CHICAGO — As the fashion world debates the lack of African-American models, Chicago bucked the trend, showcasing both minority models and fashion designers in its recent fashion week finale.
Some 17 African-American models took to the runway along with assorted Latino, Asian and Caucasian models and designers during "The Allure of Couture" final show, which ended the third annual Fashion Focus 2007, a six-day festival that ran Oct. 9-14.
"With all the controversy, it's very timely to show what minorities can do if given the chance," said Barbara Samuels, the fashion show's producer, who is African-American. "Some people feel African-Americans and other minorities don't have 'it' and I think we proved we did."
The spotlight on diversity was one feature of the week, which included industry panels, neighborhood shopping tours, student fashion installations and five Millennium Park runway shows averaging 900-person crowds. The week was aimed at elevating the city's fashion scene and making good on Mayor Richard Daley's commitment to support and promote the local industry.
Stephen Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, who came into town to kick off the week, along with designer Doo-Ri Chung, liked what he saw.
"In terms of originality, talent and freshness of ideas, there was an abundance of that," said Kolb, who participated in a panel about how to grow a fashion business with James Seuss, chief executive officer of Cole Haan, and Andrew Rosen, president of Theory.
Kolb added that other cities should take note of Chicago's developing fashion Web site, ChicagoFashionResource.com, which includes a listing of local designers and boutiques and is planned to include an industry directory of job postings, manufacturers, stylists and photographers.
Kolb also was impressed with the luncheon honoring Chung hosted by the owners of Jake boutique, Lance Lawson and Jim Wetzel, at the Newberry Library on Oct. 9. "Don't ever underestimate the consumer in Chicago," he said of the 100-plus crowd. "It's a good lesson to designers everywhere. These were very stylish women ready and willing to shop."
The pair of retailers attended the week's first runway show, Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Fashion, which included women's wear designers Dieter Kirkwood and Bennett Cousins, who met as fashion design students at Columbia College in Chicago and formed Dieter Bennet, a line carried by Jake.However, Lawson and Wetzel noticed a key segment missing from the week's fashion shows — local buyers. Tricia Tunstall from Bucktown's p.45, Lindsey Boland of Wicker Park's Habit and Heiji Choy-Black of Wicker Park's Hejfina were spotted at the shows, but other retailers seemed few and far between.
And as the city continues its plan to push Chicago fashion ahead, the week's collective events presented a more condensed, comprehensive view of local talent and made logistical improvements over last year's fashion festival. That said, missteps prevented some runway shows from achieving the level of sophistication they sought. Here's a capsule view of the week's main events:
- Highlights of the fifth-annual Gen Art show included an installation by luxury handbag designer Lisa Kingsley and her collection of exotic skin ostrich, python and cobra bags as well as the neatly tailored women's wear of Dieter Bennet and purchase-worthy pieces from Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and Moire Conroy, both 2006 School of the Art Institute Chicago grads.
- World Fashion Chicago on Oct. 10, where Mayor Daley and his wife Maggie took front-row seats. The show was designed to correlate with Chicago's 27 sister cities and featured fashion from some local designers like Anna Song and Basia Frossard with ties to such regions; ensembles from local retailers such as Bottega Contessa representing different cities, as well as a few international designers such as Dragana Ognjevovic from Serbia, who attended the show along with the country's first lady of Serbia Tatjana Tadic, and Abla Majali, who designs clothing for Queen Noor and Queen Rania of Jordan.
- Chicago is...Red Hot!: The eighth-annual runway show Oct. 11 boasted a roster of almost 50 women's wear, children's and accessory designers. Standouts included the modern, yet feminine apparel by Agga B, a twentysomething designer whose pieces are carried at Gamma Player, one of Wicker Park's priciest boutiques, and the attention-grabbing large leather handbags of Diego Rocha, a designer selling his bags for $700 to $800 at Macy's on State Street.
- Macy's Designers of Chicago: The show, which was the highlight of last year's Fashion Focus, spotlighted some of the city's best designers, including School of the Art Institute Chicago grad Lara Miller and SAIC faculty member Katrin Schnabl, Michelle Tan, Orlando Espinoza, Cyndi Chan, Melanie Nicole and Pamela Vanderlinde. Standout pieces included a white cotton trench and high stand-up collared dress by Schnabl and a floaty black-and-white polkadot gown by Chan. The event highlighted many of the week's strongest fashions either available at Macy's on State Street or through trunk shows.- The Allure of Couture: It was anything but dull, from the strange opening segment involving a model changing gowns on the runway with stylists using palms to shield her body to the vibrant evening gowns of veteran designer James de Colón, the asymmetric elements of Calvin Tran and the final grouping including 2006 SAIC grad Kristina Sparks, who crafted a jacket made of athletic shoes complete with hanging shoestrings. She also made pants from sports jerseys and a full-skirted gown with shoestrings.
In all, city officials deemed the week a success.
"We are seeing results," Mayor Daley said, noting Chicago is now home to more than 250 fashion designers. "While this is generating a lot of excitement, it is also increasing sales of merchandise by local designers and creating jobs."
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews