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Meet a Tastemaker With an Eye for Talent

Meet Heiji Choy Black, the mother of four who helped discover Virgil Abloh

If “having it all” is an art, Heiji Choy Black is a master; the entrepreneur and tastemaker lives in a dream apartment overlooking Lincoln Park with her husband (hedge-fund manager Brian Black) and four kids, while serving on the boards of some of Chicago’s best cultural institutions. But like any great master, Black knows how to reinvent herself. In her nearly 20 years in the city, she’s also owned Chicago’s hippest store, the directional boutique Hejfina, and Chicago’s chicest job, Style Editor for Chicago magazine. Through it all, Black’s most valuable asset has also been an intangible one: her eye.

It was her eye that drew her here in the first place; while on a business trip from New York, the beauty of the city’s architecture against Lake Michigan was enough for her to change careers and relocate simultaneously. “I had been working as a consultant in corporate America,” she recalls. “It was a bit of a transition, but a very happy one.” In 2004, she opened Hejfina, a concept lifestyle store cast in the image of Europe and Asia’s museum-quality boutiques. “I grew up going to Seoul, Korea, where they have these concept lifestyle stores, and I’ve always been obsessed with stores like Colette in Paris,” she says.

Black stocked the store with then–fellow fashion hopefuls like Alexander Wang and Rag & Bone, as well as boldface imports like Comme des Garçons. Ahead of its time for Windy City retail (Rei Kawakubo’s conceptually similar Dover Street Market opened in London the same year), the store predated the exaltation of the cult brand. In fact, reigning cult designer Virgil Abloh passed through the House of Hejfina long before the rise of Off-White. “I enlisted design students to propose designs to the store,” Black says, “And one of them was Virgil. I ended up passing on [his design], but we became good friends and collaborators.”

After a successful five-year run, the store closed in 2009. A stint as Chicago magazine’s Style Editor followed but since 2016, Black has taken a step back from fashion to focus on art and architecture. While serving on the boards of the Renaissance Society and the Architecture & Design Society, Black and her husband Brian have added local Chicago art stars like William J. O’Brien and Theaster Gates to their personal collection.

Now, Black says, she’s ready for a fashion comeback: “I’m working on a business more in-depth in 2018 that’s design- and fashion-related.” She may have it all, but with an eagle eye like Black’s, there’s always more waiting to be discovered.

Main image: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Burberry