More than 4,000 manufacturers showcase their wares at this quarterly Merchandise Mart trade show, which displays women’s apparel and accessories and draws an international crowd of buyers. Though the official guest count is kept private, planners said attendance increased at each show in 2009.
2. Fashion Focus
Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs presents the city’s version of Fashion Week, which shines a spotlight on local designers. An average of 35,000 guests attend the October event, which includes a string of Millennium Park runway shows and citywide seminars, fashion installations, and shopping events. Past sponsors have included American Express and Toyota.
3. Macy’s Glamorama
Beyoncé, Cyndi Lauper, and Ne-Yo have performed during Macy’s fall fashion show at the Chicago Theater, which includes an elaborate after-party at its downtown store. In 2009, Marc Jacobs created a custom dress for the evening’s guest of honor, Miss Piggy. This year’s event is scheduled for August 13.
4. The Children’s Service Board of Children’s Memorial Hospital’s Gold Coast Fashion Awards Show
Billed as the country’s only fashion award show that lets guests—not industry experts—act as judges, this benefit draws more than 1,400 guests each year. Past winners include bridal designer Monique Lhuillier. The 2010 event will take place at the Hilton Chicago on October 1.
5. Rush University Medical Center Fashion Show
Some 100 socialites and corporate leaders volunteer to model in North America’s longest-running charitable fashion show, now in its 84th year. In 2009, the show debuted a new format, moving from the stage at Symphony Center to a temporary runway at the Palmer House Hilton. Sponsors included Northern Trust and Swarovski. The 2010 event is scheduled for October 14.
6. School of the Art Institute of Chicago Fashion Show
Local industry heavyweights attend this show known for its avant-garde fashions. The fashion showcase of more than 200 student-designed garments will take place May 7 at the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time in 15 years.
7. Nordstrom Designer Preview
This stylish soiree treats more than 500 of Nordstrom’s top clients to a fall fashion show with looks from high-end labels. In 2009, the event moved from the Chicago History Museum to the Nordstrom store in River North. Expect a new format in 2010.
8. The Service Club of Chicago’s Day on the Terrace Fashion Show
Held on the terrace of the Peninsula Chicago, this alfresco fashion show sees local philanthropists and television personalities model looks from local retailers. The August 2 event is expected to draw 400 guests and raise $40,000 for various charities.
9. Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Awards
The local chapter of Fashion Group International produces this industry function, which honors newcomers with awards in categories such as apparel design and fashion PR. With 175 guests, last year’s ceremony took place at the James Hotel and drew sponsors such as Bebe and Chicago magazine.