Chicago Fashion Incubator

Designer In Residence Application

About The Chicago Fashion Incubator

The Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street (CFI) is a recognized 501(c)3 not-for-profit established in August 2008. Its mission is to make meaningful economic impact in Chicago by giving fashion designers technical product development and business tools and training to create innovative products and launch globally competitive businesses based in Chicago.

The CFI is located in a 2,200 square foot space in the pedway across of the historic Macy's on State Street lower level. The space, donated generously by Macy’s, was built out in 2018 and includes the Richard H. Driehaus Entrepreneurial Center. The CFI is comprised of a manufacturing workroom equipped with professional cutting tables, industrial sewing machines, and pressing stations where designers produce their sample collections. Each designer shares a private office equipped with Apple’s i-Mac computers and HP printers. A multi use conference room serves as a showroom for buyer presentations, a photo shoot, a client fitting, or a place to hang out in and find inspiration about fashion’s next big idea.

The CFI has been a launch pad for some of Chicago's most recognizable names in fashion including: Christina Fan, Stephanie Kuhr, Taneasha Prunty, Olivia Hwang, Eric Kipp, Lagi Nadeau, Shelby Steiner, Agnes Hamerlik, Anna Hovet, Alyssa Kahle, Grace Lee-Lim, Shruti Kirti, and Kahindo Mateene and Katelyn Pankoke, both featured on Project Runway.

About the Designer in Residence Program

The Chicago Fashion Incubator Designer in Residence is a two-year program. The next cycle begins April 1, 2019 and ends February 28, 2020.

The selected Designers in Residence (DIR) are provided a creative professional environment to foster and grow their businesses. By offering low-cost design studio space, business mentoring, educational seminars, and networking opportunities, the CFI's DIR program provides a way for designers to work with mentors to assess needs and develop skills and networks, and become an integral part of the Chicago fashion community as well as develop the latitude to reach global markets.

The Designers in Residence Program includes:

  • the use of a design and production studio, shared office and meeting spaces within the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street

  • the use of an i-Mac computer with Microsoft Office Suite and a scanner/printer.

  • access to the Richard H. Driehaus Entrepreneurial Center at the CFI with industry resource materials, publications (WWD, W, Vogue, Fast Company, etc) and software (Adobe Creative Cloud)

  • weekly 1/1 meetings with the Design Director, bi-weekly team meetings hosted by the Executive Director, and bi-weekly meetings with Marketing, Branding and Business Development Mentors

  • 1/1 and group training and mentorship through seminars lead by subject matter experts and industry leaders

  • press and promotional opportunities to generate publicity for your brand

  • field trips to retailers, manufacturers, and production specialists

  • subsidized industry-related trips to NYC

  • two model fittings per season (FW, SS)

  • discounted rates for skilled sample hand and pattern makers

The 2019-2020 monthly fee to participate in the DIR program is set at $400/month due on the 1st day of each month. Monthly rate is subject to change with 90 days' notice.


Applicants seeking consideration for entry to the DIR program at the Chicago Fashion Incubator must submit a FULLY COMPLETED application along with supporting materials as detailed in this online survey, pay a non-refundable $75. application fee, and meet all of the following criteria:

  • be 21 years of age or older by the application deadline date

  • has established a main residence in the Greater Chicago area before April 1, 2019

  • hold a City of Chicago business license or an application in process

  • able to commit to the CFI DIR program including a minimum of 30 hours in the studio during Monday - Friday business hours

  • attend scheduled 1/1 mentor sessions, seminars, and CFI media events, info sessions, and programs

  • hold a Bachelor's degree in a fashion or fashion-related field is strongly preferred


  • Individuals are ineligible if:

  • enrolled in an academic institution as either a full- or part-time student

  • primary product is not apparel or accessories. We are not accepting designers whose primary product is jewelry or shoes at this time.

  • your business is established outside of the City of Chicago and/or you do not have a license to do business in the City of Chicago by the application deadline date

  • a current employee of the Macy's on State Street store

  • currently employed full-time in a position that requires you to work Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm

Evaluation Criteria

The Chicago Fashion Incubator assembles a Selection Committee comprised of its Board of Directors and industry professionals to review applications and select the DIR. The criteria includes:

  • a depth of knowledge, clarity of vision and direction of products and collection, and strength of business concept

  • professional preparedness including the time and financial resources available to be committed to developing your collection and launching your business within the first 12 months of the DIR program

  • demonstrates the ability to fund product development, sample production, and business overhead, including the monthly fee

  • personal readiness to fully engage in a collaborative work and learning environment, requiring individual initiative and motivation

  • the ability to multi-task in a fast-paced program with strict deadlines

  • high level of emotional maturity to accept and utilize critical and constructive feedback

  • an interpersonal skill set that will allow for mutual respect and cooperation with cohorts, mentors, and CFI Executive team

  • fiscal responsibility with an ability to manage every aspect of operating a business

2019 - 2020 Application

Please note, this form DOES NOT auto save and cannot be returned to.

We recommend you pre-write longer answers in another text document and add them here when you're ready to complete the full application.

Tell Us About You + Your Business
This section of the Application should take about 15 minutes.
Name *
Date of Birth
Date of Birth
Business type:
Business Address
Business Address
Current Employment
Please select the category that best matches your products
(no more than 2)
[Indicate if this is wholesale or retail]
Short Answer - Part I A minimum of 30 words required to each question. Expect this section to take about 30 minutes.
[This should include any outside financial supplements -- including guest designer assignments, significant loans, partnerships, etc]
Applicant Acknowledgement + Submit
Applicant Acknowledgement + SUBMIT Please read carefully and click "SUBMIT" to send this portion of your application to the Chicago Fashion Incubator Designer In Residence Program. To complete your application, you must submit the $75. application fee by the deadline as instructed on Page 9. The Chicago Fashion Development NFP, the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street ("CFI,") and the Designer In Residence Program ("DIR") may use my voice, name, likeness and biographical information in any editorial, advertising, or promotional materials throughout the universe in any and all media by any and all means, whether such media and means are now known or developed later, worldwide, in perpetuity, in connection with the CFI program, including any television program, series or documentary related thereto. If selected as a finalist, I agree to participate in any special design projects or promotional events that are in connection with the CFI. If chosen as a Chicago Fashion Incubator tenant, I agree to be interviewed, photographed and/or filmed and to execute all agreements and/or releases which may be required in connection therewith. The Chicago Fashion Development NFP shall be the sole and exclusive owner of all rights (including, without limitation, copyrights) in and to all related footage or materials. Such footage and materials shall be deemed “works made for hire” and I hereby waive all “moral” rights that I may have in and to such footage and materials. I hereby waive any and all rights I may have to any compensation whatsoever. If chosen as a CFI tenant, I understand the Chicago Fashion Development NFP may, from time to time, present me with design, collaboration, co-branding and other business opportunities which it determines may be potentially beneficial to my business and brand exposure. To the extent not inconsistent with my then-existing contractual obligations, I agree to consider in good faith any such opportunities and to execute all agreements and/or other documents which may be required in connection therewith. If chosen as a CFI tenant, for the duration of the program, (including the terms of this Application and Acknowledgement) delivered or provided by or on behalf of the Chicago Fashion Development NFP shall be referred to as “Confidential Information.” I will not use the Confidential Information for any purpose other than in connection with the Chicago Fashion Incubator program. I will not disclose the Confidential Information to anyone, except (i) with the prior written permission of the Chicago Fashion Development NFP or (ii) as may be required by law. I hereby release, and will indemnify, the Chicago Fashion Development NFP, the CFI, and/or their subsidiaries and affiliates, advertising or promotion agencies, from any claim of injury or other loss that may result from my participation in the Chicago Fashion Incubator Designer in Residence Program. I UNDERSTAND THAT I AM ENTERING INTO A LEGALLY BINDING AGREEMENT UNDER THIS APPLICATION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BEFORE SIGNING THIS APPLICATION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY OR OTHER ADVISOR OF MY CHOICE. Good luck, Designers! Thank you for your interest in the Designer in Residence Program.
Today's Date
Today's Date

Next Steps + Important Dates

Thank you for your time and interest in the Designer in Residence Program with the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street.

We will consider your application complete after you upload your portfolio with your latest collection, mood board and color story to application@chicagofashionincubator.org. If you are selected for a personal interview you will be asked to bring in a hard copy portfolio.




Make Check payable to Chicago Fashion Development NFP, sent to the Chicago Fashion Incubator, 111 N State Street Chicago, IL 60602 and received by the application deadline, December 4th



Please note the following important dates:

January 15th, 2019 Application deadline.

Week of January 21, 2019 Interviews with the Selection Committee

Week of January 28, 2019 Offer letters to selected applicants

April 2019 New DIR can schedule move-ins

Questions? Email us: application@chicagofashionincubator.org