Oak Park is about to get its very own fashion and craft school with classes taught by a master tailor who has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry.
Eric W. Stiles, founder and instructor at E.W.S. Fashion & Craft Academy, is relocating his school to from Evergreen Park to the Scoville Square Building, 137 N. Oak Park Ave., Suite #105, and will begin offering classes next week.
Stiles said adult classes begin on June 11 and youth classes, ages 5 to 12, on June 22. The classes include sewing, tailoring pattern making, custom-coat making, custom-suit making, among others.
It's a return to the village for Stiles, who opened a school at 324 Lake St. in 1998 but had to leave the premises shortly thereafter because of problems with air-conditioning at the location.
Stiles said he's been obsessed with sewing since he was a kid. At the age of about 11 or 12, he heard one of his neighbors was taking a tailoring class at a South Side high school in the evenings.
He asked her if he could tag along, and the teacher of the class said OK, Stiles explained in a recent interview. After a few weeks in the class, the instructor called Stiles up and put a chair right next to his.
"He said, 'Every day, this is where I want you to sit,'" Stiles said. "It blessed me so much."
Stiles continued with his education and got his first opportunity in 1975, working at Brittany Ltd. on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
He went on to work as a master tailor for Brioni, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. He noted that suits off the rack at Brioni can start at $7,000. Handmade suits from that designer can cost as much as $150,000, Stiles said.
Stiles said he still works as an "external tailor" – where he does custom tailor jobs on a contract basis – for some of the world's top designers.
E.W.S. Fashion & Craft Academy offers three-week semesters, and most classes have about 12 to 16 students.
The school also will offer paint-and-sip parties for adults and children, but students shouldn't expect to get a buzz on while working their paint brush; Stiles said drinks at his school are non-alcoholic.
Stiles said he's excited to return to Oak Park but had been contemplating relocating to Skokie as an alternative.
"I saw the Scoville Square Building was open and I fell in love," he said.
More information about the school is available on Stiles' website at ewsacademy.org.
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