CHICAGO — Chicago wants to climb higher on the fashion food chain.
With support from Mayor Richard Daley, the city is pursuing efforts to elevate its fashion status in staging its third annual fashion week. The six-day event, Fashion Focus Chicago 2007, will feature some 100 local designers and kick off a partnership with Macy's Inc. to introduce a fashion incubator, among other projects.
"We have to show people that the fashion industry is part of our creativity, part of the soul of the city," Daley said during a news conference last week. "We have to educate people in Chicago about the great design here. These people are great artists."
As the city seeks a bid to be the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics, "this will be what Chicago is all about," Daley said.
Twenty-two designers highlighted their work in a runway portion of the news conference, which provided details on Fashion Focus Chicago. The event, running from Oct. 9-14, will include five fashion shows, fashion installations from local design schools, boutique shopping tours and industry seminars.
Several designers spoke about how they have built viable businesses in Chicago. Katrin Schnabl, for example, moved from New York three years ago and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as she continues developing her clothing line.
"The mechanics of fashion are changing," Schnabl said, noting that with e-mail, the Internet and cell phones, "it's not that necessary to be in one place anymore."
And there are benefits to working outside New York. "When it's not so high-pressured, it gives you more space to think outside of the box," she said.
Daley began his fashion initiative last year, creating a new city position, the director of fashion, arts and events, and appointing a fashion council to promote, consolidate and support the industry. In particular, Daley wants to provide designers with more exposure and resources to keep them from fleeing to the coasts.
He has announced an extensive partnership with Macy's, which will launch the fashion incubator, featuring production and showroom space for at least six emerging Chicago designers who will work alongside Macy's buyers, marketers and executives.
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