A Non-Agency’s Brand Closet Showroom Social Chicago Escape: Immersive Hospitality Retail Experience Where Consumers Discovered, Socialized & Shopped Emerging Brands, Art

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Keynote Event ‘Champions of Success’ Panel Discussion Brought Together Fashion, Art and Retail Leaders for a Frank Discussion about the State of Chicago’s Fashion Industry and Creative Talent Exodus. The Panel Comprised of Fashion Industry Heavyweights Met for a Rare Opportunity to Discuss Chicago’s State of the Industry.

Champions of Success Panel Discussion

There are real issues standing in the way of artistry in a city where the communities are often united by their creativity and artistry... but I believe that the ‘Champions of Success’ discussion provoked the kinds of conversation that is needed to transform the industry here.

A Non-Agency (“A/N\A”) and CEO and President Michelle Collins recently sponsored and hosted a trailblazing panel discussion at Volume 39, Chicago Kimpton Gray Hotel’s cocktail lounge, which shed light on the challenges the city’s fashion designers face and the changes needed to overcome some of them to prevent the continued exodus of great talent to other cities.

The ‘Champions of Success’ panel discussion served as the keynote social event at the Chicago Escape Brand Closet Showroom Social where fashion, art, and retail industry executives and thought leaders, as well as emerging designers and artists, explored issues pertaining to the survival and transformation of Chicago’s fashion industry. It was the first visit to Chicago by the new President of CFDA, CaSandra Diggs and a rare opportunity for local Chicago artists, designers and entrepreneurs to share their concerns and needs with such industry leadership. The provocative panel discussion was conceived, sponsored and hosted by Collins.

‘Champions of Success’ Shed Light on What’s Holding Chicago Fashion Designers Back

Collins, who conceived and created the Brand Closet Showroom Social hospitality retail platform in 2020, said, “It was important to have an honest discussion about the state of Chicago’s fashion industry and emerging brands, as well as address some uncomfortable issues that are holding the industry back, such as lack of city funding to support emerging designers who are not considered artists and Chicago’s segregated environment that limits the visibility of designers among potential customers.

"Chicago is home to some incredible talent who have changed industries with their accomplishments. Virgil Abloh and Law Roach both have Chicago roots and both left. They are just two examples of current culturally relevant fashion icons who have demonstrated that fashion is a true form of art beyond traditionally-funded public art. There are real issues standing in the way of artistry in a city where the communities are often united by their creativity and artistry, Chicago just operates differently than New York or L.A., but I believe that the ‘Champions of Success’ discussion provoked the kinds of conversation that is needed to transform the industry here,” Collins added.

The panel discussion which featured of several industry heavy-weights included:

CaSandra Diggs, President of The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA)

Elliot Carlyle, Consulting Director of CFDA Connects, a CFDA initiative launched in 2021 that recognizes, promotes, and provides business development support to select Regional Fashion Organizations (RFOs), their Fashion Weeks and the Designers based within key US markets

Delvin McCray, a Chicago-based luxury fashion designer and former “Project Runway” contestant (season 18)

Dionne Williams, Creator of Emerge! Fashion Runway Show NYFW, a Chicagoan and President of D. Williams Public Relations Group

Designer Afriye Poku of Oberima Afriyie

‘Champions of Success’ also featured a live performance by The Chicago Bucket Boys and the Street Dreams Suite, a space Collins and her team conceived and designed that fused art, design, fashion and music for a fully-immersive experience for the community to explore at the Hotel’s street level.

Chicago Escape is ANA’s Latest Brand Closet

Chicago Escape, which was held November 18-21, 2022, is the brainchild of Collins who also curates, directs the creative and leads its execution and has sponsored the experience in several cities. While the format changes depending on the location, its overarching goal is to redefine retail by creating a hospitality-inspired environment that invites guests to relax, discover, and shop, while cultivating spaces and experiences intended to unify communities, travelers, and artisans through the experience.

“By creating a unique social events program and showroom space where hotel guests and members of the community can relax, discover artistry and designers, enjoy personal shopping, sample food, wine and spirits, socialize, and support local community organizations, the Brand Closet Showroom Social is both an artist, designer and culinary showroom and a destination experience,” explained Collins.

Chicago Escape was the third Brand Closet. Palm Springs Escape earlier in 2022 and Miami Escape in 2021 broke new ground in terms of retail conversion rates for participating brands. For example, more than 63% of guests made a purchase at the first-ever Brand Closet Showroom Social in Miami last year; this is in stark contrast to established industry conversion rates such as 7% or 8% in a traditional retail setting, 2% for online shopping, and 28% for high-performing pop-ups.

According to Kathryn Jourav, creator & CEO of BeBody Life, which participated in the Palm Springs Brand Closet, “Retail and wellness is a very crowded space. As an emerging brand, the Brand Closet Showroom Social in Palm Springs supported our business goals by offering exposure to press, client acquisition and content. While there, our sales in this space and the units purchased per client were 60% higher than our online sales. In addition, the guests that visited with us purchased multiple items from among the wellness brands we offer and helped us cultivate new client relationships.”

According to Philippe Soussand, a former executive at LVMH and founder & president of Soussand Associates, a global marketing strategy consultancy, “Today’s discerning consumers are more selective about how and where they spend their time and money. They are seeking a highly-personalized experience that allows them to socialize, as well as explore and shop new products or established luxury brands or even works of art in inspiring and immersive settings. The Brand Closet Showroom Social is a bellwether for the future of high-end retail and hospitality.”

About Michelle Collins and A Non-Agency®

Michelle Collins is CEO & President of A Non-Agency®, a consumer experience marketing design consultancy based in New York. The firm was ranked #413 on the Inc. 5000 for 2020, and in 2022, among Inc. magazine’s Top 100 on its Regionals List for the Northeast. The firm maintains a small, highly-specialized and meticulously-selected team of Directors of Creative, Strategy, Experience Design, Fabrication and Technology to ideate and produce the next evolution of installations that are changing the way consumers experience and buy brands. Luxury and other global brands, including Richemont N. America, Van Cleef & Arpels, Kate Spade, Google Play, and Delta Airlines have tapped A Non-Agency to develop and deploy their first experiential marketing strategies and installations

Collins, an experiential marketer with numerous ground-breaking and award-winning concepts, has been recognized as a finalist in the “Idea Guru” category of the 1st Annual “Top Women in Marketing Awards,” sponsored by Event Marketer/Chief Marketer, for her development of the Brand Closet Showroom Social platform and is a member of the Forbes Business Council.
Editor’s Note:
A link to additional photos is found here. Dropbox - CHI-Media-Selects - Simplify your life
A link to the Chicago Escape Video can be found here: https://vimeo.com/780958049

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Michelle Collins

Nina Dietrich