Yesterday was announced via an article penned by Kristin Larson on Women’s Wear Daily that amidst the city of Chicago’s budget cuts, the fashion arm of DCASE is being eliminated, again. Back in 2012, when Emanuel took the mayoral role mayor, they eliminated the positions of 90 members of the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture including Kiran Advani who was heading up that facet, according to TimeOut. The city will no longer sponsor Fashion Focus Chicago and as of Dec. 31 eliminating the position of Tonya Gross-Director for Fashion and Culinary Programs for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. During former mayor Richard M. Daley’s term, the Mayor’s Fashion Council was convened. Many of mayor Emanuels current supportes and fundraisers are well heeled fashionistas that could have easily help champion this burgeoning industry.
This is harsh, sad and just plain frustrating to be honest. In the few years that I’ve lived in this city as an adult and chronicled the goings and comings, this facet of our city was something I really wish more people championed as hard as they did for the food and tech industry. There was a time when Chicago was a hotbed of fashion, and to some degree it still is, but not for the makers of the craft. A city that began the careers of designers such as Charles James, Cynthia Rowley, Creatures of The Wind to name a few.
When Stanley Korshak first opened here way back when, designers knew they had to make a stop in the city. SAIC (The School of The Art Institute of Chicago), one of the top art schools in the country has a fashion department and each year they host an annual show to showcase the work of their students, honoring a notable fashion name and drawing a veritable fashion crowd and major sponsor Swarovski. Guess what happens to most of those students once they graduate? They high tail it to New York or Paris and those people welcome them with open arms, utilizing the talent that was cultivated here!
With the boom of the tech industry, and the food industry it seems the city sees it more fitting to financially support those endeavors rather than the creatives because #money. It’s a shame to see it cut once again. Chicago is home to top luxury boutiques such as Ikram, Blake, Neapolitan to name a few. With the amount of money spent on designer wares, imagine if the city helped develop the next Donna Karan, the next Public School?!
Late last year, Tonya gathered a group of fashion insiders along with a representative from CFDA to celebrate the emerging designers including Aaron Kim of PLEATS, Azeeza Khan of AZEEZA and much more. My hope was that the momentum would carry into 2016. The reality is that without the support of the community and the city, it makes it hard for these people to thrive and even harder for those coming up behind them to even want to pursue it. Though parts of Fashion Focus already had private backing in the form of say Latino Fashion Week, the buy-in and support from DCASE helped.
I sincerely hope that a private entity takes this whole and make something big out of this. Disappointed in this news would be an understatement and my hope is the higher ups see the need to foster the creative industry more because lets face it, having just tech and food industries booming does not a make for a well balanced city’s economic structure.