Chicago Fashion Incubator

My journey with the Chicago Fashion Incubator has been a long and interesting one and it has really only just begun.

It all began when i was an intern for the lovely and talented Lidia Wachowska of Evil Kitty. She was one of the six Designers in Residence at the time which meant that the Chicago Fashion Incubator was her home for a year long program that provides local “designers with the resources, workspace, showroom, curriculum, and mentoring to grow their business while establishing networks in the community. The designer’s also have the opportunity to showcase their lines at local events and fashion shows. Along with all of this the designers get a chance to learn the business of fashion to ensure they can successfully launch their own company.” (http://ow.ly/4lfEa) There I learned all about running a small fashion line as well as about the how the Incubator program could grow a business from a thought to a reality.

(Evil Kitty Blazer I designed and sewed during my internship, 2008)

After graduation, my good friend and peer, Miriam Carlson of Miriam Cecilia was chosen to be a DIR for 2010. By following her on Facebook and Twitter as well as our texts and calls… I saw how the Incubator program really catapulted her line from her senior collection and mica inspired pieces to a successful business. It was crazy to follow her journey and I felt like I knew a celebrity!

(Miriam and I backstage at the Dominican University Fashion Show, 2009)

While she was doing her thing at the Incubator, I was doing mine all on my own… so I frequently called upon her for some advice and industry knowledge that she gained from the program. I thought I was doing pretty well for my first year, but never saw the Incubator program as an option for me because my line was so focused and for such a small niche market. But with a little encouragement from my college professor, I applied for a 2011 DIR position.

I got through to the interview portion and on Dec 3rd I packed up my garments for the 11th floor of Macy’s on State Street. During the interview process, I could tell that the panel was impressed with what I was able to accomplish in under 1 year and they all commented on the quality of my workmanship and the overall professionalism I was able to create with my limited resources. I had a great time talking with them about my line and who I was as a designer, but I came out of the interview knowing that the position was not mine to be had. I had a gut feeling that they loved my work, but didn’t think my stuff was right for the program.

(The Rainforest Queen Dirndl, one of the pieces I showcased during my interview, 2010)

Soon enough I received the e-mail that I was not chosen as one of the 2011 Designers in Residence, but I was, however, chosen to be in the Associate Designer program. “The Associate Designer Program is a year long program for 12 designers that encourages them to become a DIR the following year. It includes quarterly workshops, roundtables, and access to the workspace on an appointment basis. This allows for possible DIR applicants to get a foot in the door, share resources, and connect with other local designers and organizations.” (http://ow.ly/4lfEa) For me this was really exciting! I knew (and obviously the panel of judges knew too) that the ful-on DIR program would not be as beneficial to my line and it was simply not a perfect fit… but I do believe that the AD program is a great fit for me!

This program will allow me to keep doing what I do, but help me be better! I can learn immensely from the workshops and roundtable discussions, but I can work from my space and go at my own pace. This program has already helped me and the director, Lara Miller, has been the most helpful and wonderful mentor throughout this journey.

(The crowd at the CFI Launch party, 2011)

At the CFI Launch Party last week, the 6 designers were revealed, one of whom is a Dominican Alum, Concetta Cipriano of Cettina. It was a great way to celebrate her induction as well as show my face as a confident and local designer at the party. As usual, I wasn’t the social butterfly, but I faced my fears and attended the party. I can’t wait to see what else the AD program and the CFI have in store for me, and I’m ready for the ride!

(Miriam and I at the CFI Launch Party, 2011)

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