Providing six emerging chicago-based designers in residence with the resources, business acumen, and mentoring to launch their careers in fashion.

designer in residence

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The CFI uses innovative solutions to mentor and promote fashion entrepreneurs by bridging the gap between design education and business enterprise. It provides design and business development training to Chicago’s fashion entrepreneurs through mentorship, workshops and seminars. Its Designer-in-Residence (DIR) program mentors six business start-ups at a time for 2 years providing each with work and office space equipped with the technology and production equipment to design, make, and market their products to the trade and the end consumer.

The mentorship and support comes from (1) design experts who provide creative direction for developing full seasonal product collections; (2) technicians that teach modern methods for making and grading patterns, producing samples, and managing production; and (3) business professionals for legal, financial, and marketing acumen that give the emerging entrepreneurs the know-how and confidence to critically-think through the challenges of launching a business.

The CFI was one of the earliest incubators in the country and is still among a handful of such organizations dedicated to the development of fashion entrepreneurs. The CFI has trained and supported over 50 designers through its Designer-In-Residence (DIR) program and our DIR have received numerous awards for their talent and innovation. Most recently, DIR have received recognition through Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award and on reality television show Project Runway.

The 2017 residency cycle begins in March and ends February 2019. The application for the 2018 cycle will open september 2017 and will be linked on this page. free information sessions related to the application will be held at the Cfi in sept-oct-dec 2017. 


Public Programs

The core communities served by CFI are fashion designers and aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition to its residency and mentoring program, the CFI hosts public workshops and seminars on topics aimed to educating fashion designers and entrepreneurs on industry and business best practices. It collaborates with design schools on service projects, and its designers engage about 25 interns per year. Additionally, the CFI holds informational meetings and tours with high schools, colleges and private organizations interested in learning about the opportunities to launch a fashion business in Chicago. Email us to schedule a group tour. A small donation is requested for groups of 5 or more.