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Geoffrey Mac brings club-kid chic to SAIC


Geoffrey Mac. The name kind of sticks, doesn’t it? And even if you’re not interested in fashion, he is someone to watch. Less than a year after graduating, Geoffrey put the skills he’d learned at SAIC to their ultimate use when he launched his own clothing business in 1999. Now he’s a part-time faculty member in the school’s fashion department.

I spoke to Geoffrey about his business and connections to SAIC in the comfort of his own home, a chic Pilsen loft that also serves as his workplace and showroom. Racks of clothing samples line the walls, and there is a room dedicated exclusively to cutting and gluing fume-laden latex, the textile that kicked off his career at numerous fashion shows in clubs around Chicago. Since then, Geoffrey has won several awards for his designs, including last September’s Distinction in Design award from Marshall Fields, and Fashion Group International’s Style-Makers & Rule-Breakers award. Geoffrey is a very savvy businessman: he once told me that he started out in latex to grab the fashion world’s attention, with plans to make sportswear later. He figured that if he made his first splash in latex, fabric would be a cinch. (He was right.)

Although Geoffrey’s success makes it seem like he’s been designing forever, he didn’t actually decide to pursue fashion until his second year at SAIC. He entered SAIC on a scholarship and initially studied fine arts, with two classes at the school’s Early College Program already under his belt. Yet after a year of painting and drawing, Geoffrey concluded that the fine arts entailed a little too much fine-tuning for him. “I would put a painting on the wall and hate it, and I would want to keep working at it and adding stuff to it,” he says.

“I needed a medium with a finishing point. You know, you sew in a zipper and you’re done.” So Geoffrey entered the fashion program and won a scholarship award for his work in the fashion show every year.
When I asked why he chose the School, Geoffrey told me that he admired its interdisciplinary attitude, and loved Chicago. He had considered attending college in New York City, but felt that he would have been “eaten alive by the nightlife...[Chicago] is not too big and not too small,” he said. Here, he knew that he could live and work successfully without “going crazy.” With his father in the military, Geoffrey’s childhood was scattered around the country. Chicago, he says, is the place that held him the longest, and the permanent friends he’s made here have solidified the city as his home.

Almost immediately after graduating, Geoffrey received a call from his former fashion instructor, Sara Enochian, inviting him to teach at SAIC. The proposal came as a total surprise to him, especially because they had argued constantly in class, and Geoffrey declined. He had never considered teaching, yet after starting his business shortly afterward he realized that he was actually good at instructing his interns. So when Sara offered the job again two years later, this time to fill her spot after more than three decades of tenure, he accepted. He taught last year under her guidance, and is now instructing his first class on his own. So exactly how much work will Geoffrey take on? For his sake, hopefully not much more—I can already see the stress in his eyes!

Want a piece or two of Geoffrey Mac? Check out his website at geoffreymac.com, or head over to Marshall Fields downtown, Medusa’s Circle in Lakeview, Softcore in Wicker Park, or E-Octopussy in the Gold Coast neighborhood to Mac-ximize your look.

Photographs courtesy of Geoffrey Mac

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