Fashion for all

by Elise Diamantini

I never fully understood exactly how high-impact Akira’s bi-annual fashion show was until I witnessed the 10th Anniversary edition for myself. Jon Cotay and his Akira team sold 2,500 tickets, filling the 450,000 sq. ft. venue (Grossinger City Autoplex) with Chicago’s most fashion-forward crowd. Most impressive is that all of the proceeds benefited five charities: Project Ladybug, The Human Rights Campaign, Clara’s House, Imerman Anfels and Akira’s Fashion Scholarship fund.

Cotay’s mission has and always will be to make fashion in Chicago attainable for everyone. All of his (many) events are inclusive rather than exclusive. “Whenever I go to New York or any other city for an event there’s always an obstacle: you need to get invited or pay a high price to get in… We don’t want those things to be a deterring factor. Everyone who wants to come is welcome, as long as they’re over 16 years old or accompanied by an adult. The main point is that they feel like they’re a part of something.”

General admission tickets were $25, which granted entry to the fashion show and the pre-show (which featured food from local restaurants, non-alcoholic beverages, raffles, giveaways, etc.). Those who purchased VIP tickets for $125 had seating assignments, open bar from Reyka Vodka, Peroni and Mionetto Prosecco, and VIP access to the after-party and the after-after party.

Cotay is doing great things for the Chicago economy: employing people at his 18 stores and teaming up with local restaurants and businesses to take part in their events. “Everyone looks forward to seeing the latest fashions. We show (and sell) what people actually want to wear in Chicago. We style items currently available for our shows. Even some of our Akira stylists are surprised how you can wear certain pieces and put different looks together.”

This season’s show was hosted by Olivia Culpo, Miss USA 2012, and featured 36 men’s looks (77 total looks) from brands like DL1961, Diesel, Ben Sherman, Original Penguin, 7 Diamonds, Premium Lounge, Caterpillar, PF Flyers and Bed Stu. After the show guests were invited to keep the party going at the after-party hosted by Japonais and at the after-after party hosted by the Underground.