Friday, November 18, a Champions Of Success event kicked off CHICAGO Escape, an interactive weekend of art, fashion, and retail experiences hosted throughout the Kimpton Gray Hotel. The night began with first access to ‘The Street Dream Suite’, an artistry and designer showroom filled with art, fashion, wellness, and photo opportunities which is open through December. It is an immersive experience which made you feel a part of the artist’s world. Ali Six, Sam Kirk, Sergio Maciel were some of these featured artists.
After leaving the Street Dream Suite, it was time for the panel discussion held at bar Vol. 39 within the Kimpton Gray Hotel Before moderator Dionne Williams, Creator of Emerge! Fashion Runway Show NYFW kicked things off, we were treated to a live and impressive performance by The Chicago Bucket Boys. Featuring representatives from the fashion, art and retail industries, the discussion kicked off with how the pandemic impacted Chicago and how retailers and designers survived during that time. The pandemic affected many aspects of our everyday lives, and the retail industry and designers, not from big box retailers were impacted.
Bringing voice to the conversation were panelists:
CaSandra Diggs, President of The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA), the trade association founded in 1962 whose membership consists of 477 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry and accessory designers.
Elliot Carlyle, Consulting Director of CFDA Connects, a CFDA initiative launched in 2021 that recognizes, promotes, and provides business development support to select Regional Fashion Organizations (RFOs), their Fashion Weeks and the Designers based within key US markets.
Delvin McCray is a Chicago-based luxury fashion designer and former “Project Runway” contestant (season 18) whose work has been seen in British Vogue, NYFW, Paris Fashion Week. He also was costume designer for such hit television shows like FOX’s Empire and HBO’s Legendary.
Special Guest: Designer Afriye Poku of Oberima Afriyie
Other talking points included how Chicago is different from other markets like New York or Los Angeles. What are the barriers to entry and why are designers leaving Chicago, and how can hospitality industry experiences elevate retail experiences through art, and fashion and help cultivate a new definition of the artist community in Chicago.
I thought the conversation was thought provoking. While clothes, fashion, and artistry may not be seen as of high importance to some, it does have an influence on the market, the economy and communities. It is not something I had stopped to think about. The panelists pointed out how other cities such as New York hold this industry in a higher regard and thus one of the reasons as to why emerging artists are leaving Chicago. The need for support was what resonated between the panelists and the speakers. Support for up and coming artists, support for their work, support for all neighborhoods in Chicago. With action and movement, change can make a difference in the city’s artist community. So, as was pointed out that night, buy from a local artist, go to that event outside of the downtown area. Every bit counts. And it does not hurt to also have a fabulous look in the process.
A Non-Agency and Chicago’s Kimpton Gray Hotel serve as Event Hosts.
Photos: E. Juarez