Living the Dream
Connie Perez continues her family tradition of fashion at Aesthetics.
“Downtown Crystal Lake is where I saw my vision to accomplish my dream,” said Connie Perez, owner of Aesthetics, a home décor and fashion design studio. “I saw a vacant building staring back at me and when I looked in the window I saw my dream.”
Connie outgrew her original space in downtown Crystal Lake that she occupied beginning in December 2007. Aesthetics recently moved to a new location at 650 E. Terra Cotta Ave. since a different environment was needed to accommodate her expanding services.
What Connie envisioned as a dream materialized into an opportunity to offer creative design, teach sewing classes and have a little boutique storefront.
“I saw all these different ideas melding together,” she said.
The evolution of her vision unfolded as her customers brought up new ideas. After listening to her customers, Perez updated her offerings to include summer camp fashion design classes and a learning environment that helps bring out personal expression.
“One idea that I especially loved was the need for a store where customers can experience creative design,” she said. It turned out that it was children in the community that most wanted these fashion design classes.
A Family Legacy
To understand Perez’s passion, it’s important to understand her Chinese roots. “That’s where half of me came from and my family were tailors,” she said. “They have always had this interest in fashion. I started out like my students. That’s why I began teaching kids, because I know that is when the love of learning really starts.”
Perez’s grandparents were first-generation immigrants to America. “They had an arranged marriage and everything,” she recalled. “My grandmother lived through the Great Depression. She made all of my aunt’s and mom’s clothes. We all lived together for some time so she had a strong influence on me.”
Being exposed to these skills through her early years enabled Connie to begin emulating fashion design at a young age. “I took Kleenexes or blankets or whatever I could find to create projects,” she said. “When I was older I was in 4-H and entered some competitions. At the time there weren’t many sewing programs for kids; back then you had to wait until you were into high school before you could take a home economics class.”
An Outlet for Children
Aesthetics offers classes and support to enable children to have some experience prior to getting into college or design school. “I put them through what they would be doing in an advanced design school, if they are ready,” she said. “I don’t hold kids back.”
The new location further enabled Connie to capitalize on her vision to garner opportunities for more kids to excel. The fashion camps and classes are not typical sewing lessons. They take place in a fun, relaxed atmosphere and offer practical and hands-on input to allow students to set free their creativity. Connie helps the kids turn their passion for fashion into wearable accessories and clothing as well as unlock their hidden creativity, bringing their ideas to life.
“People are going back to being creative,” she explained. “They are stepping back a bit from all of the technology and becoming more resourceful. The kids that I teach see the beauty in the most common things. The fast pace of our technological culture has taken us away from that.”
A family-owned business, Aesthetics helps to define true beauty in relation to art.
“Everybody has [his or her] own aesthetic,” Perez said, as well as his or her own “definition of art.”
“I love having [Aesthetics] as our name because it helps define who we are and what we do,” she continued. “I help people find their own personal aesthetic.”
Upcoming at the Raue Center for the Arts will be FOCUS 2010, a fashion design and performing arts showcase where businesses, kids and the community collaborate. “This will be a fun event to have creative kids connect with the community,” Perez said.
The FOCUS program encourages children and young adults to want their art to be seen and allows participants the opportunity to be on stage to “pour their art out and then have it be critiqued in such a pleasant way,” she said.