Chicago fashionistas toast major style stars

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More than 200 members of Chicago’s best-dressed crowd joined forces last week as the Chicago chapter of Fashion Group International — the organization representing fashion industry professionals — gathered to honor the contributions of such major stylesetters as designer James Mischka and Neiman Marcus’ fashion guru Ken Downing. Speaking of Downing, as he accepted FGI’s “Stargazer” retail award as a “Fashion Oracle,” the witty style expert got one of the evening’s biggest rounds of applause when he shared his fashion philosophy with the crowd:

“I believe in pretty over peculiar. No woman wants to look weird!”

Chaired by Carrie Lannon, the Ritz Carlton Hotel gala also presented “Stargazer” awards for retail to Neiman Marcus (also accepted by Downing); for beauty to Cle de Peau Beaute (accepted by the firm’s Tomoko Yamagishi-Dressler), for jewelry to Ippolita (accepted by designer/founder Ippolita Rostagno); for interiors to Nate Berkus (accepted by his public relations director Krista Blair) and for philanthropy to Nina Mariano.The FGI “Platinum Award” went to the Badgley Mischka couture firm.

James Mischka accepted the award on behalf of himself and partnerMark Badgley. Mischka shared a number of anecdotes about the soaring success of his fashion house. He revealed that Naomi Campbell was a “good luck symbol” for Badgley Mischka, since the supermodel’s first New York runway show job was working for his firm, “and she’s been with us ever since.”

A fun story involved the first time Badgley Mischka became involved in the infancy of the concept of designers providing gowns for stars at the Oscars. “It was back in 1996,” said Mischka. “It was for Winona Ryder. It was an ivory lace gown which we then had to dye a shade of peach, because Winona rightly realized white was too pale for her fair skin. … It also was too short for her, so on the flight from New York to Los Angeles we hung six cans of Campbell’s soup on the hem — and hung it in the first class cabin of the plane, to stretch it out.”

Needless to say the Fashion Group supporters loved that little insight into fashion history!

More importantly, the evening raised more than $25,000 to provide grants for fashion and design students via the Fashion Group of Chicago’s Educational Scholarship Fund.

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