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Nicki Brashear: Writer, Entrepreneur, and Lover of all things Chicago

Nicki Brashear: Writer, Entrepreneur, and Lover of all things Chicago

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I drove to Wicker Park to the storefront of local Chicago designer, Anastasia Chatza. Her space was big, bright, and full of pieces that featured whimsical prints and bold textures. I could not imagine a better place to sit down with writer, entrepreneur, and proprietor of Fashionista Chicago, Nicki Brashear, to discuss the ins and outs of Chicago fashion, social media, and the evolution of her online presence.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the site, Fashionista Chicago is your online destination for the latest local fashion scene including interviews, neighborhood shopping maps and of course the famous style blog. Most recently added is the e-store, allowing you to shop local designer and artisan pieces, a one-stop shop for the true Fashionista.

I spoke with Brashear first about her industry-related positions as a handbag importer, buyer and one of the main team members that launched It was through these avenues that she began to search for the fashion scene of Chicago and bring into the spotlight the creative designers that she found. “I started the blog in 2009 due to a vacant space in the cyber world to locate local shopping in areas other than Michigan Avenue. We all know Michigan Avenue is an amazing shopping destination but there are definitely other areas to explore in and around Chicago. Once I started visiting stores in different neighborhoods to write about I realized there was a pool of talented designers and artisans in Chicago as well. And the rest is history. Statistics show, there are a lot of readers and shoppers who want to support local so I designed a space where they can do just that.”

Brashear told me that it didn’t take her any time at all to hone in on exactly what she wanted to do with her online presence, but that there were other challenges to address. “I was pretty lucky in finding my voice right away because I knew what I wanted to focus on. The biggest challenge for most bloggers or any website for that matter is to think once you put up a website, people will find you right away. I wish that was true but it takes a lot of work to gain that traffic which is a whole other conversation. My professional background is digital marketing so that really helped me get Fashionista Chicago to where it is today.”

To keep her voice her own in a sea of bloggers and social media, Brashear said she tends to avoid following others too closely. But while focusing on her own individuality as a writer, she definitely feels that bloggers as a collective have truly changed the way that fashion operates. “There’s no doubt that the bloggers have become the place to go for style updates besides print magazines. They are setting the trends. It is the magazines and designers now looking to the bloggers for inspiration. Streetstyle has always been an inspiration to designers but the difference today is that bloggers can make or break the trend.”

It seems like these days anyone with a Tumblr or WordPress considers himself or herself a noteworthy critic. So how does one set them selves apart in the digital space? “I think that one very important key element is to stay true to yourself. Do what you are passionate about. If love what you do, it will show through tour work.” Some of her favorite websites she browses are: BlondeSalad, Who What Wear, Vogue Italy, Fashion Speaks, NowYouKnowEvents, DNAinfo, FashionFocus, ChicagoSocial and TCW.

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Brashear said once she had the writing down, she began to attend as many events as possible to foster relationships with industry professionals. Although she didn’t know anyone, she said that the Chicago scene was so incredibly receptive to her and her ideas, that she had no problem getting into events and being introduced to people. She said one of the first photographers she ever met gave her a list of people she needed to meet. To this day it’s obvious that Brashear has fostered some great friendships and supported a lot of creativity. There was passion in her voice when she spoke about buying and supporting local. And the fact that she sat across the couch from me, wearing an impeccable navy blouse designed by our host and a striking gold cuff made by local jewelry designer VenezArt, only made her passion more obvious.

Before we said adieu, Brashear left me with this. “I just want to stress that we really try to support local, and not just by shopping local, but supporting small businesses in our neighborhood. You can also help support local by dining at a local restaurant, shop the farmers market, pick up a coffee at a neighborhood coffee shop or bakery. You would be surprised on how many small businesses are in Chicago. We are very fortunate to have such a diverse city and so many choices.”

Visit Fashionista Chicago and discover her latest blog post, interview, and the new e-shop. We are sure you will become one of her favorite supporters.

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