Purple lights illuminated a showroom bordered by tables of vendors showcasing their products. On Friday, March 24 the lively energy of Planet HER brought a collective of women and femme makers to the Chicago Athletic Association for a night highlighting the creativity of women in Chicago.
Founder IB Majekodunmi made rounds throughout the night, hugging old friends, moving between floors, and troubleshooting in-between. What started as her passion project – compiling a directory of minority and queer-owned businesses – turned into Refine Collective, a digital community with the mission of funneling collective purchasing power into underrepresented businesses through pop-up events like Planet HER.
“It feels good to know that my life’s work is to put other people on too. My success hinges on other people’s success and that’s really exciting to kind of have that as a pillar and a grounding,” said Majekodunmi.
Mannequins in sparkling, embellished vintage pieces stood front and center on both the first and second floors, styled by Chicago-based artist Mallory Talty.
“When I had this vision to do this mannequin install, it’s like beyond what I even imagined,” she said on the final looks.
Artist Raquel Bustos, or Yueskey, hand painted on canvas as people shopped around her, stopping to watch her process and ask questions.
“I love being part of things like this. I get to meet people that I knew online but never knew in person, which is really nice… Shoutout to IB for that ‘cause she has an eye for people who would work well together and she puts us all in the same room,” she said.
Planet HER consisted of 50 women creatives including jewelry makers, musicians, artists, designers and more. Rebellious spoke with some of the participating vendors to learn more about their businesses and the women who run them.
Lovely Little Things – Lisette Renova (she/her), 32
Al-`ayn, mal de ojo, or evil eye – this symbol is having a moment. Most of Lisette Renova’s handmade jewelry designs feature a variation of the evil eye and for her, this symbol is more than just a trend.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the evil eye because I’m Mexican so my grandmother had always told me ‘ponte una pulsera de mal de ojo’ [put on an evil eye bracelet]. So to me it’s a way of feeling protected…” she explained.
Renova started her business nearly three years ago, during the pandemic, offering local drop offs and driving around Chicagoland to deliver her gemstone, stainless steel and gold-plated pieces. She says she’s finally able to attend more pop-up shops to sell and although this concept is very trendy right now, she says there’s space for everyone.
“There are a lot of vendors that sell evil eye jewelry but everyone has their own unique way of making the jewelry so I feel like there’s a chance for everyone to grow it,” said Renova.
For Us, Dear – Alyssa Dichoso (she/her), 24
For Us, Dear sells hand-poured soy coco wax candles in minimalistic, heavy concrete vessels that remain once the candle is burned.
Like other makers at the event, Dichoso emphasized the importance of implementing her culture into her work. Many of the Filipina-American’s signature scents are Asian-inspired, including Buko Pandan, Calamansi Yuzu and Ube.
“I like to incorporate scents that not only tap into my culture but just kind of resonate with the scents that I like, that also kind of just explain the interior feeling I have,” she said.
This was Dichoso’s second Planet HER event, and she has worked with Refine on the backend in the past. She says that she’s appreciative of the spaces they create.
“It gives me a place to honestly be myself,” she said. “A lot of vendor markets, the demographic could be a little hit or miss for me, but the Refine events are always a diverse crowd and I know that people want to hear my story and I appreciate that I feel heard.”
Espinas – Serena Madrigal (she/they), 28
Multimedia artist Serena Madrigal expresses her creativity in many forms. She offers hand poke tattoos in her studio and works on art installations at weddings and other events, but at the heart of it all is flowers and floral designs.
Dainty daisies and tulips popped against the green leaves and clear vases that sat on her table, as Madrigal explained how her passion for flowers stems from watching her mother tend to her own garden.
“I didn’t realize she was inspiring me until like now, like the last couple of years I’ve realized it. She’s always had her hands in the dirt, she’s always had flowers, plants… she just likes to be in the sun, watering her plants,” she said. “And so just by watching her I kind of learned and I got gifted the green thumb too, so I think it’s where I’m supposed to be.”
She said her ultimate goal is to grow her own medicinal plants, like rosemary and cempasúchitl.
“I can sell those and help people through flower medicine.”
Black Women Are Essential – Chelsey Carter, 30 and Essence Smith, 29
Chelsey Carter and Essence Smith created Black Women Are Essential as an initiative to support Black women who were essential workers during the pandemic. The duo originally sold their shirts to raise funds for “essential kits” containing PPE, gift cards, hair products, candles, affirmation cards – things to make recipients feel seen and appreciated.
“We know how much we [Black women] show up and we don’t get that recognition a lot of times,” Smith said.
When the campaign ended, Smith said people still wanted the shirts. Five drops later, Black Women Are Essential has expanded into sweatshirts, hoodies and even home goods like journals and blankets.
“It really is a brand turned movement, honestly. We’ve been very honored and grateful to have the support of our community and we’re even more blessed to be placed in a position to amplify, support and uplift Black women,” said Sanders.
Bueno Days – Alma Blancarte-Mora (she/her/ella), 30
Bueno Days is a pop-up coffee vendor exclusively serving cafe de Mexico. Alma Blancarte-Mora and her husband developed the concept as a love letter to their identity as Mexican-Americans growing up in Little Village.
“We grew up with identity crisis of always feeling like we’re never American enough or Mexican enough and we decided that we are who we are, and we’re really proud to embrace that,” she said.
Horchata Picosa and Ponche Cold Brew are some of the unique and nostalgic flavors offered by the high school sweethearts turned business partners. Blancarte-Mora says that her mother’s cooking with spicy roasted peppers and creamy milk inspired their menu.
“Bringing in those flavor profiles that are a little unexpected, unconventional, helped me and helped us tell our story of who we are and we wanted to be really unapologetic about it.”
She says that their products also double as cocktail mixers. “We like to call it the night extender, a bueno night.”
Planet HER transported visitors to a space where women of all identities had the power to connect and show pride in their talents.
As Sanders put it, “Honestly, it feels like a good representation of what minorities represent, how multi-faceted we are and how successful we can be but it also speaks to the community and how strong it is….”