By  on August 8, 2007

CHICAGO — Macy's on State Street will purchase fall collections from 19 Chicago area apparel and accessories designers in efforts to connect with a customer base that once embraced it as Marshall Field's and to support the city's attempt to raise its fashion standing.

"This further demonstrates our commitment to Chicago," said Ralph Hughes, vice president of corporate communications at Macy's Inc. "There is so much talent here. We hopefully will find someone who will generate some volume.

"This definitely supports our differentiation strategy," he added. "The addition of these collections will enhance Macy's merchandise assortments."

Macy's move to carry collections from local designers improves upon its program from last year, the Chicago Designer Shop, which featured work from 47 designers purchased on consignment. The concept behind a Chicago-based designer boutique began in 2005 before Marshall Field's became Macy's.

"We didn't think of it as a p.r. move," Hughes said of the initiative. "We thought of this collaboration [with local design talent] long before we needed a p.r. strategy for people who didn't like Macy's, but this helps somewhat in the design community. They can see we're pretty good citizens."

The 19 designer collections— including those by women's wear designers Cyndi Chan, Michelle Tan, Orlando Espinoza and Katrin Schnabl — will be available at Macy's on State Street beginning Oct. 9 with some pieces being highlighted in Macy's Designers of Chicago Fashion Show in Millennium Park on Oct. 12. An additional 30 local designers were invited to hold trunk shows at the store throughout the fall.

Hughes said other divisions of Macy's have expressed interest in the program, asking how it works and what it costs. There are no plans, however, to carry any Chicago designers outside Macy's on State Street, unless one collection strongly resonates with shoppers, he said.

The group was selected by a panel of Macy's buyers and trend managers who reviewed the work of some 70 designers nominated by Mayor Richard Daley's Fashion Council and other industry leaders.

Last spring, Daley unveiled plans to reinvigorate Chicago's fashion scene and boost awareness by creating a city position devoted to fashion, arts and events and naming a fashion council to help promote, consolidate and support the city's fashion industry.Other designers winning a spot at Macy's on State Street include Greg Shugar and Lee Allison, who both design men's neckwear, and handbag designers Sharon Dennis of Sharon Elaine Accessories, Jason Loper of Zola Jones Designs, Jay G. Moore of Maddie Powers Inc., Joelle Minassian of Joelle Nadine and Diego Rocha.

Also selected were unisex belt designer Anna Fong of Heroine Chic, scarf designer Elysabeth Alfano of Elyse C. Bec Designs and jewelry designers Kristen Amato of K. Amato Designs, Kathleen Miller of Kathleen LTD, Kristen Goede of Objets d'Envy, Sandy Rueve of She Beads, Julie Schwanbeck of Jules Jewelry Design and Alexis Drake.

Macy's also is working with the city to open The Chicago Fashion Incubator at the State Street store, an initiative that provides six emerging designers with the opportunity to learn about economics, marketing and merchandising from industry experts. Designers will be offered office space, sample production and showroom space at State Street.

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