By  on June 20, 2007

CHICAGO — After boosting its contemporary resources last year, Chicago's StyleMax, the Midwest's largest women's apparel market, will provide an expanded assortment of bridgewear.

"A lot of stores are trading up," said Susan McCullough, senior vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. "The luxury market continues to grow, and we have room in the show to expand bridge. The softness is really more in moderate."

Market organizers, in turn, are moving the bridge area from the north side of the show floor, where it was "landlocked" between two sections of better resources, to a new area still on the show's north side with expanded room for 20 booths. The move will give more space to bridge and allow all the better resources to be consolidated, McCullough said.

New bridge lines expected to show at the Aug. 11 to 14 edition of StyleMax, on the seventh floor of the Merchandise Mart, include Kriss, Identify, Eye and Darjioni.

The August market also highlights resources in the Accessories Zone. "This is the time when the lines break," McCullough said of the designers introducing their new jewelry, handbags and other accessories. "It makes everything more exciting."

New accessory lines launching at the August StyleMax include Majorca Pearls, Alexia Crawford Jewelry, B-Low The Belt, Chan Luu Jewelry, Viv & Ingrid Jewelry, Big Buddha Handbags and Hype Handbags.

The show is also timed to coincide with Chicago Collective, a men's apparel market set for Aug. 12 to 14 on the eighth floor of the Merchandise Mart.

Holding the markets at the same time gives retailers who carry both men's and women's apparel a chance to conduct one-stop shopping. "We've heard nothing but positive feedback," McCullough said. "There's no downside to it. We may not do it forever but for now, while the dates coincide, it's the right thing to do."

The August market, which focuses on holiday, resort and early spring fashions, also will highlight some of the city's top emerging designers.

For the third year, market organizers will provide special booth space for roughly 20 or so local apparel and accessory designers who in October will participate in one of the city's premier fashion shows, "Chicago is…Red Hot!""There are some real success stories," McCullough said of the program that spotlights new and young local talent. "It's terrific exposure to the market that they would not have otherwise."

Participants attend a seminar called "Trade Show 101," and the overall experience helps new designers decide if they need sales representation or production help, and if they can sell to retailers, she said. On Sunday, the Apparel Industry Board hosts Red Hot Chicago! Emerging Designer Incubator from 3 to 4 p.m., when buyers can meet some of the Chicago area's top local apparel and accessory designers.

Additional market features include a 15-minute seminar, "Discover StyleMax," as well as "The Collections" fashion show and "StyleWatch" presentations, featuring a complimentary lunch and informal modeling of contemporary and accessory resources.

Chicago's Merchandise Mart also will host the National Bridal Market, the country's largest and longest-running bridal event, featuring some 300 lines from the top manufacturers of bridal gowns, and bridesmaid, flower girl, prom and special occasion dresses.

Highlights include fashion shows, special events and educational seminars with industry experts designed to provide insight into today's brides and bridal trends.

Capping the four-day affair, running Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, will be the Distinctive Excellence in the Bridal Industry, or DEBI, awards on Monday, Oct. 1 at Chicago's historic Field Museum. The black-tie gala begins with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, followed by dinner, the awards presentation and dancing.

Prior to the DEBIs, the market offers seminars and events including "Maximize Your Shopping Experience," the "Bridal Unveiled" fashion show and market party and the "Prom Preview" fashion show and breakfast.

Also set for October is the year's final StyleMax, running Oct. 20 to 23 and featuring spring 2008.

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