Chicago Style. Oh, We’re Soooo Grateful. NY Times Acknowledges Chicago Could Be A Fashionable City. Duh. Second City Style Fashion Blog

July 2, 2007 • Fashion


I swear I read this article five-plus years ago…. And while I am certainly grateful to Libby Sander and the NYT for "breaking" the news that there is a fashion scene "emerging" in Chicago, I am saddened that one of the country’s best newspapers is still reporting this as something "new." While I acknowledge that Chicago isn’t any NYC or NYC isn’t Paris and Paris isn’t Milan at what point do these comparisons become banal and stigmatizing? Sander interviews 2 designers, talks to the NYC Gen Art camp and then gets a couple quotes from Daley and THAT is supposed to constitute a NYTimes- worthy article on the Chicago fashion scene? I am horrified. The stereotypical and somewhat banal headline "In Land of Khakis…" is so disappointing and shows that once again, most newspaper reporters are five steps behind. — Joanne Molina for Second City Style

CHICAGO, July 1 — Mayor Richard M. Daley
— who moves about town in perfectly nice, but not overly nice suits —
is hardly the picture of fashion-forward dress with his blue shirts and
the occasional striped tie.


But no matter: Mayor Daley,
now serving his sixth term, has made the nurturing of Chicago’s
fledgling fashion industry one of his pet projects. He is determined to
remake the city as a fashion hub, even though it has often seemed to
display a fashion sense that reflects his own, with all the flair of a
golf shirt and khakis.

“These are great artists,” Mr. Daley said
recently of the young designers whose careers he hopes will take off —
and remain — in Chicago. Fashion, the mayor said quite sincerely, “is
the heart and soul of the city.”

So, with strong guidance from
City Hall, the city has started an ambitious plan to support young
fashion designers and to try to prevent them from leaving for the
coasts, where design jobs are more plentiful. Some of the 250 or so
designers here are in the beginning stages of their careers, sewing
samples in their living rooms, while others are more established.

response to a reporter’s question on Friday, Mr. Daley elaborated on
the reasons for his support: “Fashion designers add excitement and
flair to the city. They attract attention from around the nation and
the world.” “And,” he added, “they create jobs.”

Last year, the
mayor created a position in the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs
to focus on helping fashion designers and linking them with the local
industry they need to thrive. Melissa Turner, a former lawyer turned
fashion advocate who took the job, has since become the city
government’s official face of fashion.

Ms. Turner plans Fashion
Focus, Chicago’s equivalent of Fashion Week. She organizes shopping
trips to some of the neighborhood boutiques selling items by emerging
designers. Later this summer, she will start a Web site compiling
industry and business resources for designers, a must-have in a city
with no centralized fashion district, she said.

Ms. Turner
acknowledges that the city’s hands-on approach to fashion is unusual.
Unlike the established fashion capitals, where the industry is
ingrained in the local economy and history, a city like Chicago needs a
little more help from local government to get things moving, she said.

is a different approach to cultivating artistic talent,” Ms. Turner
said. “The goal is definitely to get a very good, solid foundation
laid, and then to keep building on that to support the different levels
of designers here.”

Though Fashion Focus’s weeklong whirlwind of
fashion shows and shopping tours has been well-received since its
inception in 2005, its debut in a Midwestern city known for
sharp-elbowed politics — but not quite for style — was met with some
amusement back East.

“At first there was a sort of snicker,” said
Lee Trimble, the fashion director for Gen Art in New York, a group that
promotes emerging artists, including fashion designers, and has an
office in Chicago. “It seemed an oxymoron for a city in the Midwest to
have a fashion week. Not to sound snarky, but honestly, that was the

Undeterred, Mr. Daley pressed on. The next year, he
appointed Ms. Turner and created the Fashion Advisory Council, a group
of designers and industry experts.

The last time a Chicago
mayor tried to jump-start the city’s flagging apparel industry,
acid-washed jeans and shoulder pads reigned. That was in 1987, when
Mayor Harold Washington created a city agency to promote the sewn
products industry here. Mr. Daley’s plan “is simply taking Mayor
Washington’s vision to the ultimate,” said Dorothy Fuller, the
president of the Apparel Industry Board Inc., the agency created by Mr.
Washington. “To have a city agency behind you is a great deal of help,
and it’s unique.”

Lara Miller is just the kind of designer Mr.
Daley hopes will stay in Chicago. Ms. Miller, 27, a native Chicagoan,
began selling her free-form hand-loomed garments at local boutiques
while still a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

is just part of who I am,” said Ms. Miller, who often listens to Cubs
games while working in her studio. “In New York and Los Angeles, it’s a
lot more competitive. You’re a little fish in a really, really big sea.”

Habit, a boutique in the Wicker Park neighborhood that features
emerging designers, about half of whom are based in Chicago, the owner,
Lindsey Boland, said she was content to market her clothing line,
superficial inc., locally.

“I’m not pursuing a national market,” said Ms. Boland, 34, a graduate of Parsons the New School for Design in New York City who grew up near Chicago and moved back here a few years ago. “I’m happy with my Chicago market.”

welcomes the city’s involvement. “It’s really exciting to feel there
are people trying to put programs out there that will help you, give
you forums to show your work.”

And though Ms. Miller now sells
her clothing line in 16 states, including New York and California,
hometown pride keeps her in Chicago.

“I don’t expect it to be glamorous,” Ms. Miller said. “I just want it to be fun.”

for the mayor, even he says the city has only just begun to perfect its
strut down the proverbial catwalk. “We’re going to keep working at it,”
Mr. Daley said. “We’re not going to say we’re there yet.”


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