Category Archives: Experiences

Recap: More 2014 Fashion Focus Chicago Events

Fashion Focus Chicago is always a crazy week if you’re in the industry… after Tuesday’s Town Hall kick-off event, the rest of the week was filled with shows and events.

I attended the Sanford-Brown University’s student fashion show on Wednesday evening, with my husband. The student show is always fun to watch, and see what new and creative ideas they are experimenting with. I’m also on the Academic Advisory Board for the fashion program at the school, so it’s a little personal as well. The show was held at the Cultural Center, and I have to say, a better show than last year’s event! The theme was pop art, so models wore colorful wigs and held up comic signs reading things like “Pop!”, “Wham!”, etc. Very fun.

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Thursday evening I attended the AIBI Open House, visiting my good friend, designer Lauren Lein, who sells in the Made in Chicago store that AIBI has in the heart of the Magnificent Mile shopping district. I also met a few new faces, and saw my friends Flo and Diana from Fine Fabric Sales.

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The‘s Art of Fashion show at Millennium Park is the big event of the week, held on Friday, and was not one to miss. My husband again came to check out my world of fashion, and we had a fun time. The show was fantastic and featured 12 designers. My favorites were Shernett Swaby (whose dress I wore that night), and Voyeur by Vex.

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Saturday and Sunday are more low-key, but the week is definitely not over yet! had their annual FashionChicago Designer Shopping event in the tent, and Northern Grade also hosted their shopping event in another tent on the other side of the park. I enjoyed checking out both events, and got a head start on my Christmas shopping. At Northern Grade, I got to visit a few friends (Glass House Shirt Makers and Stock Manufacturing), and learn about some new companies. We also ended up purchasing a great wool jacket for my husband from Tradition Creek, where I also picked up a pair of deerskin mittens for myself for future snowmobiling trips this year.


Recap: Fashion Focus Chicago & Fashion Town Hall

This recap is a few weeks behind, but I wanted to share my experience at Fashion Focus Chicago 2014. The week started on October 14th with the Fashion Town Hall kick off event at the Chitownhallphotocago Cultural Center. The program, headed by Mayor’s Fashion Council director, Tonya Gross, featured speakers from the various fashion organizations, including AIBI and Fashion Group International, the Macy’s Fashion Incubator program, and all of the local colleges with fashion design programs.

One of the interesting organizations I learned about was HIVE Chicago, which networks high school students with local designers and companies for internship and learning opportunities. I also found out that the SAIC’s fashion resource center is open to the public, I will definitely need to make time to check that collection out!



The presentation highlighted some great companies and designers here in Chicago, including Shernett Swaby, Lagi Nadaeu, Oxford Clothing and Optimo Hats.

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Nena Ivon gave the keynote address, and was very interesting to listen to. She’s a current instructor at Columbia College, and has an extensive background in fashion from working as a the marketing director for Saks Fifth Avenue. She gave advice to designers about promoting themselves, and the importance of wearing your own products (or bringing a model with you to events if you design for another market):

“I’ve one of one, I’ve never been one of many.”

“Who knows you better and your product better than you do?”

She also pointed to some figures that show that the Midwest will become the hub for the country by 2025 (let’s see!)

Following the program, emcee Ryan M. Beshel led a panel discussion with some industry figures including Nena Ivon, Maria Anderson (of Agency Galatea), Diana Michelle and Jivesh Toor from J. Toor (honored in September by FGI as Rising Stars in Menswear), Lagi Nadeau (honored by FGI as Rising Star in Women’s Apparel), and Jonathon Smith of


Some take-ways from the discussion (paraphrased):

Ryan M. Beshel: Take your blinders off and look outside of the city, and country for inspiration.

Jonathon Smith: Figure out the business side of fashion before doing runway shows. Take advantage of mentorship expereiences.

Nena Ivon: Listen to honest feedback, it’s not personal. 

Diana Michelle: Know yourself and how to communicate and define your personal brand. Also, maintain relationships and figure out who do you want to do business with.

And some exciting news, the Chicago Fashion Resources listings are back!


Recap: Chicago Textile Expo Fall 2014

On the tail end of Fashion Focus Chicago, the first Chicago Textile Expo was hosted by my friends at the Fine Fabric Sales showroom, Diana Muzzy and Flo Fiore-Battaglia. I was invited to be a speaker and my seminar was called, How to work with your Pattern Maker.


I brought my experience as a freelance pattern maker as well as my experience working for a full-scope development service provider. I discussed pattern terminology, and how to communicate your design effectively through tech packs, reference garments and went over the basics of pattern “warranties”, grading and marking. It was great to answer questions from the group and meet new designers and students who attended the seminar.

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The Expo itself was great as well, it’s always fun to see what’s new in fabrics and trims from the various vendors. All in all it was a successful show, which we celebrated during the industry networking night on Tuesday 10/21.


Pictured above with (left to right) Flo Fiore-Battaglia, Diana Muzzy and Jessica Steffes.
EDITED: As of November 2014, I am no longer associated with The Apparel Agency.

Cotton Farming


Cotton is one of the oldest textile materials around, yet there is so much synthetic materials being used in clothing today.

On July 23rd, I attended the Kingpins denim show in New York, and got to check out a seminar about cotton farming challenges and how brands and consumers can work with the cotton industry to combat those challenges. Below are some of my notes from the seminar, plus a few links for more information on sustainable and organic cotton products.

Challenges that cotton farmers face are:

– Weather related (drought, flood, hail), where 20% of crops can be destroyed

– Price volatility – for example in 2011 prices went from 70-80 cents per pound to over $2 per pound due to futures investments. Farmers had price protection and would hold on to cotton, and as a result, more brands and vendors switched to synthetic fibers in production and stopped buying as much cotton. Then, prices crashed and the cotton market is still down.

– Urbanization – losing farm land to new development, increasing land pricing and property taxes

– Access to water – improving efficiency (cotton is not a “thirsty plant”) – exploring better ways to get water to the root of the plant, as over watering or watering from above can make each plant’s cotton yield less. Best results come from underground irrigation methods.

Challenges for US Farmers

US cotton is the number one export and makes up 4.8% of the GDP, with $37 billion in annual revenue. There are about 18,600 farmers in the US, and the average farm size is 1300 acres. Most are family owned.


Cotton Farming – World Wide

Cotton farms world wide are typically smaller and owned by individual families, and are about the size of a soccer field. Families have challenges accessing financing for seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, which will help make sure they get the most crop yield for their investment. They face obstacles such as high interest rate loans, or even purchasing of bad seeds or fertilizers that don’t work. They are forced sometimes to buy on the black market, and the plants don’t grow well, isn’t immune to pests, and further makes access harder when they aren’t able to make money from their crops. Cotton thrives in arid climates, but still needs water to grow. Many small farmers don’t have efficient irrigation systems, and end up wasting water.

Price of cotton purchased from farmers is relatively stable in other countries, but the costs of seeds, fertilizers, etc. are higher than in the US.

In India, 20% of all electricity used is for irrigation pumps.

What does the future look like?

– farming legacies discontinue because no one’s children wants to be farmers

– fewer farmers due to mass migration to bigger cities

– those that do stay in farming combat issue of land availability

What can we do?

We need to take care of farmer at the beginning of the supply chain, so that the spinners, converters, etc. don’t also fall apart.

Did you know? Cotton is also a food crop – cotton seed oil, and is also used to feed livestock. For each plant, 60% of the weight is food, 40% is textile fiber. A cotton farmer is a better food farmer, because of the techniques used to have successful cotton crops can be applied to other plants. Farmers learn crop rotation, and change pesticide usage, which in turn enriches soil, and crops can serve as a multiplier in the community.


Cotton – GMO vs. Organic

80% of the world’s cotton is GMO (90% in the US). The benefits are that the cotton is resistant to certain insects, herbicides. However it doesn’t make the actual yield any higher than non-GMO cotton.

The organic cotton market is very niche today, and unfortunately it’s not economically viable to most farmers. $3 billion is spent on pesticides for cotton crops every year, and farmers STILL lose about 30% of their crop to pests/insects. Organic cotton crops yield 20-30% less than GMO cotton crops, so it actually requires more land, and more water. Is it really more sustainable?

People are on both sides of organic / eco spectrum, are they more or less likely to purchase products?

What can brands/designers do to influence change, and how can they improve the issue?

Most brands don’t buy fibers directly, they buy material after it is processed. Therefore, sourcing directly from the farmer would be difficult. However, brands don’t need to start a new sourcing effort, but they can go through an established sustainable and responsible sourcing organization.

Uniqlo is an example of a company that works directly with cotton mills and farms in Japan.

Brands can promote cotton in a positive way – don’t overemphasize the challenges of cotton, so that the public doesn’t turn off from the fiber. Brands can be more specific on where the cotton comes from (country, type of farm, etc.).

The big question, do we care where our product comes from? Can a program be influential if consumers don’t care? Information and education are key.


Additional Resources:

BCI: Better Cotton Initiative

Cotton LEADS

Sustainable Cotton

The Textile Exchange

Paris Sourcing – Premiere Vision Plur/El & TexWorld

I attended two international textile trade shows this season in Paris this February: Premiere Vision and TexWorld. These shows are the MUCH larger versions of the domestic shows attended in New York in January, with vendors from Europe, Asia and North and South America. I had the opportunity to attend the show on behalf of some clients , and walked the show with one new client who attended the show in person.

Luckily the first day after arriving and getting checked into the hotel, there was time available for some sight seeing. The streets of Paris are beautiful this time of year, and the weather was perfect for a stroll along the Seine. I took a three hour walk around the city, taking in the sights, and also visited the Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower.


The trade shows offered a HUGE range of vendors for knits, wovens, technical performance fabrics, buttons, zippers and trims, and many interesting laces and eyelet fabrics, reflecting the trends for Spring/Summer 2015. I also got to attend the trend presentations at each show, which was interesting and informative. In addition to the presentation, trend pavilions were set up to showcase materials from different vendors for groupings such as performance materials, print design, organic and eco fabrics, and more. TexWorld also featured Apparel Sourcing, a section of the show dedicated to sourcing manufacturing and private label resources. TexWorld’s SS15 trend report is available to download here.


Premiere Vision Plur/El  featured multiple shows including the Indigo print show, Modamont for accessories, Zoom for manufacturing resources, Cuir a Paris leather and fur resources, and Expofil for yarns and fibers. The show filled 6 expo halls, it was truly an amazing experience. Premiere has a fantastic photo library and even a couple videos on their website so you can see what the show is like here. Also, a portion of Premiere Vision’s trend report can be found here.

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Those interested in more information about Premiere Vision or TexWorld can visit their respective websites for more information:

TexWorld – Paris

Premiere Vision – Paris

TexWorld USA SS15

My latest sourcing trip was to TexWorld, held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. This show is put on by Messe Frankfurt, and is held bi-annually in New York, and Paris. The organization also puts on other trade shows for fashion, home, beauty and other industries. TexWorld shows a large collection of fabric and trim suppliers and mills from the around the world, and is heavily represented by Asian, Middle Eastern and European vendors.

I attended the show with a few clients who went for the first time, and also sourced on behalf of clients who were unable to attend in person. texworld1-14

The show this time around was a little smaller than the show in July, but offered a great range of vendors for knits, wovens, technical performance fabrics, zippers and trims, and many interesting laces and eyelet fabrics, reflecting the trends for Spring/Summer 2015.

Those interested in more information about TexWorld USA can visit their website for more information.

Premiere Vision / Indigo SS15 New York

The spring sourcing trade shows run January.  The Premiere Vision / Indigo show in New York kicked off the season. Sourcing always on behalf of current clients, so each time is spent with different vendors, and seeing a new variety of product offerings, fabric and fiber technology, colors and prints.


Premiere Vision in New York is the “preview” version of Premiere Vision in Paris. It serves as a snapshot of the new trends, and vendors, who show at the Paris show. Indigo, which runs together and in the same building, is the print show and has 3 floors of print design houses which sell custom prints, embellishment and knit techniques for designers to purchase and utilize in their collections.

I attended the show on both days, January 14-15. The first day was spent with a client who attended the show for the first time, and it was a great learning experience for her. She found many fabric options and vendors from Turkey, Italy, Spain and Japan for the launch of her new company. The second day, I spent the day sourcing for clients who weren’t able to attend in person.

FGI Chicago Event: Robert Rodriguez at Neiman Marcus CUSP

Fashion Group International of Chicago hosted a special collection viewing and meet and greet with designer Robert Rodriguez with CUSP at Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue. The new store looks fantastic, and it was amazing to see Robert’s Spring 2014 collection on models. I attended with my colleague Nichole from The Apparel Agency. Robert was a pleasure to meet; he was very humble and a really nice guy.

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Fashion Focus Chicago 2012

Fashion Focus Chicago is always a fun week full of fashion shows and other industry events. Here’s a few photos from this week’s festivities:

10/19: Macy’s Chicago Fashion Incubator show with my colleagues from The Apparel Agency.

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10/20: Art of Fashion 2012 Show. Attended with my colleagues from The Apparel Agency. We worked on the patterns and dresses shown by designer Michael Alan Stein.

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10/21: Via Del Corso Masquerade Affair at FIAT of Chicago, attended with my friend Jessica. I was illustrated by the talented Rosemary Fanti.

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