CHICAGO — A collection of unknowing designers and even one-time sponsor MasterCard might have been duped into thinking that an event calling itself Chicago Fashion Week was related to the city-sponsored annual Fashion Focus event which takes place in October.
The shroud was lifted when the production, which touted itself as “the official fashion week event in the city of Chicago” scheduled for April 21 to 27, got canceled over a week ago “due to circumstances beyond our control,” according to its Web site, chicagofashionweek.com. Organizers, MW Productions Ltd., did not return phone calls. Jon Schwartz, a spokesman for MasterCard, which pulled its sponsorship earlier this month, said, “The size and scope of the event changed since we entered into the agreement.” Subsequently, a handful of designers, including some from out of state, were left holding the bag.
As part of the event, several fashion shows were slated to take place last week at the River East Art Center. Instead, four companies ended up staging an impromptu fashion show at Chicago’s Navy Pier on Wednesday night.
“My whole impression of it [Chicago Fashion Week] was that it was the city production,” said Berny Martin, an Indianapolis-based designer who participated in the Navy Pier event to show his line Catou. “I was bamboozled.”
Martin, who had not yet paid $2,500 to participate in Chicago Fashion Week, did lose money and, he worries, some respect.
“I booked models from New York and a stylist from New York,” he said. “What’s that going to make me look like?”
When MW Productions contacted Martin, he got excited about showing in Chicago. Although the group initially said it would pay for models, “what they had promised us kept going down,” Martin said.
Carlos Campos, a New York-based men’s wear designer, who showed his collection at New York Fashion Week in February, received an e-mail on April 17, that the Chicago event was canceled. “We were so excited to do this show,” said Laurean Ossorio, the designer’s public relations director, who hoped that participation would help acquire Midwest accounts.
According to the e-mail, the event was canceled due to lack of ticket sales, said Ossorio, who was originially asked by Mackett Hidalgo, director of Chicago Fashion Week to participate. Tickets averaged $95 to $125, according to the Chicago Fashion Week Web site.
“That baffled me,” he said. “You can’t charge people to come to the show. In New York, they’ll laugh at you.”
All was not lost, however. Ossorio said company representatives met with some local buyers who may be interested in picking up the line and that the company had not paid an entry fee to participate.