By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Taneasha Prunty's original designs, process and the incubator studio. (Photos courtesy of Taneasha Prunty)

Taneasha Prunty’s original designs, process and the incubator studio. (Photos courtesy of Taneasha Prunty)

Fashion designer Taneasha Prunty hesitated when she got the invitation to submit a sketch for New York Fashion Week’s annual Red Dress Collection fashion show.

She eventually talked herself out of applying. But then she continued to mull over the idea and realized she needed to take this unique chance to help women improve their health.

“I have a tendency to overthink a lot,” laughed Prunty, owner of South suburban Chicago-based fashion design house Gidi.

Prunty is one of three emerging fashion designers selected to participate in this year’s American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection show. The annual event helps kick off Fashion Week in New York and brings together designers, models and celebrities to support women’s heart health.

Prunty is hand-beading the top of the gown she’s designed for the show. She learned to sew from her mother and spent her college years designing and sewing clothes for her family and friends as she studied corporate finance in hopes of being a stock trader. But after college with sewing and design skills under her belt, she took a hard left toward fashion.

She applied to and was accepted at the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street, which was created in 2008 through a civic initiative created to provide resources to support the business of fashion design, building on Chicago’s manufacturing heritage and the city’s acclaimed design schools.

The incubator provides both space to emerging designers and mentors to help them create and sell their collections.

Taneasha Prunty of Chicago-based fashion boutique Gidi. (Photo courtesy of Taneasha Prunty)

Taneasha Prunty of Chicago-based fashion boutique Gidi. (Photo courtesy of Taneasha Prunty)

“We mentor designers to produce collections that are able to be manufactured as well as provide the tools to create a business,” said Andrea Schwartz, vice president of regional media relations at Macy’s. “Ultimately, we help designers create a collection they can sell.”

An alum of the incubator, Prunty credits it with her career.

“The incubator is what launched everything,” she said. “I work by myself and it’s a little lonely sometimes. But the incubator is a sorority/fraternity type of family. I visit all the time. It’s a home base and a place to network with a community of designers.”

The incubators are all not-for-profits and supported by the local fashion community — help from Macy’s for instance.

“We offer space,” said Schwartz. “We also leverage opportunities to showcase these talented designers and their work.”

The Red Dress Collection fashion show is that high-profile event.

This year Chicago’s incubator opened the application to incubator alums, such as Prunty. Both current designers in residence and alums were invited to submit an application. Over the years, 13 designers from incubators in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have crafted gowns for the show.

“What’s really exciting is that these emerging designers go through a rigorous application process, providing history of past work as well as submitting sketches to fashion show producers for the opportunity to work with their assigned celebrity to create a custom gown,” Schwartz said. “It’s a prestigious honor to be chosen and featured on the runway   These three chosen designers are able to work behind the scenes with their respective model, walk the red carpet with their model and see her walk down the runway.”

Prunty said she is thrilled and she’s putting final touches on her custom design to be ready for the runway.

“I’m so excited,” she said. Models for the Thursday evening event haven’t yet been disclosed.

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