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Chicago Fashion Designers - More Chicago Fashion Designers - Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State St. 2009

Meet The Dynamic Designers
Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street

Six designers have been chosen for the second year of The Chicago Fashion Incubator (CFI) at Macy's on State Street.

The designers will be given the opportunity to learn from industry experts as well as mentors from Macy's & the broader fashion community.

Scroll down below to learn more about the six current Designers in Residence (DIR) working at Macy's on State Street.

Pictured above: Design by Anna Hovet; Image courtesy of Macy's

Chicago Fashion Incubator Back Story:

According to Macy's Media Relations Officer, Andrea Schwartz, the State St. store and the city have been promoting Chicago's burgeoning fashion industry since 2005, when they presented the first Fashion Focus Chicago event that highlighted both aspiring and established designers. The Incubator soon evolved from this event. Being a national department store operated locally, Macy's has the resources to share equipment and experts with Chicago designers.

Designers from the program's inaugural year are enjoying great success through their experience at the CFI, including partnerships with Toyota - Japan, showing their collections on the runway as part of Fashion Focus Chicago 2008, and gaining a clear vision of what they want to be as designers.

"The first class of designers in residence at the Chicago Fashion Incubator made significant strides in developing their talent and sharpening their business and marketing skills," said Mayor Richard M. Daley. "By partnering with a major retailer like Macy's, we're providing local designers with the foundation and knowledge they need to thrive in the fashion industry."

"The success of the inaugural designers has been a testament to the structure of the program," said Ralph Hughes, Vice President of Corporate Communications of Macy's. "When given the curriculum and opportunities, young designers are put in a position to thrive at a crucial stage in their careers."

Cynthia Ryba:

Cynthia Ryba, who began sewing and creating clothes at the age of 16, offers a unique alternative to everyday dressing. With great attention to detail, Ryba's expertise lies with using conventional materials in an unconventional way. Molding and shaping fabric in an organic fashion, her silhouettes are fluid and imaginative transcending the fleeting, temporal trends of the day.

Past professional experience includes work as an International Accessories Buyer for the major retailer Claire's Accessories (Japan based stores), an internship with Cynthia Rowley and work as a freelance milliner for musician Lenny Kravitz. In addition, she is a Fashion Group International award winner as well as a Richard Driehaus Annual Fashion Show participant and winner.

Ryba is a graduate of the International Academy of Design and Technology in Chicago, where she earned a degree in Fashion Design. She is currently working on a line of day to evening professional womenswear dresses - available in stores in the spring of 2010.

Pictured above: Cynthia Ryba

Jess Audey:

Jess Audey began her sewing career in Cleveland, OH at the age of 14 and spent most of high school sewing her own skirts and prom dresses. After moving to Chicago in 2001, Audey began to design and sell her own dresses to those interested in her luring style. Heavily influenced by her experience with tactile upholstery fabrics and custom orders, Audey strives to combine the perfect fabric and design for each of her garments.

Past professional experience includes work in the creative department at Chicago's custom handbag company, 1154 Lill Studio.

Audey studied fashion design at Columbia College Chicago. Focusing on fit and timeless silhouettes, she launched AUDEY, her own design studio that is committed to the classic tradition of cocktail dresses with an innovative touch.

See more of Jess's designs at

Pictured above: Jess Audey of AUDEY

Ashley Zygmunt:

Ashley Zygmunt, a Chicago native, began pursuing her interest in fashion at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, through the early college program and continuing at Purdue University in the Apparel Design and Technology program. In spring of 2007, she became the first student in the program to study abroad in Hong Kong at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Past professional experience includes design and production internships with Zac Posen and Peter Som, where she worked through two Mercedes Benz Fashion weeks. In addition, Zygmunt has freelanced for Li and Fung USA, in the Oxford collections division of the company, where she assisted with Norma Kamali for Wal-Mart, Just My Size, a plus sized label, and White Stag Fast Fashion, a high style mass marketed label.

Ashley graduated in May 2008 and is eager to elevate the fashion industry in her favorite city, Chicago.

Pictured above: Ashley Zygmunt

Catherine Furio:

Catherine Furio, a Chicago native, had a passion for creating and designing at a young age. Growing up, Furio spent her Saturdays working in her father's menswear store where she was surrounded by fabrics, patterns and garments. Her enjoyment working in retail and her interest in the visual arts drew her to pursue fashion as a career.

Furio received her bachelor's degree in apparel design from the Rhode Island School of Design in May 2008 and moved back to Chicago to pursue her career in fashion design.

Pictured above: Catherine Furio

Alonzo Jackson:

Alonzo Jackson or "Zoe," a Chicago south side native, is a fashion forward thinker with knowledge of high-end brands, both classic and contemporary. His understanding of the ever-changing trends in retail, manufacturing, colors and textiles, gives his design work ammunition. His apparent love for fashion and detail led him to explore his talent for fashion design and wardrobe styling, and transfer his own unique style into the brand.

Jackson established Fashion Geek Clothing nearly 5 years ago and has been working hard ever since to push his brand. Fashion Geek clothing is best recognized by the Duck Mascot and has been worn by award winning music stars such as Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Jermaine Dupree, Jagged Edge and most recently, in the XXL magazine on Young Jeezy. In addition, Fashion Geek Clothing has been featured in publications including Complex Magazine, Antenna and New City.

In 2008, Jackson was accepted into the SLATE show at the International Magic Fashion Tradeshow in Las Vegas where he exhibited Fashion Geek Clothing's 2008 Fall/Winter Collection for worldwide buyers.

Everything Jackson has learned about fashion design, production and manufacturing has been from pure fascination with the process. Jackson admires such designers as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

Pictured above: Alonzo Jackson of Fashion Greek Clothing

Nora Del Busto:

Nora Del Busto, a Michigan native with a passion for architecture, loves to design structured garments with precise detail and manipulating plain fabrics into extraordinary one-of-a-kind pieces.

Del Busto initially worked as a lawyer after receiving her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and her Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. After working as an attorney for a few years, Del Busto decided she wanted to spend less time in the courtroom and more time exploring her creative side.

Del Busto recently graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology and is currently working at Cintas as an apparel design assistant. When not working on a project, she can be found taking a break on the lakefront running path training for the next marathon.

Pictured above: Nora Del Busto

Chicago Fashion Incubator's Future:

"As with any new organization, we look forward to adding new programs and resources to the Incubator in the future that will benefit not only the designers-in-residence, but also the Chicago fashion community as a whole," said Melissa Gamble, Director of Fashion Arts & Events for the Chicago Office of Tourism.

The Incubator relies 100% on donations and grants for funding; the city feels fortunate to have such dedicated partners and sponsors such as Macy's, Fleishman Hillard, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center & Pepper Construction, who made this project a reality.

"We will continue to grow our public-private partnerships to expand the Incubator to include public seminars and a resource center that provides the latest trend, marketing and educational information to the design community," Gamble said.

For more information on these designers or the Macy's Chicago Fashion Incubator, please visit

February 2009

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  • Nora del Busto

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