Hyde Park, West Loop and the Gold Coast. No one did that and has yet to surpass that. I would travel to Italy and import all the high end shoes for my stores that Neimans, Barneys or Saks didn’t carry. My shoes were in such a demand that I had to put designing clothes to the side because the shoe business was escalating so fast.
FL– What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve faced as a small business owner and how did you overcome it?
SE– The most difficult challenge I faced has been trying to find a “mini me” who I can trust…who knows my vision and will treat my business like it’s their own. This is very hard to find.
FL– You are beginning the second year of your highly popular internet show. What can we expect from you this season?
SE– Yes…..my show “Sippin n Sewing wit Stevie”…”Behind the seams of a Designer”….this is a FBLive and Youtube show that I do. I take you behind the seams of me making clothes; giving you knowledge on fashion…whats in…whats out….and of course I’m sippin on wine or whatever…..So come join me. Season 2 will kick off in March…add me on FB or subscribe to my YouTube page.
FL– Where can readers find out more about you and how can they follow you?
SE– To find out more about me and the latest fashion news you can check my site; http://www.iluvstevie.com