About the CFI
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. Thus 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 Driehaus Fashion Entrepreneur Center. 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 and HP 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.
Andrea Schwartz — 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 supported 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 Creative Director of 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.