He's had a storied career in the fashion and beauty industries. He trained and worked in New York and Milan, Italy, yet his workshop and business remain rooted in Chicago, his hometown.
In the 90s, George's signature fragrance for women was wildly successful. Sold at Bergdorf's, Neiman's and Nordstrom, Zaharoff broke a record at the Oak Brook Nordstrom for most bottles sold in one day. In 2000, he was given the "Vendor of the Year" award from Neiman Marcus.
George continues to make his mark designing menswear. His fall Zaharoff collection www.zaharoff.com is debuting this week at Chicago area Nordstrom stores. During his trunk shows, customers can buy Zaharoff designs "off the rack" or work one-on-one with George to have a custom suit or sport coat made for them. He's offering a 10% on all made-to-measure custom pieces during the shows.
George didn't have to leave home for inspiration. His mother Mariana was also a successful clothing designer, creating clothes for iconic TV shows including Dynasty, Dallas and General Hospital, and for President Ronald Reagan and his family. She designed daughter Patti Davis' wedding dress. George's present-day West Loop showroom is in the same building as his mom's former studio, where he remembers playing among bolts of fabric as a child.
George is a global explorer, finding possibility everywhere--like a neckwear pattern discovered on the ceiling of an unassuming house in Istanbul--and translates that reality into fashion. Spending so much time on planes, George says he knows what travel-friendly clothing means.
In addition to fashion, George has designed crystal for Baccarat and airplane liveries for the Boeing Aircraft Co.
He is a widely read author and blogger (you can find it his blog at www.georgezaharoff.com). He's also a passionate musician who plays the violin.
You can find George's menswear at Chicago are Nordstrom stores www.nordstrom.com.
George's workshop is located at 913 W. Van Buren St., Chicago, IL 60607. For information, call 1-877-924-2763 or visit www.zaharoff.com
FASHIONS BY GEORGE ZAHAROFF ON ABC 7 NEWS
Description: Blue/Grey Solid Soft Sport coat Retail: $995.00
Description: Black Boucle Solid Soft Sport coat Retail: $795.00
Description: Grey/Blue Tonal Check 2 Button Side Vent Suit w/ Flat Front pant Retail: $995.00
Description: Taupe/Brown Tonal Stripe 2 Button Side Vent Suit w/ Flat Front pant Retail: $995.00
Description: Charcoal Plaid 2 button Side Vent Suit w/ ticket pocket Flat Front pant $995.00
Description: Navy Stripe 1 button with Peak Lapel Side Vent Suit w/ Flat Front pant $995.00
A Q&A with Designer George Zaharoff
About Fall 2010, Fabrics, Fragrance and his Favorite City
How does it feel for you to be back in your hometown Chicago, showcasing your new line of menswear?
I have been "quietly" doing menswear under the Zaharoff label for the past eight years under license. This is the first collection I've done entirely in-house, in Chicago, without the assistance of a conglomerate. It helps Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world - and, for this Fall 2010 collection, the fabrics work perfectly for the Midwest weather. I feel very blessed and honored
How would you describe or characterize the Zaharoff clientele?
The inspiration for Zaharoff comes from the life around me, when I'm traveling, having meetings, and running around. It is a real guy, with a real life - but not just a cog in a machine. He goes through life with a point of difference, just enough to be noticed. Doctors, lawyers, CEO's, business owners, stockbrokers are the ones who love my clothing. They want to look presentable, professional, with a sense of style or what I call a "twist". Most importantly is that he also wants his clothing to be functional to react to his hectic lifestyle, like natural fabrics able withstand the rigors of travel and all-day use.
Your Fall palette seems inspired by blues and grays; why do you think these timeless shades are classic on a man?
When I was creating the collection, the theme was "shades of blue/shades of grey" - I was so inspired by the beautiful steel, cement, muddy blues and grays, as those colors are a little different, luxurious but still classic. And when a fabric had blue and grey together, I thought I was in heaven. Fabric is like a canvas, there are endless possibilities! Men are very particular when it comes to shopping for their suitings, every color is commercial...as long as it is black or navy and certain dark shades of grey and brown. So when I saw a color a little more indigo than navy, it was exciting for me, it was something different but still commercial and classic. If someone is looking for a black Zaharoff suit, I can certainly have it custom made for him, but there are 10 other brands that offer a black suit. The way to differentiate Zaharoff from everyone else in the market is of course, quality, but also color.
You handpick your own luxury Italian fabrics; what is it about the fabrics that attract you?
Twenty years ago, the English were famous for their bespoke tailored clothing and fabrics. Then the Italians came along and found the fabrics to be rough and frankly, boring. Zegna started with one machine and became famous for his different takes on fabrics - and they were luxurious and soft. Then the rise of mega-designers like Armani and Versace pushed the mills to be different, artful, colorful and practical. The English invented tailored clothing, but the Italians perfected the feel, drape, and handle. The Italian mills are still run by families, they all work at the mills, wear their fabrics and "tweak" it until it's near perfect. This "tweaking" process also means developing new machinery and techniques, which take years and years of experience. This is such a unique situation where this passion shows in quality and design. If I were looking for more common fabrics like solids and pinstripes, there are great ones made in countries like Uruguay, South Africa, Turkey and China. But for a special brand like Zaharoff, we are constantly looking for a different take on classic, Italy is where I've found the place to go.
What was it like for you to move from creating successful fragrances to designing menswear?
I actually started in clothing design! I had just graduated DePaul, at age 22, and moved to Milan. It was such a huge and overwhelming endeavor. I was looking for something I could put all my dreams and passion into, and get it out into the market quickly. The fragrance was developed working with one of the best perfumers in the world, and it turned out to be an incredible scent. Nordstrom took it while it was still in the process of being developed and it quickly grew. It was after we were picked up by Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman that I felt comfortable to start working on my clothing business again. The cross-line transition, back and forth, is effortless - when I create, I feel like I go into this other dimension, regardless of what the actual product. It's like I'm back in my childhood, playing in a sandbox.
Do you think there's a connection between the two, i.e. something that both one's fragrance and clothing says about a person?
Oh absolutely! I am so passionate about both - a well-made natural fragrance (vs. a synthetic where it smells the same on everyone) is like a fingerprint, the scent is unique to the user because of how the skin absorbs and releases the different oils. It's like your skin is speaking to the world how it feels. We are all individual fashion designers...we put together clothing, accessories, and scent our own unique way. How we put it together is our way of talking to the world without saying one word.
Would you ever consider returning to fragrance?
Not a single day passes when I do not think of my "children". The Zaharoff fragrance was a labor of love and I get many requests to this day as to when I am going to re-launch them. The dreams I had for myself have remained unchanged since I was five years old.