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Online purse-making business gets celebrity attention

January 19, 2014
By Anna Marie Kukec

  • Una bolsa color champaña y marfil hecha por Aileen Parks que será proporcionada a las celebridades en los premios Golden Globe.
    A champagne and ivory clutch made by Aileen Parks that will be provided to celebrities at the Golden Globes.
  • Foto: CORTESía de GIRL BY AILEEN
    La actriz Liza Lapira posa con una bolsa hecha por Aileen Parks.
    Actress Liza Lapira poses with a purse made by Aileen Parks.
  • Foto: CORTESía de GIRL BY AILEEN
    La actriz Eugenia Yaun posa con una bolsa hecha por Aileen Parks.
    Actress Eugenia Yaun poses with a purse made by Aileen Parks.
  • Aileen Parks

Aileen Parks of Lake in the Hills has turned a hobby into a business that now reaches celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival, the Primetime Emmys, the Wendy Williams Show and, last week, the Golden Globe Awards.

Parks hand crafts and custom designs clutch purses for her online business, Girl by Aileen. She makes them in a variety of materials and gears many for weddings and other elegant gatherings. They range in price from $38 to $55 each.

“After making purses as gifts and doing some craft shows, I never really looked at this as a business before. But I have now,” she said.

About 100 purses were provided to nominees and presenters at the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. She also was asked to prepare a display piece, which was used to help promote her brand with the celebrities who attended the gift lounge at the event. Next, will be the MTV Awards in the spring, she said.

Parks, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, was born in New York and was raised in Puerto Rico until age 11. She relocated to the Chicago area in 1984. She had most recently worked in order management for Nokia in Arlington Heights until her layoff in 2012.

That’s when she was encouraged to start her online business, Girl by Aileen. While it did well, she really began seeing more orders after getting involved with The Artisan Group, which introduces products to celebrities at various high-profile Hollywood events. Besides the award programs, she also gifted her clutches during a Celebrity Mother’s event in May 2013 which included Penélope Cruz, Kim Kardashian, Giuliana Rancic and others.

Those Hollywood events began to spur orders, Parks said.

“It’s really been a collaborative effort,” she said of the organization. Parks and other members pay a fee to The Artisan Group in order to be able to participate in such events.

“We’re just excited to see what these celebrities are wearing, and if they’re photographed with our product,” she said.

On stage with LaRussa

Hoffman Estates resident Peter Caliendo, president of the Schaumburg-based Caliendo Sports International, recently introduced Tony LaRussa at the American Baseball Coaches Convention before about 3,700 coaches gathered in Dallas. He introduced the Hall of Fame manager and 3-time World Series champion after showing a short video. LaRussa then spoke for about 25 minutes and Caliendo came back to talk with him before the audience about management and chemistry and LaRussa’s book, “One Last Strike,” which focuses on managerial strategies.

Bassani opens new restaurant

Italian born and raised Chef Cristiano Bassani, owner of Bapi Ristorante in Arlington Heights, has opened Big Chef Burgers, a gourmet burger and pizza restaurant in Schaumburg at 1602 E. Algonquin Road. “I’ve been living in the Chicago area for many years, and I’ve always had the desire to open a great burger or pizza joint in the Northwest suburbs that raises the bar,” he said.

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