During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 20-year-old Kennedy Freeman decided to create HourNine in hopes to make friends during her freshman year at the University of Illinois. It had first started out to be a platform where Freeman and the co-founder would write articles to meet new people and artists. Since then, she transferred to Columbia College Chicago and HourNine went on a hiatus as the other co-founder didn’t want to continue their role. Freeman decided to start HourNine again when she got more experience in the art scene.
“I started to navigate the Chicago art scene and thought I could do this stuff better, safer, and more inclusive with more intentions,” Freeman said.
She soon recruited 19-year-old Heaven Booth and 19-year-old Zora Murphy; the three of them have been putting on events since June of 2022. Their past events consisted of vendor pop-ups, picnics with art swaps and music, a Jersey Shore themed rave, field days where they held games such as kickball and more.
“I often think of how many people are willing to support us and be by our side, it’s not just us three. I feel like a lot of people are asking what they can do to help and how they can be a part of it,” Freeman said. “We’re forming our own community. Going through the art scene, I never really felt comfortable going to events and we bring a different atmosphere that I’m proud of.”
Booth mentioned HourNine’s desire to uplift Chicago’s fashion designers being one of the collective’s top priorities.
“We want to showcase all the fashion designers in Chicago because they’re always so creative and I feel like a lot of designers aren’t as uplifted,” Booth said. “Chicago is the underdog and people don’t notice it but so much comes from this city.”
The fashion show featured four different designers: CHK4, UgliKnits, Underdogwrldwide, and LifeofPie. With six additional vendors at the show, the audience kept busy during intermissions. The vendors were Moth Goths, Validerie.Art, Pixi3shoppeco, Uninspired 4ever, Supremelyuncooool, and Kennedy Free.
The LifeofPie collection was miscellaneous up-cycled pieces of all shapes and sizes with very vibrant colors. Designer Emily Heneghan, 19, talked to HourNine about her art and values.
“I make arts of all sorts as I explore the world and integrate my experiences and inspirations into clothing,” Heneghan said. “My biggest values go towards sustainability and self-expression.”
Taylor Wren, 20, was a part of the show as a model. They have been friends with the founders of HourNine since before they started the collective in Chicago. Wren is usually there to assist the team during events, whether that be helping at the door, setting up, or cleaning up once the event is over.
“Tonight I’m excited to see the crowds’ faces once they finally see all the designer’s beautiful work,” Wren said.
The CHK4 collection was inspired by organic shapes, raw edges, and the natural shape of the body. This was shown through pieces such as flared arm accessories, asymmetrical skirts, and chunky green pants with patchwork. Weis had to make a decision on where they would get their fabrics when designing their clothes for the show.
“I had to decide if I wanted to go out and buy more fabric but I ended up using the stuff that I had,” Designer Vahnaree Weis said.”I used a lot of canvas, pink organza, and a lot of tan and reds. All my pieces have been made specifically for this show.”
With intermissions between each showing of a designer’s work, many stood up to stretch their legs and browse through all the different vendors.
It was Alex Hernandez’s first time being a vendor at an HourNine event. They mentioned that they are not a vendor often because they feel as though they “severely lack the social skills.” Regardless, Hernandez decided to reach out to HourNine to become a part of the event.
“I want to be a part of something bigger and be a part of the community, it’s just harder for me because I’m so shy but I hope to do more,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s brand, Uninspired, consists of mainly screen printed and upcycled clothing. Though they also offer buttons and stickers. All their work is done in a tiny room at their house.
UgliKnit’s designs for the show consisted of colorful, asymmetrical and one of a kind pieces along with accessories. With a wide variety ranging from dresses, two piece sets, hats, and bags.
Co-founder of HourNine, Heaven Booth, is also the creator of UgliKnits. Specific pieces she chose for the show are in correlation to her upcoming drop.
“It’ll be my first drop and it’s showcasing how far I’ve come and showing how I’ve gotten my skills up,” Booth said. “It will be very colorful and whimsical, so me basically.”
The collection for the show also contained pieces that were supposed to be a part of their summer drop. Booth had to curate additional pieces and change others in order to fit the fall and winter weather.
As the show came to an end, Freeman reflected on what HourNine can do better for their next fashion show.
“Tonight’s show went so well and I think this was one of our most successful events,” Freeman said. “We sold out two days after we put out the tickets so I think a bigger venue would be better, we’re always trying to go up.”
Valencia Freeman, 53, is Kennedy’s mother and it was her first time attending one of HourNine’s events.
“I hope to help collaborate with Kennedy and help her find other locations because I understand that there was a huge demand for attendance,” Valencia Freeman said.
Besides upcoming fashion shows, HourNine has been planning several different events for their growing audience.
“We are currently planning an open mic for poetry, we do vending events as well where we have a bunch of different artists selling their stuff. We also are planning on doing galleries and a prom event for the summer,” Freeman said. “We have a lot of big ideas and we’re growing really fast so I feel like all the stuff can be in our reach soon.”
HourNine will have several events for different audiences in the near future, check out their Instagram for updates as tickets tend to sell out fast. If you’re an artist yourself, don’t miss out on open calls for their vending events.