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CHICAGO Part of Chicago's Fashion Focus, Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Fashion event comprises a runway presentation that showcases the work of emerging designers and an after-party that typically calls out the events' sponsors with branded elements such as custom lounges and bars. This year's Saturday-night happening, which began in Millennium Park and wrapped up with an after-party at Enclave, differed from its previous iterations in a few notable ways. But according to event manager Marcia Callaghan, those changes had everything to do with the economic climate and nothing to do with Gen Art's recent merger with Rock Media.
Callaghan worked with lead producer Lauren Hurley to organize the event. Both planners started working with Gen Art prior to its afiliation with Rock Media, and “the merger didn't affect us at all,” when it came to organizing this year's fashion event, Callaghan said. “Fresh Faces has been around for seven years, and it's still standard [Gen Art] event programming. Right now, the [Gen Art and Rock Media outlets on] the coasts are still adjusting to the merger; but in this market, Rock Media has never had any offices. So as far as Lauren and I go, management just kind of let us do our thing while [the two organizations] get used to working with each other in other markets.'"
Callaghan and Hurley's first task: choosing the designers to showcase in this year's show. “We find a lot of the designers through word of mouth,“ said Callaghan. “Unlike the other markets, we don't have a fashion industry here so much as a fashion community.“ Callaghan said that “Fresh Faces alumni“ designers provided several referrals, and that she and Hurley “had a huge hand in curating the show,“ though they did consult with Gen Art's fashion team in New York. “The actual runway presentation was the most similar to how Gen Art has done Fresh Faces in the past," said Callaghan. Lasting about 45 minutes, the show involved segments devoted to six different clothing designers.
As opposed to previous years' events, Saturday's pre-fashion-show reception, which had stations devoted to local accessories designers, had no cocktails; instead, guests received complimentary bottles of Smartwater. “This is just not the year for any sort of event sponsorship [from liquor companies],” Callaghan said. Although Hurley and Callaghan were able to get Absolut and Bud Light on board as sponsors for the after-party, ”we decided to cut the pre-show cocktail reception,” Callaghan said. ”We're working with a different budget this year, and that forced Lauren and me to be more creative.” Although an illuminated bar anchored the center of last year's tent, this year a stage with live models occupied the space. “We couldn't just have nothing there,“ Callaghan said. “We just did what we could with the restraints and the budgets that we were given."
Last year's after-party took place at raw space EnVent, but producers brought this year's version to the already-built-out River North venue. Callaghan said she and Hurley worked hard to ensure that the happening didn't “feel like another Saturday night at Enclave," and brought in interactive elements such as a fortune teller, a station devoted to custom fragrance blending, and a performance from local hip-hop band the Richkiddz. “The overall theme and the greatest challenge of this year was rethinking things,” Callaghan said. “We just had to adapt the way things are typically done to a 2009 model.”