By Morgan Hogerty
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE SIMONE & CO
By Morgan Hogerty
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE SIMONE & CO
Have you ever seen two galaxies in love?
At first, there is flirting from a distance but the attraction grows stronger as the galaxies edge closer. They are drawn to each other, as each extends their arms toward the other. They may pass each other, circling around in a lovers’ dance, but inevitably their fate is to be together. Slowly, they touch, wrap themselves around each other, and in the end, merge into one. Then, brilliance is born in the shape of a million new stars.
On Sept 16, 2023, the marriage of Billy Corgan and Chloé Mendel united two creative galaxies, one of music and one of design. Billy is the frontman of the groundbreaking band Smashing Pumpkins, while Chloé is the force behind the luxury sustainable brand Maison Atia. Rather than creating new points of light, their wedding inspired three brilliant creative collaborations that an astronomer might dub “Rings of Fire,” “Silvery Star,” and “Gossamer Gown.”
That the first two collaborations relied upon local talent is little surprise given the couple’s deep attachment to the North Shore. They have lived together on the shores of Lake Michigan since 2012, raising their two children, and creating a popular Highland Park business, Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse. “When looking for our vendor dream team, we saw no reason to look outside of our city. Chicago has some of the best talent in the country, and we were committed to showcasing the incredible creatives on the North Shore and in Chicago,” recalls Michelle Medina, who founded her Chicago boutique event planning company, NORA Events, in 2017 and was introduced to Chloé by their mutual friend, Giselle Ghofrani of Belle Bridal Atelier, who had previously worked with Chloé’s father in New York City.
Medina put together an event team that ranged from long-established businesses to those buzzy and new to the scene. “It was a delight to work with Nicolette Tindall and Tom Kehoe of Kehoe Designs, whose lush florals heightened the fairytale setting. Chrissy Dwyer and Shannon Binder with RPM Events were the perfect team to create a stunning three-course, family-style dinner with gluten-free and vegan options that aligned with Billy’s lifestyle. And let’s not forget dessert! Ashley Johnson with Petal & Moon Pastry designed the most spectacular cake, that represented Chloé and Billy perfectly. Not only was it visually stunning, but it was also deliciously vegan and gluten-free. We were also excited to include an array of sweets from Kasama Bakery, the world’s first Michelin-starred Filipino restaurant.”
Medina is particularly proud of creating an event where each moment, from when the harpist touched the strings at the lakeside ceremony to the dealer’s last hand at the late-night poker party, was a true experience for the couple’s cherished guests. “Billy and Chloé were a dream to work with, and I feel so honored to have been part of a moment that will become a treasured memory for generations to come,” reflects Medina.
The “Rings of Fire” collaboration began in secret. In the months leading up to Chloé’s 30th birthday in September 2022, Billy began planning a very special surprise—a marriage proposal—with the help of Graziela Kaufman of Graziela Gems, who combines her Brazilian-born flare with Italian craftsmanship to create jewelry cherished by celebrities including Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts, and Jennifer Lopez. “I met with Billy and we exchanged emails for months before creating beautiful renderings which Billy used as part of his birthday proposal to Chloé,” recalls Kaufman, a former resident of Highland Park and close friend of the bride. “On the night of my birthday, Billy gave me three exquisite ring renderings,” Chloé recounts. “I assumed this to be a beautiful birthday gesture but then he asked, ‘Is it a yes?’”
Acclaimed lyricist that he is, Billy wanted the rings to tell a story: a tale of his roots; the couple’s shared love of design; and the influence of their travels. “The Graziela Gems’ jeweler spent 75 hours hand engraving the rings, while I personally went and checked his work on a weekly basis,” Kaufman explains. “This project was truly a labor of love.” An elaborate knotwork pattern on the ring bands pays tribute to Billy’s Irish ancestry and to Aztec design, which captivated Billy during a recent visit to Mexico City. “While I was in Mexico City, I visited the National Museum. I found the Aztec stonework to be so intriguing because of its parallels to Art Deco design,” says Billy.
The rings’ distinctive stones are also rich with meaning. Chloé’s features a unique hexagonal diamond flanked by two Columbian emerald baguettes, a representation of the couple’s shared admiration of vintage design and her husband’s familial links to the Emerald Isle. Billy requested a stone he had coveted since the 1990s—a pigeon blood ruby. “I sourced the gorgeous ruby from an incredible supplier who only works with conflict-free rubies and offers the very best quality in the world,” Kaufman shares. “I call them happy gems, which is the only kind I work with.”
The “Silvery Stars” collaboration was inspired by the need to communicate the wedding details to the couple’s guests—a select group that included bandmates, professional wrestlers, neighborhood playmates, friends, and treasured family members scattered across the globe. Chloé reached out to her friend Wilmette’s Martha Nippert, the founder of Marnani Design Studio, for assistance with the invitation suite, wedding program, and menu cards. “When we met, Chloé and I quickly realized we had a host of mutual interests as I formerly worked in fashion as a Senior Designer for Michael Kors,” Nippert remembers.
A lifelong artist, after graduating with an art degree from Wake Forest University, Nippert honed her fashion illustration skills at Parsons School of Design. She later became well known for her live illustration services at events like New York Fashion Week. When her family returned to their Midwestern roots via moves to Chicago and then to the North Shore, her regional client base began steadily building through social media, word of mouth, and local gallery shows.
Her fashion-influenced style is approachable, fun but not fussy, elegant but not elitist. Nippert observes, “Chloé and I clicked as creatives because I understood that she wanted an invitation that was beautiful but still true to their whimsical spirit as a family.” The multi-layered invitation’s design was a tribute to the wedding venue, the couple’s beloved, turreted, David Adler-designed 1920s home that Billy decided to purchase after glimpsing a doe and her two fawns on the property—a foreshadowing of the longed-for family to come. “I wanted the invitation to physically unfold, almost like a piece of origami, because that replicated how the guests experienced Billy and Chloé’s amazing property—moving from the ceremony on the lawn to the Jens Jensen fountain for cocktails and then through the rose and vegetable gardens to the celebratory dinner in the tent,” explains Nippert.
“Billy and Chloé are creative powerhouses who have very public faces. But at the end of the day, this was an intimate moment for their family so I included important personal elements like a little pup that represents their longtime commitment to PAWS, their favorite charity,” Nippert notes. “The silvery stars that I hand painted on each invitation were my favorite personal touch.”
The “Gossamer Gown” collaboration was one born from family rather than local connections. Chloé worked closely with her father, the famed designer Gilles Mendel, on the design of her stunning, couture wedding gown. A Parisian descendent of five generations of furriers, Gilles moved to New York City in the early 1980s and established J. Mendel, which quickly became the label of choice for those seeking to make the most glamorous of entrances.
As a young girl, Chloé would visit her father’s studio after school and spend time coloring his sketches. At 15 years old, she began coming to her father’s studio to learn aspects of craftwork. A laudatory 2014 New York Times profile of her father describes Chloé calmly cutting material as pre-show chaos swirls around her. In a moving wedding toast, Gilles described his daughter as uniquely gifted to navigate many worlds because she grew up in both his world, a French one full of Jewish history, and in her mother Jenny’s world, a Chinese household surrounded by an older sister and five younger brothers. Gilles also expressed his delight that Chloé had found in Billy, a life partner whose discipline and singular focus were balanced by a soulful nature and a big heart.
Gilles describes the wedding gown as an ode to “a sight Chloé has cherished from her bedroom window during countless dawns, the view of the morning mist hovering over Lake Michigan.” The mist inspired the gown’s divine color—a delicate, cloudy grey hue. Gilles worked with the celebrated French lace company Solstiss for nearly eight months to create a sheer Chantilly lace infused with metallic threads that “mimics the enchanting essence of mist and dancing dew.”
This ethereal beauty was juxtaposed with a dynamic, Art Deco-esque zig-zag pattern on the gown’s corset. Inspired by New York City’s Chrysler Building, her hometown’s most iconic building, the glinting pattern both accentuated Chloé’s delicate waist and paid homage to her inner strength. The gown’s regal yet dreamy lines perfectly captured Chloé’s spirit; one that Billy described in his heartfelt wedding vows as “celestial grace.”
Gilles describes the moment when he walked his daughter toward Billy, who was awaiting her under the rose-laden chuppah with the officiant, Highland Park’s Mayor Nancy Rotering, Billy’s tennis partner, friend, and godmother to Billy and Chloé’s daughter, Philomena Clementine, and “partner in crime” to their son, Augustus Juppiter, both of whom were also standing alongside their father, as “the experience of a lifetime, a profound culmination of love, artistry, and a deep bond between a father and his daughter. It will be etched into my heart forever,” Gilles recalls.
Billy’s columnar black tuxedo, the silk lining of which was adorned with a drawing Billy had made of his family, and Chloé’s afterparty dress were also designed by Gilles. Accented with playfully embroidered lace, the dove white afterparty sheath dress was perfect for swaying to the music of Chicago jazz band Joel Paterson & Friends during dinner and enjoying a post-dinner set by famed saxophonist Frank Catalano, David Bowie’s pianist Mike Garson, and Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin; a set highlighted by her husband singing a cover of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and the Smashing Pumpkins classic “Tonight, Tonight.”
The process of designing the three garments, a deeply satisfying one, inspired Gilles to open the House of Gilles, a bright new star on the haute couture scene. The eponymous atelier will offer the rare opportunity to work closely with the master designer himself. “I am thrilled to offer a very personal, tailored experience where our clientele’s dreams and desires come to life in every stitch,” shares Gilles.
When galaxies merge in space, the consequences are spectacular. Shock waves stretching millions of light years echo through space; waves of stars are ignited changing the universe forever. The terrestrial union of Billy and Chloé’s creative galaxies created artistic collaborations infused with love and beauty that are as captivating and enduring as the Milky Way.
Creative talents: bride and groom’s apparel, Gilles Mendel for the House of Gilles; event planning, NORA Events; wedding rings, Graziela Gems; invitation suite, Martha Nippert for Marnani Design Studio; wedding photography, Danielle Simone & Co.; floral design, Kehoe Design; tablescapes, The Festive Frog; catering, RPM Events; wedding cake, Petal & Moon Pastry; desserts, Kasama; harpist, Janelle Lake; bride’s hair, Jerome Lordet; and bride’s makeup, Makeup by Aga.