Meet our newest girl crush, April Francis, a Chicago gal with beauty and brains. Why are we clamoring to be her next best friend, you ask? This gorgeous gal balances a thriving personal-style biz and owns the wildly popular Dose Market. Oh, the most recent feather in her cap? She's helming a fashion course as an adjunct professor at Columbia College. Way to make us feel bad, April.
After spending an afternoon with the authority on all things sartorial, we can vouch for the fact that she can change up her look like a chameleon — and always delivers major inspiration. With such effortlessly diverse outfits, it's no wonder we tapped Francis to model her signature getups at her favorite Ukrainian Village haunts. She runs this neighborhood, so we're letting her play tour guide. Click through and hit up these hot spots — a small dose of Francis should go a long way.
Photographed by Heather Talbert
How would you describe your style?
"Definitely eclectic! I like interesting and well-made pieces. I think my style is an accumulation of the way I'm feeling. It's funny, my eye will change and I'll just switch things up completely. But I definitely stay true to a certain look. I love a short mini skirt with a lot of volume and big, cool coats."
April is wearing Tom Ford shoes, Rag & Bone jeans, Transit tank, and Opening Ceremony sweater.
Why is Caffe Streets better than your average coffee shop?
"I love Darko the owner! He has some amazing art work and he's so knowledgable about his product. I also love the design of the space and his custom stained glass — it's an incredible cafe. Everyone that works there is so great too — It's really a friendly place. My drink of choice is a cappuccino and I rarely have to wait in a crazy long line to get it."
Caffe Streets, 1750 West Division Street (between Hermitage Avenue and Wood Street); 773-278-2739.
From teaching to styling your clients, you have so many different things going on in your life. What are your style rules for nine-to-five dressing?
"I don't have a nine to five kind of lifestyle, so being appropriately dressed is definitely one of my favorite challenges. That's also why I love helping others figure out what to wear! I love layering, so that helps if you need to change up your look from day to night."
April is wearing a Vena Cava faux fur jacket and vintage purse.
Are there any specific designers that you really admire?
"I don't necessarily choose items based on a specific designer. I'm definitely very piecey and gravitate towards items based on quality and construction over anything else. But, two of my friends are amazing designers — Christina Fan and AGGA B. — and I do wear a lot of pieces from both of their clothing lines."
April is wearing a French barrette from Robin Richman.
Inside of the quaint Caffe Streets. The name pays homage to the owners' travels around the world in search of the perfect cup of coffee, as well as the universal enjoyment of enjoying some good java.
What is a typical day like for you?
"It definitely changes a lot. I look at my calendar in the morning and see what's on task. I do a lot of consulting, but my favorite thing is helping people build their businesses — or improve their wardrobe! That's part of what Dose Market is, too — to uplift and elevate all of the vendors that are involved. It's rewarding to see your help go to someone who deserves it and see them grow because of it. That's really exciting."
Tell us a little bit about your hood and why you love it.
"The neighborhood is really great and I have a lot of amazing friends down here, too. I love the porch at my house and I live next door to a little family that always invites me over for a barbecue. There are so many shopping and dining options such as Sir & Madame, Post 27, and Bar Deville. I love that Chicago Avenue is so close by, which makes it easy to get to and from downtown."
Tell us about Sprout Home and why it's one of your favorite places in your neighborhood.
"I love everything about Sprout! It's built by a really cool community of people. They're so helpful and they all know so much about their merchandise that you really feel as though you're in good hands. Also, the outside is like a luscious urban garden."
Sprout Home, 745 North Damen Avenue (between Lee Place and Superior Street); 312-226-5950.
What do you typically purchase from Sprout?
"I buy herbs a lot because I unintentionally kill them all! I also get little bouquets that I will just put in a vase on my table, greeting cards, and these little measuring cups. I have a secret trick — I make shoes into wedges by using the bottoms of the cups. But seriously, that's not what Sprout is for!"
April is wearing a Kenzo dress, Cynthia Rowley sandals, Marc Jacobs socks, a vintage necklace, Cynthia Vincent jacket, and vintage purse.
Sprout retails a great selection of unique vases, containers, and other vessels for your plants and floral arrangements.
We can't wait to hit up the next Dose Market on October 14! According to the website, it looks as though you have more vendors than ever! How many are there total?
"There are about 250 on our roster and in October, half of the vendors will be new."
Any highlights we should look out for when we go?
"There are so many! On the food and beverage side, there's Journeyman Distillery, Greenbush Brewing, and a shop called LOCAL that carries various kinds of meats. On the fashion side, Caroline Borucki, Detroit Denim, and Inland clothing, which carries menswear — I'm really excited about that. Silver Moon is going to do fashions for Halloween, which is going to be amazing. The owner does the best costumes. For home we'll have furniture by Greta de Parry, Merkled, Circa Modern, and Yearbook."
Inside of the charming Sprout Home and Garden.
What is one of the first things you do when you look in someone's closet?
"I formulate a game plan for reorganization. Being able to find what it is you're looking for is one of the easiest things to correct and also one of the most important."
How about your own closet? What are some of your favorite pieces?
"They are all favorites! I say buy what you love. My closet is currently filled with amazing things. I actually just hit a point where I feel like I don't need anything! I really haven't purchased much for fall. I love piecing. I actually just purged a lot of items and it felt really good. I do have an archive of pieces that I will never get rid of because I like a representation from each moment in fashion history."
A detailed look at April's vintage necklace and purse.
You can purchase a pre-made bouquet like the ones April adorns her table with, or make your own from a selection of fresh buds.
April on her way into Chickpea to grab a bite.
April is wearing Current Elliot jeans, Isabel Marant top, L.G.B. plaid button-up, Garment Room pull-over, Milkhaus purse, and Celine booties.
What makes Chickpea one of your favorite go-to spots?
"I love it because of the great art inside, the amazing family that runs it, and the seasonal courtyard in the back. Also, the food is amazing."
Chickpea, 2018 West Chicago Avenue (between Damen and Hoyne Avenues); 773-384-9930.
As we were shooting snaps of April, the owners' wife told us that the recipes at Chickpea have been passed down in the family for generations. In fact, her husband's mother is oftentimes in the kitchen whipping up everything from kebabs to this delicious Baklava.
What do you like to eat at Chickpea?
"I like the Dajaj Mihshew (chicken breast vegetable kabob with rice), and they make me the April Special: hummus, tabbouleh, and tomato on a pita."
April shows off those killer Celine booties!
Chickpea's artwork that April loves includes everything from an Arabic-language Coca-Cola sign to hand-painted movie posters for American classics like Rocky IV and Double Impact.
What's considered downtime for you?
"I love concerts. I just had an amazing weekend of music. I saw G Love, Iron & Wine, Wild Belle, and Wilco. I also go hiking, biking, or take a yoga class."
So, tell us about this professor gig you have at Columbia College!
"Getting the phone call when I was asked to be a professor was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. I was blown away. It's a lot of responsibility, but the kids at Columbia are motivated, so that's great.
The class is called The Business of Styling. It's both lecture and workshop, with three photoshoots throughout the semester — lookbook, print campaign and editorial shoots. I'll be teaching it in the spring."
April is wearing an AGGA B. skirt and jacket, Undercover top, vintage purse, Antipast socks, and Nike shoes.
What's one of the best pieces of advice you can give the students about starting out their careers in a struggling job market?
"You have to know your strengths and you have to know what you want to do. If you want to go into business for yourself, you have to think seriously about it. It's not for everybody."
A detailed look at April's funky Nike shoes.
April in front of her pad. Home sweet home!