How lawyer-turned-boutique-owner Tina Kourasis, JD’96, found a job that fits.
Tina Kourasis doesn’t remember being into clothes or fashion as a girl, but the intensive curriculum she encountered at the Law School left her feeling creatively stifled. So Kourasis, JD’96, suddenly found herself spending every Sunday watching Style with Elsa Klensch. From street style to couture, “I was just completely fascinated by it,” she says. Clothes soon became her “visual outlet,” her stress relief, and her passion.
She began her legal career at a Chicago firm but “tried for years to do something with fashion in some way or another.” In her free time she wrote a column in a Chicago magazine and hosted what-to-wear segments on the local CBS morning show. Around 2004 Kourasis started to focus her intellectual property legal practice on global branding, licensing, and counterfeiting in the apparel industry, working with several denim lines in Los Angeles. Kourasis remembers, “We'd be on these conference calls and they'd be discussing design and I'm thinking, I'd love to be there, doing that, instead of being the lawyer.”
Kourasis’s personal style is the same as VMR’s—“everything is white and blush and gray and black and navy” and easy to wear. She is drawn to simple, sporty outfits topped off with a statement coat or a metallic accessory and loves denim. Her closet is also stocked with knitwear, “because we live in Chicago.” (Photo courtesy Tina Kourasis, JD’96)
Kourasis and her longtime friend Mark Gill, a personal shopper and stylist, had been talking for years about opening a boutique. Her husband, investment banker Nicholas Pavlidis, JD’98, MBA’98, had run the numbers on a preliminary business model and found it would be profitable but challenging, so they held off—until 2012, when Gill’s jokes about how he should sell his clients’ castoffs turned into an idea for a designer resale shop. Kourasis was finally ready to take the plunge. She had been working as a lawyer for the Chicago Sun-Times for five years; it was her “most interesting legal job” but fashion still beckoned. In 2013 Kourasis and Gill opened VMR (an acronym for vintage, modern, resale), in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
The store has since transitioned into all new clothing. Kourasis constantly researches new designers to find brands that fit the boutique’s aesthetic, what she describes as “style for the everyday life”—neutral colors, comfortable fabrics, “great things people actually want to wear.”
For an easy, put-together look, Kourasis recommends a classic, linear blazer paired with a tee shirt or button down, jeans or skinny pants, and heels. “It just makes you feel like rock-and-roll,” she says. “I don’t know how else to explain it.” (Photo courtesy Tina Kourasis, JD’96)
Kourasis uses her legal training daily as VMR’s president—she handles all vendor contracts, loan agreements, and similar fine print–laden documents (“We’ve never had to hire a lawyer, obviously”) and has a deep understanding of branding from her days as an intellectual property lawyer. But she’s traded counting billable hours for Fashion Week trips to discover new designers, and hasn’t looked back. “I'm so happy. No matter what happens with this business I will have done it, really done it,” she says. “As stressful as it can be, this just feels the most natural for me.”