Fashion Show Producer

Meet Chicago’s top fashion show producer: Tracey Tarantino DiBuono

In City Feature, Fashion Featuresby Lauren McCaffrey

Meet Chicago’s top fashion show producer

From a young age, Tracey Tarantino DiBuono, now a renowned fashion show producer, established a strong presence in the fashion industry. Passionate about fashion and dance, she was able to hone her skills, producing shows for some of the top designers in the world. 

Chicago is actively expanding its fashion industry, comparing to some of the top fashion destinations around the country. DiBuono describes Chicago fashion as “edgy with a classy twist”. 

“I don’t think that Chicago is out to try to top New York fashion,” DiBuono said. “I think that we’re confident that we have our own fashion.” 

Prior to breaking into the fashion world, DiBuono was intrigued by music video production, as well as fashion and dance, she said. Her passion for fashion led her to work as a dance model, DiBuono said. 

After modeling for Carson Pirie Scott, she was asked to do fashion shows. With her background in choreography, she was able to pursue her passion for fashion by staging the runway, she said. 

Soon after she started working for Levi’s men’s fashion, traveling coast-to-coast producing fashion shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, Dibuono said. 

When Chanel came to Chicago, Dibuono was asked to produce their show, which was the original collection that came from the runway in Paris, she said. Additionally, she said, she worked with Yves Saint Laurent to produce a show. 

“But that is one end of the spectrum,” DiBuono said. “And in Chicago, the pendulum swings all the way to the other end, which goes into the student level, which takes me into the Driehaus Design Initiative fashion show, an award for fashion excellence. That is something that I’ve done for 15 years straight.” 

The Richard Driehaus Design Initiative (DDI) started in 2002 and has become an annual event that many people look forward to. The fashion show showcases the top student designers in Chicago. 

“It gives design students in the area a chance to participate in a professional fashion show at the end of their year,” DiBuono said. 

This show is very similar to Project Runway, except kids are given more freedom to design, she said. At the end of the year, DiBuono said, around 24 designers are chosen for the competition, giving students the opportunity to win awards and merits, opening doors for their future. 

“You meet with the designers individually,” DiBuono said. “And put it together in a lineup, fit models, rehearsals, edits, music edits, video edits, and we try to make each designer have their own creative moment in lighting, staging models and their clothing. It’s a story. Each designer gets their moment to tell their story.” 

All different types of people come for this fashion show. There’s those who love fashion and are always present at these shows, but there are also business people who are benefactors to the DDI attending. 

The benefactors help support the schools, as each school’s fashion department is given proceeds from the show that are used for the students, she said. DiBuono believes it gives them better opportunities and resources, so they can provide the best education available for fashion. 

Invitations were ready to launch when they had to make the decision to pause the fashion show because of COVID-19, DiBuono said. Because some students did not have the proper machinery and equipment to continue working on their designs from home, they came to the conclusion that it was not a fair playing field, and cancelled the event, said DiBuono. 

“There are several events that have had to be canceled for the year that will be put on the calendars again for next year and there are some philanthropic groups who are going to be initiating a very creative olive branch from a live runway show to a virtual fashion show, DiBuono said. “So I am now being asked to create virtual fashion shows.” 

DiBuono said it has been very challenging to organize a virtual fashion show, but it is a necessity to continue the philanthropy so charities can run their annual fundraising. She is thrilled to be able to continue even with the pandemic, in a way that promotes fashion and philanthropy in Chicago, she said. 

The new fall accessory is going to be a face mask, DiBuono said. During this time the prominent Chicago designers have shifted their focus to making masks, DiBuono said. 

The DDI fashion allows young designers to come together once a year to network and celebrate what they all have in common: the passion and ability to create fashion. 

“It’s a very exciting experience because these designers come from all different departments of fashion at their colleges and have different design values and inspiration for their collections, DiBuono said. “And this may be the one time in their life that they can design anything that they choose, because it’s not based on marketability or sales. It really is a very creative ingenue outlet.” 

Join Chicago’s Fashion Directory

To connect with Tracey or other fashion show producers in Chicago, sign up for a Fashion Mingle profile and gain access to our Chicago Fashion Directory.

About Lauren McCaffrey

Lauren is entering her junior year at Northwestern University. She plans to major in journalism and get The Segal Design Certificate. In addition to being a member of the Varsity Women’s Soccer team, she is a reporter for the Daily Northwestern.

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