GRANITE CITY — Nowadays, it’s fun to stroll down Niedringhaus downtown. The area’s rebirth makes subtle changes weekly and there’s always something new to see, enjoy or explore.
If you happen to be near 1206 Niedringhaus, the home of the new Chantal Paris shop, you might do a double take to see whether you’re in the Midwest or the Champs Elysees, Paris’ famous shopping area. Just as shops in Paris, Chantal Paris exhibits a chic vintage-style boutique architecture on the outside, but once inside you’re surrounded by haute couture of today’s fashion world. Karen Raines is the owner and designer of this downtown jewel.
Her dream of designing fashion couture began early in her life through her mother and grandmother. As a toddler, she was enthralled with dresses. Her mother would have home parties for Queens Wear Dress Co. While Karen was supposed to be asleep, she would sneak out of bed and watch the women modeling the dresses and dream about becoming a designer. Grandmother would give her swatches of leftover fabric from her own sewing projects. She treasured the bits of silk, velvet, satin and especially the lace. The desire to become a fashion designer never left the top of her list for potential careers. She made prom dresses for herself and friends. At age 19 she designed and created her first bridal gown for her cousin. Her family encouraged her to follow her dreams.
The brave young woman struck out for New York City after being accepted in the Fashion Institute of Technology. FIT is a world-renowned fashion school with an intense course of studies. Designer Calvin Klein is just one of their prominent graduates.
Karen graduated with honors after four years of study to earn her bachelor of arts. During her last year of studies, the school encouraged students to enter an international contest to design a dress for the year 2086. The judges were “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and artist Andy Warhol, an icon of that time period. She won the contest. Her winning dress is in a time capsule buried in Scotland and will be opened in 2086. Karen also was offered a position designing the wardrobe for the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV series.
After graduation she found success in Lakeland, Fla., and Purcell, Okla. It was while living in Purcell that her business became established and she made a name for herself. During this time her personal life also blossomed; she met her husband, Andy, and they have seven children. Andy is originally from this area and the family moved back to his home roots.
Karen’s muse told her she needed a new name for her designs when they moved. The word “Chantal” came to her. Paris and France intrigue her because of the haute couture factor and designer Coco Chanel, one of her inspirations. She decided to call her boutique Chantal Paris, meaning song of Paris.
“I want women of all ages to walk into Chantal Paris feeling like Cinderella and leave feeling like the princess they deserve to be with their dress made just for them,” Karen said.
Once inside the world of Chantal Paris, it’s easy to realize femininity is not dead — it’s at 1206 Niedringhaus.
For information, call (618) 660-5202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.