Stevie Edwards, fashion designer with local roots, dies at 58

Fashion designer Stevie Edwards, known for his avant-garde womenswear and work styling celebrities like Diana Ross and Jody Watley, died earlier this week after a battle with lung cancer. He was 58. 

A longtime Hyde Parker, Edwards was born in 1965 and grew up on the South Side. He attended Dunbar Vocational High School in Bronzeville, where he learned to tailor. This led him to pursue fashion design at the Ray-Vogue College of Design, now the Illinois Institute of Art. 

It was in college where Edwards caught the eye of Eunice Johnson, an executive and the matriarch of Johnson Publishing Company, which produced Ebony and Jet Magazines, and the founder of the Ebony Fashion Fair show. In 1986, when Edwards was only 21 years old, Johnson purchased several of his leather evening gowns for her worldwide fashion tour. His career soon took off. 

That winter, one of Edwards’ dress designs was featured in the February issue of Ebony Magazine as part of a group of up-and-coming Black designers “making fashion history.” He made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show in its inaugural season that year.

After the show, Edwards began working as an assistant to notable Chicago designers such as Barbara Bates, who designed several pieces for Michael Jordan, and Reginald Thomas. 

The designer Edwards admired most was Chicago designer Keith Kendall, according to a 1999 Herald article, who mentored him. In the article, Edwards described himself as a “true designer,” saying, “I sketch the designs, cut the patterns and sew them together, as opposed to hiring someone else to do the actual work.”

In 1996, Edwards opened Collections, a boutique clothing and shoe store in Hyde Park. Located at 1360 E. 53rd Street, the shop carried his designs and the work of designers such as Kenneth Cole and Via Spiga.

“I wanted people not to have to go downtown,” he said of opening the Hyde Park store. “They can come into the community and feel an Oak Street vibe and buy their Italian shoes here.”

Over the next few years, he opened two Italian boutiques in Gold Coast and the West Loop. 

After nine years in the neighborhood, Collections closed in 2005 following the building’s purchase by MAC Properties

In 2008, he launched his upscale women’s brand and South Loop store “I Luv Stevie.” Dionne Williams, creator and founder of the “Emerge! Fashion Show” at New York Fashion Week, told WBBM News Radio that Edwards had a gift for creating designs that spoke to women. “You can be confident in whatever style that you like. You can be bold. You can be soft. I think his designs really kind of showcased that,” she said. 

Other celebrity dressings included Tiffany Hadish and Terisa Griffin. 

Edwards announced on social media in early July that he would be taking a break from fashion to focus on his battle with Stage 3 lung cancer. He received an outpouring of support — an online crowdfunding campaign set up to help cover medical costs brought in more than $7,000 in donations. 

While undergoing treatment, Edwards died in Chicago on Sunday, August 13.

His family has asked for donations to be made in his honor to Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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