By  on February 16, 2009

Despite plans to lay off some 7,000 employees, Macy’s INC. will make good on its commitment to provide work space for six fledgling designers through the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street.

The incubator, which launched last year as part of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s effort to boost the city’s fashion industry, unveiled a new class of designers, attracting applicants from New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

That the incubator drew such a diverse group, including those looking to relocate to Chicago, speaks to the need in the fashion industry for such supportive initiatives, said Melissa Gamble, the city’s director of fashion arts and events.

The 2009 designers in residence include Ashley Zigmunt, who completed internships with Zac Posen and Peter Som en route to creating her new line, Zamrie, and Catherine Furio, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, both of whom will be moving to Chicago. Other participants include Jess Audey, who designs cocktail dresses; Cynthia Ryba, who creates fluid silhouettes with her apparel; Nora Del Busto, who takes inspiration from architecture, and Alonzo Jackson, whose urbanwear line, Fashion Geek, has been worn by Kanye West.

As part of the incubator, the designers will have access to Macy’s buyers, planners and merchandise managers as well as office and work space provided by Macy’s which also covers operational costs such as utilities.

Last year’s group of six designers fine-tuned their businesses, with some advancing from capsule to full collections, launching Web sites, gaining publicity, showing at Chicago’s fashion week called Fashion Focus and growing their sales base.

“The first class of designers in residence at the Chicago Fashion Incubator made significant strides in developing their talent and sharpening their business and marketing skills,” said Mayor Daley. “By partnering with a major retailer like Macy’s, we’re providing local designers with the foundation and knowledge they need to thrive in the fashion industry.”

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