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Chicago’s Fashion Week Stripped of Funding

Fashion Focus got its start in 2015.   Photo: Courtesy of the City of Chicago

Chicago’s fashion week, Fashion Focus Chicago, won’t take place this year, a victim of the City of Chicago’s latest belt tightening.

Mayor Richard M. Daley launched Fashion Focus Chicago in 2005 to support the local fashion industry with meetings and runway shows. The length of the event varied over the years, shrinking to just four days in 2009, but by 2015 it was back up to nine days with about 15,000 people attending.

In addition to cutting $75,000 in funding for fashion programming from the 2016 budget, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events eliminated the post of program director for fashion and culinary creative arts and industries, a position held since 2013 by Tonya Gross.

“DCASE will not produce fashion events in 2016, but we will continue to support the industry in other ways,” said Jamey Lundblad, DCASE director of marketing and communications. “We will convene the Mayor’s Fashion Council and other key stakeholders to determine how we can best support the fashion community with our remaining resources in 2016.”

Anke Loh, an associate fashion professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said having a city-sponsored fashion ambassador for the Chicago fashion industry is crucial.

“There is a great deal of fashion potential in Chicago, of which the city is not taking full advantage,” she said. “It would be a shame to miss out on so many opportunities. Because we are outside of the traditional fashion centers, we have the latitude to experiment freely, finding entirely new avenues to explore and develop.”

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