Founding Board Members
It started with a conversation about the community, and evolved into a curriculum for the culture. Even our name was chosen because it ties into, both, culture's love of fashion, and, our mission to make education, just as cool as--things like fashion and music! Organized as a not-for-profit corporation, Education Couture, is a corporation, working for the collective refashioning, of the way, we, as a culture, view learning and reading. Everybody reads. Everybody succeeds...and our goal is to do it all stylishly. Because, at Education Couture, the most in fashion thing to do is learn. Educating oneself is always fashionable!
Believing a brand's story is its strongest asset, Autumn Merritt is a person that loves connecting with consumers in an engaging way. A Howard University Graduate with a B.B.A in Marketing, she began her college tenure paying dues as a grassroots promotions representative, ultimately landing a position at Universal Music & Video Distribution as a College Lifestyle & Marketing Representative. Upon graduation, Autumn focused her efforts on further penetrating the Fashion Industry in Chicago. Her experiences in
management, wholesale buying & selling, and visual merchandising prepared her for her greatest undertaking of all, the creation of a men's and women's brand and boutique, Sir & Madame , which she opened with her husband in 2007. In addition to making sure her family of five and business are intact, she has experience as a producer, with clients such as Nike and Beats by Dre.
Autumn is now witnessing the payoff of her marketing and brand strategy efforts. The proper positioning of her brand has afforded collaborations with Japanese Skin Care brand Shiseido, Heineken and HBO, as well as features in The New York Times, Marie Claire, GQ and Huffington Post. In addition to building her lifestyle brand, she was also responsible for curating the vibe at Soho House Chicago, where she acted as Head of Membership & Communications. Presently, Autumn is serving as the Soho House Head of Membership CWH, North America.
The founder of Education Couture NFP, the creator of "Reading Music", mentor and lead program service provider, Ruckiya Ross wears many hats. But most importantly, she is a child of God. For nine years, Ross spent the better part of her career providing speech-language therapy to underserved communities of Chicago Public School students. It was during this time, working with both the general education students and the diverse learner population, that she realized the unique need to develop a program that would engage the nontraditional learner. And thus, the idea for the Education Couture Model was born. Upon being laid off... She got to work on developing a program that would not only teach students how to read, but also an approach that would bring learning, or rather the desire to learn, back into fashion. She spent two years volunteering her services in dedication to ensuring the efficacy of the Education Couture Model. Additionally, she is also a founding member of the award-winning company August Bloom. A Haute (high style) floral design company that received many awards for their cutting edge floral fashions, including winning Best in Show at Fleurotica Fashion Show. Received features in multiple publications, including ESSENCE magazine, CS, and Today's Chicago Woman. Additionally, her designs were featured on ABC 7 Chicago news. With a passion for creating, she seeks to inspire affection and excitement in learning, encourage the mastery of literacy, and promote positive social-emotional health in every child. And she just wants to do it all with a bit of style.
Briahna Gatlin is an established professional journalist and publicist on the cutting edge of the music and lifestyle industry. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Magazine Journalism with over 10 years of experience writing for multiple print and online publications, including Source Magazine, Mass Appeal Magazine, XXL Magazine, and Tribune. Additionally, Bri has 6+ years of grant writing experience in the non-profit sector. With this foundation, Briahna’s drive, creativity, and uncanny ability to identify the needs of both artists and the community led her to launch her own public relations firm, SWANK PR. Since its inception in 2006, SWANK PR has provided media relations for major clients, including Raekwon, Vic Mensa, Lupe Fiasco, Lebron James, the Gorillaz, and many more. Additionally, Swank PR has worked with multiple powerhouse brands, including Def Jam, Roc Nation, Grey Goose, SocialWorks, Zenni, and the Chicago Bulls. Bri’s latest venture is a marriage of her experience and her activism. In the Summer of 2022, she created her own music festival - The Purple Block Party. With an underserved community at its focal point, Bri designed the block party to bring together community, culture, and Chicago. This passion point led her to host the music fest on the Westside of Chicago in Garfield Park, simply because she believes people shouldn’t be required to leave their neighborhood to have similar experiences to those living in more affluent areas.