Chicago Fashion Foundation Hosts 6th Annual Scholarship Benefit for SRO Crowd

The Chicago Fashion Foundation hosted its biggest and best annual scholarship benefit at the Hard Rock Hotel on March 21.  Fifteen finalists, all students at local fashion colleges, competed for scholarship prizes amounting to $7K in front of a sold-out, standing room only crowd.

I was thrilled to return as a judge for this sixth annual “Future of Chicago Fashion” event founded by Chicago’s own Lana Bramlette in the kitchen of her home.  She wanted to become a part of the fashion scene and promote our town’s rich pool of design talent so she gathered like minded friends together and created this wonderful organization that gives back to the community as well as giving a leg up to local design students.

Other judges included Andrea Schwartz (Macy’s VP of Media Relations & Cause Marketing);  Diego Rocha (handbag designer and Project Accessory contestant); Frances Renk (formerly Sequin Jewelry, consultant); Helen Berkun (Contributing editor Glossed & Found) and J.P. Anderson (editor, Michigan Avenue Magazine).

Before the fashion show began at 8:30, the students presented their designs for judging.  Each one had created jaw-dropping ensembles and it was difficult to decide who should take home the 1st place prize of $5000, 2nd place prize of $1000 and 3rd place of $500.  CFF Board members, Amanda Domaleczny and Beth Lambert were on hand to greet the attendees and introduce the show.

The designers were instructed to choose a time period as their inspiration.  Valerie Baker, (College of DuPage), chose the 1950’s as her inspiration.  Her clear plastic jacket was a wonderful contrast over a navy blue, jersey column gown.  Kenneth Beal was influenced by the 1750’s and created a red and white rococo ensemble that reminded me of Tom Cruise in the Vampire Lestat.  Amela Bego Harper was inspired by the 1960’s creating a hand-crocheted evening gown in yarn she bought in Paris.  Myra Chung’s influence was the 1860’s and she was inspired by “Gone with the Wind”.  Her white, ruffled and beaded cocktail dress could also be worn over cigarette pants as a tunic.  (She took 3rd place).   Columbia College’s Elly Dongoski was influenced by the Spanish armada and the conquistadors of the 1500’s.   Other designers included the Art Institute’s Kara Fenoglietto whose influence was the 1940’s.  Her crystal encrusted grey/blue top was a hit with the judges (winning 2nd place) along with the leather pant she designed to go with it.    Erin VonKannon from the Dominican University created a dramatic wire cage dress.  Other student designers included Lauren Jackson, Megan Knape, Martha (Cindy) Lopez, Rich Masciantonio, Amber Steven, Cecilia Tito and Hayley Zimet.

There was so much talent there our heads were spinning as was the SRO crowd who were on hand this night.  But, in the end, Agnes Hamerlik (Harper College) stole our hearts literally and figuratively with her “celebration of life” ensemble that incorporated almost too many painstakingly difficult details to even mention.  Her cut-out stitching on the cuffs alone took 15 hours to finish.  You could almost see the  hand-beaded heart on the front beating it was so lifelike.  Even the sequins, representing the blood flowing down the front, were hand-cut.  It was a design that could have easily been shown now on the runways of Paris and New York.  Remember her name since I know you will be hearing a lot more from her!  Agnes was the grand prize winner receiving the $5000 scholarship check named in honor of patron Doris Scott Behr.

Stay tuned for video coverage coming from my Telly Award winning “Candid Candace Chicago” show on!  And for extended coverage, please visit!

Congrats to ALL of these talented designers!  I think we’re going to need a lot more space next year for this much loved event honoring fashion in Chicago!  (For more info, please click here!)

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