Chicago Clothing Designer, Julie Kramer

How long have you been designing and making?

I started making things when I was in grade school and sold purses to schoolmates, but I didn’t take it seriously until the early 90s. Then I did hats and bags. And I started Shift in 2010.

What inspired you to start your own business, and where did the name “Shift” come from?

I was shifting in my life and my body was shifting and I wasn’t finding what I wanted to wear in stores. My body was changing, and I didn't like how things looked on me, so I started making my own clothes and then people complimented me on them and it went from there.

What did you do before you became a professional maker?

I started in HR as a recruiter, then an administrator, then I was a retail store manager at Pier 1 for 20 years. And I work part time at a boutique now to learn the ropes on a small scale.

Where do you get your design inspiration?

I probably do it backwards. The fabric inspires me a lot of times. I go for a piece of fabric. Texture is big for me, hand, the way it flows. A lot of things go into it. I love prints. A print will draw me right in!

Can you share one of your favorite creative blogs, designers or artists that inspire you?

I use Instagram a lot of times. I’m inspired by Norma Kamali. Her whole lifestyle is really inspiring. And Bobbi Brown. Both have lifestyle brands. I do follow a lot of older women who are now influencers on instagram. I love their style. They are really bold. I draw a lot of inspiration from them personally and professionally.

What is your favorite thing to make and why?

I love doing the handbags. Each one is a little different, Each piece of leather is a little different. Leather goods might be made in multiples in the same kind of leather, but they turn out differently because leather has all these natural markings. Hand painted appliques are fun too.

How would you describe your personal style?

Oh gosh. Depends on which day! I would definitely say it is not the same as everyone else's. I might take basic pieces, but layer a lot of jewelry on. Today I have a black tee shirt on with a heart on it, but it doesn’t look basic. I add the red lips, lots of jewelry, lots of rings. I guess I would describe it as basic, but with a flair.

What piece of clothing or accessory do you always wear?

Something I always have on is earrings and rings. I feel naked without them.

What is your favorite travel destination?

I have been to London twice. I just love the fashion there, the vibe of the city. It’s easy to navigate. It’s old, but new at the same time. It has a lot of dichotomies where its traditional, but non-traditional, and it’s pretty cool to me.

How do you spend your free time?

You know, when I do, I like a good biography. I like to read a lot. And I like to walk, Just not at the same time!

What are your go-to spots to spend time at in Chicago or Evanston?

A place I go when I need inspiration is the Chicago Cultural Center. There is always a different exhibit there, and the whole structure and architecture of the building is amazing.