Chicago retools fashion week

More emerging and international designs will be on the runways

October 16, 2013

Alison Cuddy

Fashion in Chicago isn’t easy. Even Maria Pinto, one of the city’s biggest designer success stories, had to retool her approach after the recession hit.

So there’s good reason to celebrate when the city rolls out the red carpet for fashion each October.

2013 is the ninth year for Fashion Focus Chicago (FFC). And there are some changes in store.

Gone is the runway show for designers in the Chicago Fashion Incubator, launched by former Mayor Richard M. Daley. In it’s place comes Fashion Focus: Taking it to the Streets.

Organizer Ann Hickey says three incubator designers will still participate. But they invited one of the emerging designers to apply as well, some of whom will host their first runway show.

The city has also partnered with the Toronto Fashion Incubator and the Atelier de Paris to showcase a couple of their fashion designers. In return, an incubator designer will get to do something (yet to be determined) in those programs.

Hickey says the move is strategic.

“In order for Chicago to nurture it’s fashion industry, we have to think global,” said Hickey. “It’s great to have these international designers here. So they can come to Chicago, see what our industry is, and then go back to talk about it as well.”

Whether showcasing international designers and national trends (menswear is a focus this year) can improve the situation for local designers seems debatable.

And some locals think that might not really be the point.

Rebecca Taras is the Chicago editor of Refinery 29, an online fashion and lifestyle site.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be New York or London, but I don’t think we’re trying to be,” said Taras. “We’re trying to stay true to who we are, which is Chicago and more midwestern, and it works for us.”

For Taras, that’s a strength. She points to the diversity of looks and talents that emerge from the city.

“Everybody here marches to the beat of their own drummer,” said Taras. “You don’t see a lot of copycatting. Everyone has their own unique story.”

Fashion Focus Chicago runs through October 20th.

is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram