Local designs hit the runway at Millennium Park

The work of 10 novice designers was on display last night at a Milliennium Park runway show and jewelry display designed to help launch the careers of new local fashion talent.

Gen Art hosted the fifth annual Fresh Faces in Fashion event as part of the city's "Fashion Focus," a five-day fashion celebration taking place throughout the week.

Chicago designers Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, Apparatchik, Biasline by Soo Choi, dIETERbENNET, Moire Conroy and Nora Marcella featured women's apparel on the runway, while Wrath Arcane showed menswear.

Hundreds of people, including local socialites and representatives of high-end stores attended the event, according to Chicago hairstylist A.J. Johnson, who pointed out various luminaries to a reporter.

As the title of the show suggests, none of the designers have worked in the industry for more than a few years. They are working their way through the industry on a variety of paths.

A couple of the designers work at Barney's, and some work through smaller boutiques, according to Amanda Nosal, director of Gen Art Chicago. Each showed their second collection last night.

Gen Art is a non-profit organization that provides support to new artists by finding sponsors. The show was sponsored by the makers of the BlackBerry Pearl and T-Mobile. 

"The event is designed to support emerging artists," said Nosal. "Everyone has a little bit of a different voice…it's really fresh. It's really exciting."

Dieter Kirkwood, of dIETERbENNET, seemed calm and collected backstage before the show. He and his partner, Bennett Cousins, met while they were both studying fashion at Columbia College.

After graduating in 2004, breaking into the fashion scene was "a bit laborious," he said. While he was working on the day-to-day manufacturing of garments, Cousins, who had worked in retail and merchandising was out finding boutiques to carry their designs. They launched their first line last spring at Jake on Rush Street.

"Gen Art called out of the blue," said Kirkwood, as he inspected a group of models getting ready to take to the runway wearing his designs.

Fresh Faces in Fashion helps build name recognition, said Nosal. All but one of the designers scheduled to present at the Macy's show Friday are people Gen Art has shown before, she said.

Many of the designers are optimistic that the show will get them noticed and propel their careers.

"Gen Art is a little bit more edgy," said Glaum-Lathbury. "They're open to new things. It will give me a really good platform."