By  on July 14, 2009

CHICAGO — The organizers behind Chicago’s annual fashion week are hoping less is more.

Fashion Focus will be condensed to a long weekend Oct. 22 to 25 on the theory that a shorter event packed with runway shows, shopping and industry seminars will attract more buyers, tourists and national press than eight days of events.

“There will be fashion going on all day, every day,” said Melissa Gamble, the city’s director of fashion arts and events.

The move is one of several changes to the Fashion Focus template. The city plans to use social media, with related Facebook pages and continual updates on Twitter, and lure national press by offering complimentary weekend trips to select fashion editors and writers.

In another first-time move, Fashion Focus will partly overlap with Stylemax, the Midwest’s largest women’s apparel market, which runs Oct. 24 to 27 at the Merchandise Mart.

“That’s the smartest thing they’ve done,” said designer Pierre Colorado, who creates the Chicago-based sportswear line Blake Standard and will participate in Fashion Focus. “You definitely want to catch buyers when they’re in town.”

More individual designers are expected to conduct their own runway shows under the white tents at Millennium Park, the traditional location of Fashion Focus.

Although the $5,000 entry fee to cover the prorated cost of staging, lighting and sound at Millennium Park is more than what some local designers can afford, Gamble said a handful plan to orchestrate runway shows, individually or as a group, some of which may be at Millennium Park, in local galleries or other venues.

Fashion Focus raised its profile last year by including more prominent local designers such as Maria Pinto, Michelle Obama’s designer of choice on the campaign trail, and inviting Fall Out Boy bassist and designer Pete Wentz (who watched the first show alongside wife Ashlee Simpson-Wentz) to kick off the festivities. Although attendance hit record highs, with more than 1,000 people per nightly runway show, the events failed to attract more than a handful of local buyers or national press.

This year the number of city-sponsored nightly shows will be pared down to three. Organizers also commissioned a study, conducted pro bono by A.T. Kearney, which will detail where Chicago rates fashionwise and retailwise to cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London.

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