CHICAGO — This fall represents a season of firsts at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

It will host its first August StyleMax trade show. The city’s largest women’s apparel market will add this third show Aug. 13-16, giving buyers a new opportunity to see fresh, undiscovered apparel from the city’s most promising design talents.

The sixth annual Chicago Is … Red Hot fashion show, featuring more than 30 Chicago-area apparel and accessory designers, moves to the Merchandise Mart during StyleMax, and some of those participating designers will have special booths set up during the trade show.

“It was one of those things that was meant to be,” said Susan McCullough, vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., about combining one of the city’s most notable fashion shows with one of Chicago’s biggest fashion markets. “Our mission was always to bring exposure to the new designers,” she said. “This gives them exposure to stores. Because really, at the end of the day, what it’s about is getting people these orders. That’s what is going to help these young designers.”

Last year, the Apparel Industry Board Inc., which sponsors the fashion show, held Chicago Is … Red Hot at the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater in June. But by conducting the show Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m. on the Merchandise Mart’s eighth floor, designers will present to an audience of retailers ready to do business.

“It makes sense for buyers who are looking to differentiate themselves or for newness,” McCullough said.

The timing may prove beneficial for both parties.

“Holiday is a great season for designers,” she said. “They can be a little flashy if they want to.”

Retailers also may be more likely to try something new for holiday.

The AIBI, meanwhile, plans to offer a “Trade Show 101” seminar for some of the participating designers, McCullough said.

In addition to the fashion show, the new StyleMax boasts a special swimwear and resort section with lines such as Miracle Suit, Gottex, Hot Kiss, Kenneth Cole, Mainstream and Nautica. The show, spanning the Mart’s seventh floor, also will feature more contemporary and young contemporary lines such as Lucky Brand, Save the Queen and Sound Girl.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

StyleMax, which began as a biannual market in March and October, will increase to four times a year in 2006, when it introduces a January show.

The August market will feature some 4,000 resources in 80,000 square feet, McCullough said. Although the show may be smaller than the traditional October or March markets, McCullough expects the August StyleMax will attract double or triple the crowds of the former Women’s and Children’s Apparel Markets held in the Apparel Center showrooms.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of retailers hail from 13 Midwestern states, although McCullough said some travel from Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia.

Other market highlights include a Saturday morning seminar on “How to MAXimize Shopping StyleMax” as well as “The Collections” fashion show, also on Saturday in the eighth floor atrium. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 6:30 p.m. Style Watch also will be held from 12-1 p.m., Aug. 13-15, at the StyleMax cafe.

Show hours for the Holiday/Resort/Spring Preview Market are Saturday-Monday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Tuesday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Retailers heading to the June 28-30 Pulse urbanwear market on the Merchandise Mart’s eighth floor also will notice new elements.

The show has been remerchandised with a more logical flow, McCullough said. Taking its cue from a shopping mall with anchor tenants, Pulse will position some of its top lines, such as Rocawear, Phat Farm, Akademiks and Pelle Pelle, at different ends of the floor, she said.

“We spread it out, so we don’t have clusters of the same merchandise,” she said. “We laid it out so it makes sense.”

Organizers next plan to add a new fashion show to the Pulse trade show set for Sept. 28-30 on the Mart’s eighth floor, McCullough said.

Hours for both markets are 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays.

In October, thousands of bridal buyers are expected to attend the National Bridal Market, featuring some 300 exhibitors, Oct. 8-11 on the seventh floor of the Merchandise Mart.

A highlight of the show, which includes numerous seminars and fashion shows, will come Oct. 10 with the presentation of the DEBI awards, which recognize excellence in the bridal industry. Talk show diva and recent bride Star Jones Reynolds is set to present the awards at 9 p.m. at the Field Museum.

Tickets are $55 for the event, which includes a 7 p.m. cocktail hour and an 8 p.m. dinner. Reservations are required.

Award winners will be chosen from a field of finalists selected earlier this year. Finalists in the category of couture bridal gowns are Lazaro, Monique Lhuillier, Reem Acra and Vera Wang. In designer bridal gowns, finalists are Eve of Milady, Judd Waddell, Marisa and Pronovias. Anjolique, Casablanca Bridal, Maggie Sottero and Mori Lee are the nominees in moderate bridal.

Nominees for bridesmaid gowns are Belsoie, Bill Levkoff, Jim Hjelm Occasions and Jordan Fashions. Jordan Fashions, Lady Bug Designs, Little Maiden by Venus and Us Angels are up for flower girl fashions.

In accessories, Coloriffics, Dyeables, Salon Shoes and Touch Ups by Benjamin Walk are finalists. Headpiece finalists are Bel Aire Bridal, Edward Berger, Malis-Henderson and Symphony Bridal Veils.

Alyce Designs, Jovani, Mori Lee and Tiffany Designs are the finalists in the prom gown category. Allure Bridal, Bellissima Bridal, Essense of Australia and Matthew Christopher are nominees for distinctive newcomers.

Prior to the DEBIs, market goers are invited to attend a Saturday morning “Maximize Your Shopping Experience” seminar, as well as a

6 p.m. “Latin Nights” market party and 6:30 p.m. bridal fashion show in the eighth floor atrium.

A prom fashion show and continental breakfast are set for Sunday morning in the eighth floor atrium. A networking dinner is scheduled for Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Wolf Point Ballroom at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza. Reservations are limited, and tickets are $10.

On Monday, Oct. 10, the Fairchild Bridal Group (which, like WWD, is part of Fairchild Publications) will present “The State of the Union 2005” at 8:30 a.m., after an 8 a.m. continental breakfast on the Mart’s second floor walkway.

Show hours run 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday-Monday, and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday.

StyleMax returns Oct. 22-25 with a show featuring a premiere party, 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22; the Stylemakers fashion show and continental breakfast at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, and “The Collections” fashion show and cocktail reception at 6 p.m. Sunday. All events will be held in the eighth floor atrium.

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