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Greater Selection

StyleMax offers its customers the opportunity to shop three separate trade fairs during markets.

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StyleMax offers its customers the opportunity to shop three separate trade fairs during markets.

CHICAGO — In efforts to entice more buyers to Chicago’s

StyleMax market, organizers plan to offer the opportunity to shop three trade shows at once.

As in recent years, StyleMax, the Midwest’s largest women’s apparel market, will be held in conjunction with Chicago Collective, the men’s apparel market, allowing specialty and department store retailers the chance to write men’s and women’s orders at once.

“It’s a trend in contemporary that stores are carrying both men’s and women’s,” said Susan McCullough, senior vice president for apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties, noting that StyleMax will take place Aug. 9 to 12 on the Merchandise Mart’s seventh floor while the Men’s Collective runs from Aug. 10 to 12 on the eighth floor.

In addition, StyleMax, which includes some 4,000 resources across 100,000 square feet of floor space, also will house the first National Prom Market Chicago, a 20,000-square-foot section dedicated to prom and special occasion resources such as Alyce Designs, Tony Bowls for Mon Cheri, Faviana and LaFemme.

“We have the biggest bridal market in the country,” said McCullough, referring to Chicago’s biannual National Bride Market. “We’re hoping to do the same with prom.”

“Prom has become a really big business for some of these stores,” she said, adding that going to a prom has become more involved and more expensive. “It’s more than a rite of passage,” she said. “It’s become more sophisticated. Girls are buying fancy dresses. It’s not just in the school gymnasiums anymore.”

Buyers requested the opportunity to shop for prom and special occasion dresses separately from bridal, McCullough said, given that it’s difficult for some retailers to do all their buying at once.

“It’s hard to go through all the bridal lines and do prom at the same time,” she said. “They need a separate time to concentrate on that.”

McCullough also expects a fair amount of cross-over business in areas of jewelry, lingerie and dresses.

Special events at the holiday-resort-spring preview version of StyleMax include the “Discover StyleMax Seminar,” a brief session detailing how to effectively shop the market floor on Saturday, Aug. 9, in conference room 7A on the seventh floor market suites, and StyleWatch, which involves informal modeling of new looks during a complimentary lunch at the StyleMax Cafe from Aug. 9 to 11.

To celebrate the prom market, buyers are invited to a 6 p.m. cocktail party and 6:30 p.m. fashion show called Passport to Prom on Saturday, Aug. 9, at the eighth floor special events atrium.

And a handful of emerging local designers will be featured in StyleMax booths Aug. 9 to 11 as a preview to Chicago is…Red Hot!, an annual Apparel Industry Board fashion show spotlighting local fashion talent.

Then in October, the Merchandise Mart will house the National Bridal Market, running Saturday through Tuesday, Oct. 4 to 7.

Events include a premarket all-day seminar “The Retail Academy…Retail Solutions,” presented by Arnold Capitanelli, senior vice president of The Friedman Group, who will discuss how to succeed in the bridal industry. The event is sponsored by Brides and Modern Bride magazines. Tickets are $60 and include breakfast, box lunch and networking cocktail hour. Reservations are required because space is limited.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, the market kicks off with a 9:15 a.m. “Maximize Your Shopping Experience” presentation discussing how to best shop the market floor and discussing the top 10 trends of the season.

Later that night, Casablanca Bridal sponsors a 6 p.m. market party and 6:30 p.m. fashion show titled “Bridal Reflections” at the eighth floor special events atrium.

And on Sunday, market goers are invited to an 8 a.m. breakfast and 8:30 p.m. fashion show “Prom…All that Glitters” at the eighth floor special events atrium. They are also encouraged to attend a networking dinner that night at the Wolf Point ballroom in the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza. Tickets are $10 and reservations are needed.

“Guerrilla Marketing” is the subject of Monday’s 8:15 a.m. seminar presented by Orvel Ray Wilson, who wrote a book of the same title. Breakfast is available at 8 a.m. at the Merchandise Mart Conference Center. The program is sponsored by Impression Bridal.

Capping the market will be the Distinctive Excellence in the Bridal Industry awards, or DEBI awards on Monday, Oct. 6 at Chicago’s Field Museum. The black-tie gala begins at 7 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by dinner at 8 p.m., awards at 9 p.m. and dancing afterward.

Finalists for the 2008 DEBIs include Justin Alexander, Paloma Blanca, Matthew Christopher and Pronovias for designer bridal gowns; Allure Bridals, Casablanca, Mori Lee and Maggie Sottero in the bridal gowns category; Badgley Mischka Bridesmaids, Dessy, Jim Hjelm Occasions and Watters for designer bridesmaid dresses, and Bill Levkoff, Alfred Angelo, Mori Lee and B2 by Jasmine for bridesmaid dresses.

Alfred Angelo, Little Maiden by Venus, Sweet Beginnings by Jordan and Us Angels are finalists for flower girl fashions; Jade by Jasmine, Jovani, Alyce Designs and Montage by Mon Cheri are vying for the special occasion title, and Alyce Designs, Flirt by Maggie Sottero, Mori Lee and Jovani Prom are finalists in the prom category.

For headpieces, finalists include Bel Aire Bridal, AA Bridal, Malis-Henderson and JL Johnson; for footwear the finalists are Special Occasions by Saugus, Dyeables, Salon Shoes and Touch Ups by Benjamin Walk.

Nominees for Quinceañera gowns include Allure Bridals, Bonny, P.C. Mary’s and Mori Lee. Emerald Bridal, Enzoani, Sherri Hill and Sophia Tolli are up for the rising star award.

Also in October, StyleMax will return with spring fashions and run on the Mart’s seventh floor from Oct. 18 to 21.

Organizers are also in the final stages of discussion to bring a new fine jewelry show-within-a-show to the October StyleMax. Buyers are expected to encounter 50 to 100 fine jewelry exhibitors that will join the trade show floor.

Special events include the “Discover StyleMax Seminar,” on Saturday, Oct. 18, and later that evening, market goers are invited to attend a 6 p.m. cocktail party and 6:30 p.m. “The Collections” fashion show highlighting brides and designer brands.

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