Azeeza Desai Khan Outfits Sita Ram
by meg mathis
Azeeza Desai Khan checks the fit on the attire she designed for the Chicago Children’s Choir.
Since the Chicago Children’s Choir made its debut in 1956, the multicultural ensemble has gained renown for performances as bold and colorful as the troupe’s traffic-stopping red jackets. The uniform is an unmistakable part of the choir’s identity, but its president and artistic director, Josephine Lee, wanted to revamp the blazer to reflect the current style of the young performers—so she turned to designer Azeeza Desai Khan, whose year-old label, Atelier Azza, boasts a vivid palette and statement-making silhouettes.
Outfitting the choir’s 112 members has been exciting for Khan, who wanted to complement the choir’s Michael Jackson–inspired dance moves with fun, fluid styles. Girls will don blazers crafted from billowing, embroidered, and sequined crimson crepe over black dresses; boys will be in dapper black jackets with hints of red. “These uniforms will be around for a while,” says Khan. “We don’t want them to be trendy; we want them to be classic.”
Khan continues to explore that timeless-yet-contemporary dynamic as wardrobe designer for this month’s Sita Ram, an original musical interpretation of the ancient Hindu legend Ramayana, directed by the Lookingglass Theatre Company and produced by the Chicago Children’s Choir at Harris Theater. With seven scenes and 200 principal players, it’s a project of epic proportions. “[Lookingglass has] pretty much given me carte blanche to do what I want.... I want to make sure that it translates well, but it’s the fusion that I am.” As part of that fusion, Chicago Children’s Choir members will wear the red jackets she designed in the production.
Khan, a native Chicagoan, has always had a strong sense of self—even as a fashion-forward second grader who turned heads by wearing Hammer pants and lipstick. In high school, Khan spent her summers in India while learning to sew from a tailor who specialized in American garments. After nearly a decade of working in marketing and advertising while simultaneously developing her line, Khan launched Atelier Azza in 2011. She has already scored a Rising Star in Design nomination by Fashion Group International and mentions in Vogue India and Time Out, and now her days are focused solely on growing the label’s retail presence, but Khan dismisses the idea that her rapid ascent came easily. “It was straight hustling,” she says. “Now it seems so easy. Let me take on the world.” Sita Ram runs December 14 and 15 at Harris Theater for Music + Dance at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Dr., 312-334-7777
photography by maria ponce
Michigan Avenue celebrates with cover star Harrison Ford at Chicago Cut Steakhouse.