There is some bad fashion news in the Chicago Tribune business section today. If you can make it to Navy Pier near the grand ballroom today at 7 pm, you can support four fashion designers. Don’t be confused! There is only one official City of Chicago annual fashion event: Fashion Focus Chicago.
Chicago Fashion Week Unravels
4 designers planning own impromptu show
By Sandra M. Jones
April 23, 2008
Breaking into the fashion industry is never easy. For a handful of up-and-coming designers, it just got more difficult.
Chicago Fashion Week, a privately run show aimed at promoting the local fashion industry, canceled its weeklong event, including its marquee Wednesday fashion show, leaving a flock of fledgling designers stuck with racks of clothing, models, makeup artists and photographers—and no place to show.
But rather than pack it in, several of the designers have scrambled and will mount their own impromptu event Wednesday at Navy Pier.
Fashion Week’s unraveling comes at a time when Mayor Richard Daley is attempting to trumpet the city’s advent as a fashion hub. Chicago Fashion Week, run by MW Productions, has nothing to do with the city’s fashion week, which takes place in the fall as Fashion Focus Chicago. But the name has created confusion and led at least some outsiders to jump to the conclusion that the private production is the primary venue for the Chicago fashion industry, akin to New York Fashion Week.
"We normally show during New York Fashion Week," said Laurean Ossorio, a spokesman for Carlos Campos Studio, a New York-based designer eyeing Chicago. "We thought it would be great to conquer the Chicago market. It’s sad it had to come to this. At this point, we’re trying to do damage control."
Word that the event was in trouble began circulating among designers this month. By mid-April the show’s sponsor, MasterCard Worldwide, pulled out; it would have been MasterCard’s first participation in the show.
"The size and scope of the event changed since we entered into the agreement," said Jon Schwartz, spokesman for the Purchase, N.Y.-based credit card company, declining to elaborate.
On Thursday, Mackett Hidalgo, director of Chicago Fashion Week, notified the designers via e-mail that he was canceling the event, citing a lack of ticket sales.
By Monday, Jorge del Busto, one of the designers who had been scheduled to show, rallied three other designers to put together an event that is open to the public at 7 p.m. Wednesday near the grand ballroom at Navy Pier.
"It’s ruining the reputation of the Chicago fashion industry," said del Busto. "I can’t let that happen. I know how much the designers worked for this to happen."
Elysia Hang-Fu, a recent fashion design graduate from Cleveland, has been preparing for the show, her first, since December.
"I don’t have enough time to worry about
[Hidalgo’s] problems," said Hang-Fu. "In the fashion industry, there is
always something that goes wrong. It’s more about, ‘Now what can I do?’
Berny Martin, an Indianapolis-based designer, gathered a crew
of about 20 models, stylists and backstage helpers to meet him in
Chicago this week to help him show his line, called Catou. Martin is
hoping to connect with some Chicago buyers.
"I thought this was the Chicago-sponsored show," said Martin. "We’re not going to focus on blaming this on Chicago."
and Martin plan to participate in del Busto’s impromptu show, along
with a fourth designer, James de Colon. The group is paying for the
venue themselves and hopes to keep costs to about $2,000 with some
pricing help from Navy Pier. The designers already paid $1,000 to
$2,500 each for a spot in the Chicago Fashion Week show.
told the Chicago Tribune that the show is "postponed" rather than
canceled. He hopes to reschedule the event for the end of June. He also
said the reason the event couldn’t take place this week is that four of
the nine designers were from overseas and encountered tax issues
related to bringing the garments to the U.S.
"There were a combination of factors as to why the event is postponed," said Hidalgo.
promotes Chicago Fashion Week on his Web site and answering machine as
the "official fashion week event in the city of Chicago."
name Chicago Fashion Week was already in use when Daley launched the
city’s first fashion promotion in fall 2005. The city wanted that name,
but Hidalgo had been using it for at least a year, said Melissa Gamble,
director of fashion arts and events for the Chicago Department of
Hidalgo had approached the city in 2005 with
a proposal for running Chicago Fashion Week, but the city decided to
run the event internally.
"I think it’s unfortunate that it’s
so confusing," said Gamble, a former corporate lawyer. "I usually tell
designers they need to find out who’s behind the shows they are
involved in and what they are promising."
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