Chicago Fashion Show Producer Skip Grisham

CHICAGO — Skip Grisham, a longtime fashion show producer, director and set designer here, died earlier this week.

The cause of death has not been revealed, nor was Grisham’s age.

Grisham most recently served as artistic director of the Driehaus Design Initiative (DDI) annual fashion show competition, a position he held for the past 18 years. He also produced the long-running Rush University Medical Center’s charity fashion show for 29 years until 2005.

“He was a man of style before we knew what that meant,” said Tracey Tarantino, fashion show producer at DDI. “He was a visionary, before we had one show wrapped, he’d already have his mind accelerating on the next year’s show.”

The DDI fashion show competition, which Grisham created with the support of investor Richard Driehaus, provides students with scholarships and the proceeds from the event go toward fashion colleges to be used in programs to benefit students.

Wendy Krimins, general manager of Neiman Marcus Michigan Avenue, worked with Grisham on the DDI show. “I had the pleasure of working with Skip since 2016 as a member of the student judging panel. He really cared about the students and was very encouraging and supportive of the creative work they were doing in fashion design,” Krimins said.

Grisham’s production credits included the Morrie Mages fashion show at the Chicago Ski Show in the Eighties, staging a theatrical Las Vegas-level show using models and dancers to showcase the ski fashion and equipment.

“The dancers had great agility and they could move about the runway rather easily and effectively skiing,” Tarantino noted. “Skip loved movement — movement on the set, movement on the models, movement on the clothing.”

Grisham, who attended New York University as a theater major and grew up in Texas before settling in Chicago, was a self-taught painter and former model.

On his web site devoted to his artwork, Grisham writes: “My print agent, knowing of my theater background, asked me one day if I could stage a fashion show. How hard could that be, I thought. What ensued was a 30-year career of producing and directing one of the oldest and largest fashion events in the country. All of these roads never planned, but now traveled. I wouldn’t change a day and am ever grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with in this life.”

Grisham is survived by his mother, Bobbie Jo Grisham, and several cousins. His family is making plans for a service in Texas, Tarantino said. “He was quite the warrior, fighting for his fashion shows with an underlying illness,” Tarantino said, without providing details of the illness.

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