The Chicago Fashion Incubator (CFI) is a product of
Mayor Richard M. Daley's Fashion Initiative...
In 2005, then-Mayor Daley recognized the wide reach of Chicago's fashion industry. Realizing the significant impact fashion has on the local economy, he envisioned fashion as a driver for job creation, cultural growth, trade development, and tourism. Building on Chicago's long manufacturing heritage (two of the country's most prominent menswear brands started in the City, and still make their garments here) and the City’s internationally acclaimed design schools, the idea was to have a place that used the resources and opportunities available in Chicago to help aspiring local fashion designers build sustainable businesses that can compete in the global fashion industry.
In 2008, the Chicago Fashion Incubator was born.
The 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.
CFI is located in a 2,375 square foot on the
11th floor of the historic Macy's on State Street building.
The space, donated generously by Macy’s, was initially built out in 2007 and recently renovated by Beeler Construction to create the Richard H. Driehaus Entrepreneurial Center (DEC). CFI is comprised of a manufacturing workroom equipped with massive cutting tables, sewing machines, and pressing stations where designers produce their sample collections.
Each designer shares a private office equipped with state-of-art Mac computers + printers.
A sun-drenched multi-media room with stunning views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan serves as a showroom for buyer presentations, or a place to hang out in and find inspiration about fashion’s next big idea.
Richard H. Driehaus Entrepreneurial Center (DEC)
The Driehaus Entrepreneurial Center (The DEC) is a resource center that provides Chicago-based apparel and accessories designers with educational tools, research assets, and programming to help further their fashion business growth and development. This sleek, modern space is accessible to the CFI’s current Designers in Residence, as well as to CFI alumni, providing them with essential tools to aid them in their development as both creative artists and successful business owners. Additionally, The DEC plans to support an internship program in partnership with leading fashion schools in Chicago and also to host professional business and merchandising seminars and workshops for emerging fashion entrepreneurs, in addition to other public programming. The DEC was made possible by a grant from the Driehaus Design Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to promote and encourage design education and foster public appreciation for all aspects of fashion, design, and history.
“We are tremendously grateful for the generous partnership of the Driehaus Design Initiative in bringing the vision of this resource center, lovingly nicknamed ‘The DEC,’ to life,” said Andrea Schwartz, CFI Board President. “The DEC will not only provide important tools to help CFI designers, it will also help us reach beyond these walls and carry on our mission of keeping fashion talent in Chicago. Today, design talent can choose to live anywhere, and we want to make it easy for them to choose Chicago.” - Andrea Schwartz, Board President
Tonya Gross joined the Chicago Fashion Incubator as Executive Director in May 2016. Tonya is the former Director of Fashion and Culinary Programs with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Chicago, which supports programming and entrepreneurial development in the arts and creative industries. Tonya has a degree in International Business Management and Japanese from Ferris State University and the Japan Center for Michigan Universities and studied Fiber Arts and Millinery at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Tonya is the Director of Chicago Creative Consultants, LLC and Tonya Gross Millinery.
Andrea Reynders is a fashion designer happily immersed in the fashion industry for many years. Designer of her own label, she is also a Professor Emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has lectured in the USA, Europe and South Africa, and is a former Facilitator at Archeworks. Andrea is a consultant developing new fashion studies programs, and mentors designers internationally. She co-directs Studio Alabaster Blue, LLC, with architect Hennie Reynders.
Vice President, Media Relations, Macy’s
SVP/Chief Marketing Officer, Mario Tricoci Salons
Partner, Schiff Hardin LLP
Principal, Liz Kores Public Relations
Fashion Show and Event Producer
Welcome to the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street (also known as “CFI”). Since inception in 2008, the CFI has proudly supported 43 designers-in-residence and hundreds more fashion designers working in Chicago’s creative and business communities.
Without you, we would be unable to fulfill our mission of developing creative entrepreneurs into leaders building successful and innovative fashion design businesses. Your generosity allows the CFI to provide mentors, design and business-related tools including work space to six designers-in-residence as well as programming for the broader fashion design communities in the Chicago area.
Your involvement is critical to the future of the CFI and its ability to provide training to, not only our designers-in-residence, but the broader fashion design and creative communities that support fashion design. This support allows the CFI to partner with fashion industry professionals and business leaders as well as provide facilities and equipment for designers to advance their craft and prepare to be our next creative business leaders of tomorrow.
Whether you are an individual or an institutional sponsor, your donation is valued and important to the sustainability of the CFI and the Chicagoland fashion design community. We look forward to partnering with you as we continue to develop the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs.
Board President, Chicago Fashion Incubator
Financial information has been temporarily taken offline and available upon request.