Every Marlene Atelier Suit Reflects A Woman’s Spirit.
Here’s How Marlene Franke Found Her Own.
The passion to craft impeccably made custom garments has been in Marlene Franke’s soul since the age of 7 years old, when her mother would take her to a weekly sewing group in New Jersey to create suits and dresses together. While she saw it as an activity she loved, she questioned whether it would be practical as a career choice.
As a result, a series of events after college led Marlene to the accounting field, where she would eventually run a successful practice for many years. Yet, for all the positive strides she had made in this arena, Marlene couldn’t ignore the feeling inside her that something was missing from her career – she just wasn’t happy. She decided to sell the practice, creating a crossroads in her life unlike anything she had ever known.
While pondering her next career move, Marlene filled her transition period by designing a wardrobe of suits with vintage patterns from the 1950’s and 60s that she had collected over the years. And then something amazing happened.
Women in her business network she had known over the years began asking her, “Where did you buy that fabulous suit?” and “How can I get one for myself?” When Marlene told them she had actually made the suits, her friends and associates were shocked. They implored her to start her own business making such custom fitted suits for women. Fresh from leaving one business as an entrepreneur, Marlene questioned whether she was ready to jump back into business ownership.
Still, the inquiries grew more frequent. As she researched the market to discover if there was truly an opportunity to create custom suits for women, Marlene couldn’t believe what she found – tailors across the board were making men’s style suits for women! Where were the classic feminine designs? Was anybody willing to listen to today’s contemporary woman and create designs just for her?
Incredibly, nobody was filling that role. This combined with consistent requests for her suits was all the justification Marlene needed to start her business. Even more encouraging, a chance encounter in the elevator of a downtown Chicago advertising agency led to the introduction to her master tailor, Gidal.
Finally, on September 20, 2012, with over 350 people in attendance, the Marlene Atelier line was launched.
Although Marlene enjoyed the design process, as her business grew so did Marlene’s infatuation with the idea of learning how to pattern and tailor the garments herself. She quickly learned that trying to acquire those skills here is the U.S. was virtually impossible. So, she turned her search abroad to the epicenter of sartorial excellence, Savile Row. There she met Andrew Ramroop, a master tailor and owner of Savile Row Academy and Maurice Sedwell, a well known Savile Row tailoring establishment. In the summer of 2016, Marlene traveled to London to study on Savile Row.
Today, Marlene is one of Chicago’s premier bespoke tailors. She received her training and certification at Savile Row Academy in London, England under the tutelage of her beloved mentor Andrew Ramroop. She designs and crafts custom suits for both women and men that are completely patterned, cut, fitted and tailored by hand under her labels, Marlene Atelier and Franke L’usage de Mecs, respectfully.
Marlene’s goal is to continue mastering her craft and eventually open a tailoring school in the U.S. with the hopes of sharing her passion and preserving the fine art of bespoke tailoring.