CHICAGO — Terry Lundgren and Tommy Hilfiger are getting behind the effort to raise Chicago’s fashion profile.

This story first appeared in the July 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Mayor Richard Daley said Tuesday that Hilfiger will serve as the master designer for the Chicago Fashion Incubator, a program providing workspace and mentorship to emerging designers. The initiative is housed at Macy’s State Street flagship.

“I like to share my experience,” said Hilfiger, who with Lundgren attended a news conference before both participated in a roundtable discussion with past and present incubator designers.

Hilfiger said he hoped to help designers by sharing his own mistakes along with tips about marketing, branding and running the business side of design. Hilfiger also noted he employs some 500 to 600 designers himself. “I may come across new talent that’s good for the brand,” he said. “I think there’s a crop of talent here that we haven’t tapped into.”

Hilfiger and Lundgren, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Macy’s Inc., were on hand as Daley unveiled details about the city’s fifth annual fashion week, Fashion Focus Chicago 2009, set for Oct. 22 to 25.

The four-day fashion fest will feature three headlining runway shows at Millennium Park, including Macy’s Designers of Chicago, showcasing local designers carried at Macy’s on State Street, an all-student show called Dress Code and Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion. A handful of local designers will also host independent runway shows.

Hilfiger’s involvement stemmed from a ceremony he and Lundgren attended at Macy’s on State Street, home of the incubator, last year. The two toured the space on a Saturday, finding a few designers working over the weekend. “They were passionate and they were serious,” Hilfiger said.

The designer, whose namesake company generated $2.27 billion in sales for the year ended March 31, said he would have appreciated similar work space or mentorship when he opened his own shop with $150 to his name and 20 pairs of jeans, joking that his parents had urged him to pursue an MBA.

Hilfiger’s collections, which include men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, along with accessories and fragrance, are carried exclusively in the U.S. at Macy’s and in his own freestanding stores. In Europe, Hilfiger does 75 percent of its business at wholesale through 5,000 customers, and the remainder through freestanding stores.

Citing the need to draw shoppers, Lundgren said Fashion Focus “will bring in the excitement.”

Lundgren and Hilfiger applauded the craftsmanship and realism that Chicago designers, who showcased fashions during the news conference, brought to the stage.

“It’s not trying to be too avant-garde or European,” Hilfiger said. “It was American. It was real.”

Lundgren said the clothes were refreshingly salable: “A lot of times you see fashion for the press. But these are wearable, beautiful clothes.”

As Chicago vies for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Daley noted that supporting the fashion industry “enhances our reputation as a global city. As a global city, you have to have creative people, otherwise you would be existing in the past. From our viewpoint. this goes hand in hand with 2016.”

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