CHICAGO Developed in 2006, the Mayor's Fashion Initiative uses events, seminars, and city programs to support local fashion designers. As part of that initiative, the three-year-old Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street provides emerging designers with workspace, a showroom, and classes in topics such as marketing and business planning.
Each March, the Incubator welcomes a new set of six resident designers, and this year, a pop-up at the 900 Shops will introduce the work of the program's past and present residents. The shop will be open until April 18.
“We look at this as a way to expose the Incubator designers to the general public,” said Lara Miller, a fashion designer and the incubator's executive director. “Certainly some of the more fashion-conscious people in Chicago are familiar with their work, but having a shop at 900 North Michigan will draw in a broader audience.”
Miller added that the pop-up will gain exposure for the incubator itself. “I get the sense that a lot of people have heard about something at Macy's that's called an incubator, but they may not be sure exactly what it is,” she said. “The pop-up will help get the program out in front of the general public a bit more, and help people understand our overall mission.”
Replete with cocktails, cupcakes, and informal modeling, the pop-up's launch party took place on March 16. “We were blown away with attendance,” Miller said. “We expected about 200 guests, and 300 people came by.” Throughout the promotion, designers will host trunk shows, champagne receptions, and fashion shows, and Miller said that she, the designers, and members of the Mayor's Fashion Council will gauge the pop-up's success based on attendance at the individual happenings.
“Of course, we'll also look at sales. We have target goals and we're analyzing weekly reports,” she said. “Sales are very important, but promotion is perhaps even more important to these designers.” So far, Miller said that attendance has exceeded planners' goals. Of the events that have taken place thus far, a launch party for the Catherine Furio collection drew a capacity crowd of 150, and 75 guests attended a Sunday afternoon tea for designer Jess Audey.