PROFILE: LIZ KLAFETA ENTREPRENEUR EXTRAORDINAIRE

imageLiz Klafeta

In all the Profiles I have done this past year I have either featured my former models, other friends, business associates and new acquaintances all of whom have had fascinating stories to tell.  Today I am featuring a wonderful success story of one of my former Columbia College Chicago students, Liz Klafeta.  I was invited to attend an event at a new West Town apartment building that was a Networking reception and panel discussion about how to use technology to your advantage in advancing your career path, it was fascinating.  Samantha Saifer Berngard, (last week’s Profile!) our hostess, pulled together a perfect mix of speakers and, in turn, has given me the opportunity to feature four of them, including herself in my Monday posts.  I was thrilled to reconnect with Liz, I haven’t seen her since she graduated.  She has an extraordinary story to share…..let’s see what she has been up to (it’s a lot!)

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT

Hmm….I definitely obsessed and spent a lot of time contemplating and thinking about things whenever I was or am designing a project.  When other people see what I completed and their mouths would drop open, I thought I might be onto something.  Continual praise from multiple people helped as well. That’s actually when I knew the other person was not just being nice and maybe I was doing something well because everyone just isn’t THAT nice!

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” EXPLAIN

“Made it” well that is a pretty secure statement and I don’t think anyone should ever get super secure! I still don’t think that I have “made it”, but I do know that I make spaces that people really enjoy staying in.  The letters and notes from countless guests have reassured me of this and having my home featured on HGTV helped solidify this feeling.

We grew 100% the first year, 100% the next year, and now BANGTEL consists of 6 full-time employees and many independent contractors in each city of our locations. Last year, 3 people tried to buy into us.  It was like an episode of Shark Tank.  That’s also when I realized we had something special. BANGTEL is still 100% owned by myself, currently.

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HOW DID YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW

I love transforming things into something completely different.  I was constantly remodeling my mom’s home when I was little to the point where it annoyed her.  I got into Fashion Styling and Prop Styling was less to things to schlep around believe it or not.  You could not bring 5 credenzas to set, but you could bring 5,000 turtlenecks to set.  As I continued to do more Prop Styling, I was also simultaneously rehabbing my townhouse that I purchased when I was 23 years old.  When this was completed and I had officially gotten burned out on the advertising world, I started hitting up landlords to see if I could rehab their homes on my dime.  So silly, but that’s how bad I wanted to design.  Let me pay for your rehab as a bargaining tactic for the landlord to let me Airbnb. I love designing and I love taking care of people so here I am, perfectly content!

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WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE

Singer, but I can’t sing so that was never REALLY an option.  This current career choice was a complete accident, but a happy one!

YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER

Favorite Book is probably “Many Minds, Many Masters” because it put my mind at ease early on about what is life all about and why are we here.  I still buy copies and hand it out to my friends.  I think every single one of my friends has gotten a copy from me.

Favorite dish is the greek salad with smoked salmon from 12 Chairs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I don’t eat or smoke crack, but I think there must be crack in it because it’s an addiction.  Please, everyone, go there so it never ever goes out of business!  It also doubles as my office when I am in New York working.

HOBBIES….

Laughing, dancing, coffee, catching up with friends and family, having amazing meals, dancing, reading interior magazines, designing, and, did I say dancing?

HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC

Well, people live in my real home full time, but it is pretty modern and eclectic.  My future home when I am happy with where BANGTEL is, (not sure if that will happen because I honestly want to be everywhere and pretty much live in the spaces as I design them), will be a lot of glass, tile, and burnt charcoal wood. Cement integrated sinks and countertops, amazing art, and oddball sculptures that make people say, “What the hell?”  That’s what I love to do.  Inspire people to say, “what the hell?!”

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WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER (LIVING OR DEAD) AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE

OMG, this is a fun one!  David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, Andy Warhol, Twiggy, Cher, Bob Marley, Dahli Lama, Anne Frank, Barbie, Mickey Mouse, Banksy, and Princess Diana.  EEK.  That’s 13 (Nena’s note I added Liz so it is 14…never mind!), but I think that is a great mix.  Kind of sounds like a BANGTEL party where you could find the Dominatrix talking to the Trademark  Lawyer about her favorite vacation spot.  I, of course, would serve Champagne from the South of France and an unlimited Seafood Tower. Dessert would be truffles and my sister’s, Gina Klafeta, vegan ice cream sandwiches, called Nana Creme www.nanacreme.com go buy them!

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FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON LIST

Capetown probably because I said I wanted to buy a place there in a year. I have not made it back yet because there are so many places I want to make it to at least once.

I am a sucker for amazing beach vacations, though, so Phuket, Thailand, or Maui have been my favorites.

ON this list this year is Iceland and New Zealand.

FAVORITE NEW CHICAGO RESTAURANT

Beatnix, which is owned by my favorite place to dance, Disco at Celeste. Get the Tomahawk Steak and the oysters.

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART

What comes to mind right away is because when I am here I drive down Grand and Damen a lot.  It is the teddy bear mural by JC Rivera www.jcrivera.com  I always smile at Giant teddy bears on a random building. Cool. Haha.

imageimagePhotos from Pinterest credit unknown.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED

Kind and fucking hilarious!

imageAll photos of Liz and her BANGTEL properties are courtesy of Liz Klafeta.

LIZ’S FAVORITE RECIPE: THE BEST GUACAMOLE OF YOUR LIFE!

4 avocados

1 tomato

1/2 red onion

2 jalapeño peppers

Cilantro

2 limes

Sea salt

SWEET STUFF

Raw Samoas

The good tortilla chips from the Mexican Grocery Store!

LIZ’S FAVORITE LINKS

BANGTEL.com!   Follow us on social and stay with us in Chicago, MIAMI, New York, Cabo, Michigan and soon to be Palm Springs.

My amazingly talented friends:

http://colleendurkin.com/

https://www.jasonrobinette.com/

http://aleksevaphoto.com/

https://www.natashagornik.com/

http://briansorg.com/

LIZ, A MILLION THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON MY NENASNOTES JOURNEY AND SHARING YOUR EXTRAORDINARY CAREER PATH…CAN’T WAIT TO DO A “STAYCATION” AT ONE OF YOUR PROPERTIES…I WOULD SAY NEXT STEPS A HGTV SHOW AND BOOK!  I’LL LOOK FORWARD TO POSTING CHAPTER 2 ON MY BLOG!!!

PROFILE: ME!!!

imageThe sketch is for some anniversary and by a dear friend……..

I hope you don’t think I am being very self-centered in profiling myself, I thought it would be a fun exercise to answer my own questionnaire.  You already know so much about me, my likes, my obsessions, highlights of my career, etc. but perhaps, just perhaps, I can give you a bit more insight into Nena!

Here goes….

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT AND HOW DID THAT PASSION BRING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:

I don’t know that I would call my career talent so let’s say when did I realize what I wanted to do…I always knew I wanted to be in “fashion” I just didn’t know what part of it.  Did I want to model, be a designer, be in public relations, advertising, or what!!!???  I had been on many “high school” boards during school both downtown and in Evanston.  That intensified my interest.  Being the daughter of a commercial artist I was very familiar with advertising.  I had begun sewing as soon as I could hold a needle (Mom gave me a beautiful sterling silver thimble with cloisonne on it, I could never use it, can’t stand the sound of the needle hitting the metal of the thimble!) Evanston Township High School offered a dress design course in the art department, (the head of the department was a dress designer at heart) my Junior Year.  I loved the class and did so well I was asked if I wanted to take it again for my Senior Year and do what ever I liked…I did!  I never modeled, but did teach modeling at a local “charm” school while I was in high school…loved doing that.  One day, when I was a Senior in high school I put on my hat and gloves (yes, you heard that correctly) got on the bus and went downtown.  For some unknown reason I felt one needed to know retail before you could do anything else in the business, after all that is where the product ends.  We usually shopped at Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the first stop on the bus route downtown was Saks.  I got off at Erie and Michigan and went to the Personnel Office (AKA Human Resources), interviewed (lied about my age) and got the job selling in “Debutante Sportswear”…what I thought would be a summer job became a career!  By the way, during that year I found I was a very good sales person, no magic formula just treat people the way you want to be treated and keep up with the trends.  The working title of the book is “A Hell of a Long Summer Job!”  Luck, being in the right place at the right time, the Personnel Director believing in me….who will ever know.  I have taught in all the local fashion schools and have been at Columbia College Chicago for many years, I love to teach and see my students grow and learn more about an industry that I am passionate about  I am still doing lectures, an occasion fashion show and, my new passion, NENASNOTES.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD MADE IT:

When I got the job in the Fashion Office and each and every day for the 53 years, where did they go….I knew that it was, in my opinion, a perfect fit.  I always thought I had the perfect job with the best retailer in the world, I still feel that way. I wanted to be one of one and not one of thousands in New York or elsewhere.  The job grew through the years and, of course, changed not only with fashion but with technology.  I happen to love to work with figures as well as knowing what garments to show to each audience, and adding technology just enhanced the job.  In retail you must be very, very open to change.

imageFashion Group International Chicago Gala, given in my honor, in the Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton (one of the most glamorous and magnificent rooms anywhere!!!!) My wonderful models and I didn’t have to dress them!!!  I have profiled 8 of them…let’s hope I can get more to participate, they all have such wonderful stories to tell. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE?

I firmly believe you need to love what you do you or you will be miserable.  Having said that, I have always wanted to have a independent bookstore/tearoom/needlepoint shop or a bed and breakfast, but instead I am a blogger, who knew!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES, BOOKS, THEATER (IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE) TYPE OF MUSIC

Movies: I am particularly found of Musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films in particular, all the 1940’s musicals and, of course, My Fair Lady and Gigi. love them. Recently found LaLa Land charming. I adore Film Noir and The Thin Man series. My most favorite film is Gone With The Wind, in my opinion, everyone was brilliantly and perfectly cast.  Love all the original Disney films, especially Fantasia.  Of course, any fashion documentary or films based on fashion personalities or fashion in general…what could ever top the original 1939, The Women.  Obviously, I could go on and on and on……I do love a good movie.

Books: I devour books, always have.  I couldn’t take gym in school so I lived in my school library.  The Evanston Public School system has amazing schools not only in their teaching but in their buildings.  My grammar school, Oakton, had incredible mosaic tiles (I’m sure they still do, note to self must do a visit!) and it was not only a place that set all of us on the right track with reading, writing and arithmetic…but also with art….and in my case an even greater love of books.  My home was filled with books and I was read to from birth and then read to myself as soon as I could.  Hard to choose one book…Let me mention these authors rather than one book….not in any order: Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Virginia Wolff.  Current authors, Louise Penny, Charles Finch, Charles Todd, Cara Black (a review on her new book next week!).  Genres: most English Mysteries (don’t like thrillers, horror or fantasy), novels based on historical figures (concentrating on artists and authors) and, of course, fashion books….it seems to be my goal to own every fashion book printed (I have around 1000 now!)

Theater: 1. Musical Theater 2. Legitimate Theater 3. Ballet 4. Opera 5. Symphony

Type of Music: A very long list (basically the only types of music I’m really not into are Hip Hop, Rap and Country) Here goes….Frank Sinatra, Broadway cast albums, Stanley Paul and his Orchestra (or just him playing piano!), old time Rock and Roll, Simply Red, Adele, Bobby Short, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, anything Gershwin, Porter, The American Songbook, Jazz, Chopin, Mozart, Strauss, etc. etc etc.

YOUR HOME:  Very eclectic, a mix of antiques, Randolph Street Market finds, www.randolphtreetmarket.com, lots of art, needlepoint (mine), layers of textiles (in particular, paisley shawls and crazy quilts) and lots and lots of lily of the valley pieces! And, of course, stacks and stacks of books. I guess we could call it Boho!  I have shown you many of my collections more to come.

RESTAURANTS:  Everest would be #1 without question, I have never had anything less than a spectacular meal there and Chef Joho has done many special occasion dinners for me! Les Nomades, RL, Deca at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula, Sophie’s at Saks, The Dearborn, Shaw’s, RM Champagne Salon, Kiki’s, Pelago, Uncle Julio’s and Su Casa, RH Three Arts Club Cafe, I’m very fond of Alpana Singh’s restaurants, just about any steakhouse in the City and anywhere I can get a good hamburger and, of course, any Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Rich Melman is a genius!  I’m a foodie, also am fond of a great glass (or two) of wine and I love the wonderful variety we have, the food is, of course, important but the atmosphere and who you are with are primary.  Love, love, love all the roof “top” terraces we now have, they are amazing.  In addition, all our wonderful private clubs.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES THAT YOU HAVE TRAVELED AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO:

I spent many vacations in New York and I adore it to this day…I am an Urbanite and love, love, love big cities, including my home town of Chicago, you do realize that Chicago has CHIC in it! Next would be London and the English Countryside.  Then Paris, I have only been once so can’t really talk about it as much as I would like.  I adore New Orleans, would have, in another life lived there.  Stratford, Ontario Canada, not only for it’s theater but for it’s atmosphere and it’s fabulous restaurants, again I would live there in a minute.  I was fortunate to travel to Russia several years ago and it was a major epiphany…Moscow in particular, magnificent…The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg wasn’t bad either!!!  Where would I like to go…Marrakesh, Cairo, India and China, back to Paris and England.  I do love a cruise, I would sail on the Queen Mary II any day of the week.  A cruise to South America or the Mediterranean would be nice, any offers!!!!???? Oh, I almost forgot, The Orient Express. I had better pack my bags…..

FAVORITE CHICAGO STREET ART:  Oh my, yet another toughie…I’m going to “cop” out and say our architecture, we are, after all, the birth place of modern architecture.  Aren’t we lucky to have ALL the magnificent pieces not only outside but inside public and private buildings.  I will be doing many posts on our street art.

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER PARTY AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE…

I am going to take “author’s” license and do a dinner party of 20 (not the 10 to 12 I have allotted my other Profiles to have!) at one long “King” table in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org and change seats between the second and third course, not the heads of the table but the two sides…there will be a seating plan, could be fun…and then for after dinner with demi-tasse, cordials and sweets we will all move into another room and be at 5 tables of 4, also seated and again with different people than for dinner, for more intimate conversations.  Stanley Paul and his Orchestra will play only my favorite standards and Frank Sinatra will entertain us with a few songs!  Perhaps we can get Coco, Fred, Cole and Stephen to join in!!!  Heaven.

The Guest List (in alphabetical order):

Fred Astaire

Cecil Beaton

Gabrielle Chanel

Christian Dior

Carl Faberge

Lucile Duff Gordon

Christian Lacroix

Française Lasage

Norman Norell

Irving Penn

Paul Poiret

Cole Porter

Stephen Sondheim

James Tissot

Diana Vreeland

Vita Sackville-West

Else de Wolff

Virginia Wolff

My Father (at one end of the table)

Me (at the other end of the table)

My favorite caterer would supervise the dinner, with Ruthie, my Mother, overseeing all details, I think Flora Danica as the china, why not (both would prefer being “off stage” and they would join us for the “after-party”)…the menu would be :

Cristal champagne before, during and after!!!!!

Cold beef consomme topped with sour cream and chives

Cold poached lobster

(Everyone changes seats here with another glass of champagne)

Choice of Beef Wellington (my recipe) or Salmon en Croute with seasonal vegetables

Micro greens with Tom Mantel’s secret vinaigrette salad dressing

Baked Alaska (my recipe)

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED:  Wow, that is a very difficult question…to answer and not sound full of oneself…I guess a person who used her career producing fashion shows, special events, chairing galas and being president of many boards, to not only raise substantial funding for many, many organizations, but more importantly to raise awareness of those causes.

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Some of the world renowned designers who came to the benefit of the Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago Place opening September 1990.  The black tie event benefited five charities, Beverly Blettner, seated behind Bob Mackie. was the over-all chair of the event.  Beverly and I worked on numerous events together.  The designers from left to right: Adolfo, Carolina Herrera, Pauline Trigere and Bob Mackie, all of whom I worked with on numerous events.  I have profiled Pauline, I will do in depth Fashion Flashbacks on the others in coming weeks. Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.