Maker Crush - Peter Gaona of ReformedSchool

We're kicking off our Maker Crush series with fashion designer Peter Gaona, who founded ReformedSchool in Chicago three years ago.  We're huge fans of his focus on handmade, upcycled pieces; so much so that we collaborated with him on a line of African Print Dutch Wax bow ties exclusive to Sir Dogwood. But more on that in a bit.   

What’s your background?
I was a professional dancer for about 18 years dancing with mostly modern dance companies. When I moved back home to Chicago in 2008, I began working with a performing arts high school. I left the school to finish my BA from Columbia College in Live and Performing Arts Management, where I also started ReformedSchool Inc.

Why did you decide to launch your brand?
It began while at Columbia College Chicago in an Entrepreneurship class. I've always been interested in fashion and repurposing out of frugality. During the class, I was able to research retail outlets outside of a traditional brick and mortar.

What influences your design aesthetic?
I love color and texture. I use combinations of new and repurposed materials in my work. I typically source materials from thrift stores and am often drawn to womenswear because it generally has more color and texture than menswear. I often use skirts, dresses, and blouses to make my bow ties.

What's inspiring you right this second?
Music and current events. I've grown my brand to include art work I create on apparel. Most of the work has a civil rights theme, has historical value, but still relevant to current events.

Why collaborate with Sir Dogwood?
I loved the idea of pet bow ties. When I saw some of samples of shirts from Sir Dogwood I knew it would be a good fit. I also enjoy sharing what I've learned on my small business journey with new start ups.

Favorite piece from your own collection?
I'd have to say my denim bow tie. It was the impetus for me starting ReformedSchool. I could not find one at any stores so I made one out of old distressed jeans. I still wear it and people want to buy it from me all the time.

Most decadent indulgence?
I love the arts in intimate settings. Dance, art exhibitions, live music, and theatre in intimate spaces are my treat to myself. They are cathartic for me.

Guilty pleasures?  
- Rum Raisin Old Fashioned cocktail at The Promontory
- Bourbon Pecan Pie from Justice of the Pies
- Traveling to any island, but Manhattan or Puerto Rico are at the top of my list

Follow Peter on Instagram @reformedschool

Shop Sir Dogwood's line of ReformedSchool African Print Bow Ties

Photo credit: Christopher Dylan Andrew

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