UPDATE: As of January 2012, Buffalo Exchange has closed its Lakeview location.
1478 N. Milwaukee, (773)227-9558; 2875 N. Broadway, (773)549-1999, buffaloexchange.com
Goods: Men’s and women’s gently used clothing, shoes and accessories. Designers: Varying—Buffalo houses anything from Express and Banana to hipster labels American Apparel and Cheap Monday. Read the rest of this entry »
A year and a half ago, Sheri Roney opened up a business in Ukrainian Village. With “clean lines, fresh cuts and bright colors,” Roney’s clothing boutique, SoKo Fashion, was everything other stores weren’t—that was kind of the point. “We just did a lot of research [on] what customers experienced with bigger boutiques,” she says. Noting that many found shopping in such environments “intimidating,” Roney centered SoKo around customer service. Incorporating everything from the décor to the price—almost everything in the store is under $100—Roney created a shopping haven in the neighborhood that needed it most. Read the rest of this entry »
By C.J. Arellano
Choosing the perfect fashion education program to attend is not unlike choosing the perfect little black dress: It’s good if it makes you look great. It’s better if it makes you feel great. It’s best if it gets you places.
Unlike some other disciplines, budding fashion designers and professionals have their search for a solid school narrowed to where their dream industry is concentrated: New York, London, Paris and so forth. However, Chicago-based fashionistas (and fashionistos) shouldn’t be so quick to head to the Big Apple or Big Ben just yet. While the industry has yet to explode here in the Windy City with the same magnitude as the world’s other fashion capitals, it’s worth exploring the pros and cons of studying at Chicago’s major fashion institutes, namely Columbia College Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of the Chicago (SAIC), The International Academy of Design & Technology (IADT) and the Illinois Institute of Art.
“The nice thing about Chicago is that it’s a big city but still affordable,” says Chicago-based designer Nora del Busto. Studying at IADT was not only relatively kind to del Busto’s wallet, but also to her social growth. She compares her experience in Chicago to when she lived in Manhattan: “There is less attitude here in the Midwest. Even though my classes were competitive at IADT, nobody ever tried to sabotage anybody else—never any drama like what you see on shows like ‘Project Runway.’”
Chicago’s major fashion schools boast hands-on pedagogies as well as industry veterans as instructors. “Hands-on experience is key in fashion design, and the department definitely focuses on that,” fashion student Megan Stewart says of her current school, Columbia College Chicago. “Mostly all of us in the department are visual learners anyway. I can have someone tell me how to make a corset until my face turns blue, but unless I do it myself I will never really know how.”
Fellow student Alison Ritz points to Columbia’s experienced professors as another pro: “Everyone who teaches used to be in the industry or still is, so our teachers are not teaching us from a textbook; they are teaching us from experience, and I really think that’s a big benefit.” One would hope that most any fashion school will have professionals for professors, but Ritz points out an added bonus for Chicago apprenticeship: “In New York, there are a lot of large companies, but I work for a designer who does it all herself [Evil Kitty’s Lidia Wachowska], and I feel that I’m learning a lot about how to run your own business from her.”
Amber Jackson, a recent graduate from the Illinois Institute of Art, cites the intimate educational environment that Chicago can provide. “I think that in Chicago you get a lot of good thorough training that you might not get in a bigger place with more people,” Jackson says. “Each class had no more than eight students, most of whom you already knew.”
In comparing her Chicago education to when she studied in a larger fashion capital, Jackson addresses some drawbacks: “I studied in California for a little while, which is a big hub for the manufacturing side of fashion,” Jackson says. “And because I’m going into that area, I felt it was a great advantage to kind of be in the middle of it. In Chicago, we lack that type of experience simply because there isn’t much of an industry right now. It is growing, and we have a lot of really great designers, but it’s just not there yet.”
Chicago-based designer Lidia Wachowska, founder and head designer of clothing line Evil Kitty, expands upon the growing opportunities for Chicago fashion students: “With the creation of the Mayor’s Fashion Council, it has been a great step forward for all involved.” The Council, launched in 2006 by Mayor Daley, is made up of twenty fashion professionals who aim to find solutions for the challenges facing Chicago designers.
“The city created Fashion Focus [Chicago Fashion Week],” says Wachoska. “They also launched the Chicago Fashion Incubator, a year-long program that champions six emerging designers and helps them with their businesses.” Wachowska was one of the first six participants of the program.
It seems that fashion education in Chicago really is the little black dress. It’s dependable, affordable and versatile. So while you may opt for something more luxurious, eye-catching or popular, at least pause to consider what’s been right there in your closet—or your city—all along.
When the innovative clothing company Nau unexpectedly closed its doors last May as an early victim of the credit crisis gripping Wall Street, a discouraged sigh echoed through the eco-fashion community. Nau, a pioneer of the ecologically conscious clothing movement had been a touchstone and role model for responsible design and production. Based in Portland, Oregon, Nau made Chicago its first market outside the West Coast and had a retail “webfront” in Lincoln Park.
Shortly after the Nau collapse, its name and mission were resurrected under new ownership. One notable strategic change: the new Nau would be a web retailer, with bricks and mortar a future consideration, if at all. But a new Chicago eco-retailer, Connect, is bringing the entire Nau line back to this market, led by Nau’s former regional marketing manager Jonathon Shaun. “It was heartbreaking when Nau 1.0 closed shop,” Shaun says. “Here was this forward-thinking business bound and determined to revolutionize the sustainable apparel and retail industries with philanthropy at its core, and before it had a chance to really expand throughout public domain it was forced to wind down.”
Shaun leapt into action, calling on business partners Mitch and Nate Lindsay to help raise funds to revive the mission. With Nau as its anchor brand and many other socially responsible lines such as Chicago-based bag company Noon Solar and Wired Jewelry, Connect is poised to take philanthropic shopping in Chicago to new heights. The boutique-showroom also offers its own donation-based label, Connect Organics, which gives a portion of sales back to the community. As part of a commitment to reducing carbon footprints, the guys at Connect have developed a bicycle-courier program that delivers orders to your door via a professional cyclist. And the resolve to create change doesn’t end there. Connect plans to host conscious fundraising events for not-for-profits, and has a vast network of community partners including Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance, Recycling Services and Creative Pitch. (Kari Skaflen)
1741 W. Division, (773)697-9899, ledresschicago.com
Goods: Dresses, jackets and wardrobe essentials such as Spanx and double-sided tape.
Designers: ABS, Trina Turk, Milly, Shoshanna, Cynthia Steffe. Owners: Sisters-in-law Eva and Robyn Anderson opened Le Dress because they wanted to provide feminine fashionistas with a mecca for dress shopping. Vibe: As feminine as its namesake frock, this shop is covered in pink walls, chandeliers and dresses as far as the eye can see. Price Range: Inexpensive-Moderate. The Look: From red-carpet events to Sunday brunch, Le Dress allows you to flaunt your feminine wiles at almost any occasion. Looks run the gamut from classic pieces to off-the-runway trends. Shopper’s Perks: While accommodating a multitude of style palates, Le Dress also provides monetary variety. Dresses range from $40 to $500.
UPDATED OCTOBER 2009
1205 N. Milwaukee, (773)252-6994, espacecity.com
Goods: Men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and bags. Designers: True Religion, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Rock & Republic, Ben Sherman, Monarchy, Sinful, MEK Denim and Kidrobot. Owner: Neighboring City Sports took the reigns from original owner Drew Ee. Vibe: Sleek yet comfortable. The store is easy to navigate, with neatly organized racks and displays. Price Range: Moderate-Expensive. The Look: Sporty, urban and stylish. Fit for an impromptu party in a studio space followed by drinks and dancing at Ohm. Shopper’s Perks: Espace purchases only three-to-four of each item, so each purchase here feels like a real find. The wide array of price points accommodates everyone from financially challenged fashionistas to professional shoppers.
UPDATED OCTOBER 2009
1756 W. Division, (773)489-4848, dvoptical.com
Goods: Eyewear for men and women. Designers: In addition to offering the largest selection of Oliver Peoples and Paul Smith frames in the city, the store sells Alain Mikli, Face à Face, Lindberg, IC! Berlin, Salt, l.a. Eyeworks, Mykita, Orgreen and a new collection by Tom Davies. Owners: Chris Foreit and Brian Hofmeister opened the shop as an outpost of hard-to-find, high-style eyewear, and Dr. Ezra Atikune was brought on for optometric guidance. Vibe: The corner boutique has a sleek and minimalist feel, with local artists’ work hung on the walls. Glass cases showcase two-tone plastic and titanium frames in every color of the rainbow, leopard-print Jackie O. frames and barely there eyewear by Orgreen. Price Range: Expensive-Luxury. The Look: From contemporary, classy specs to futuristic statement pieces. Shopper’s Perks: It’s a one-stop shop. Go for a checkup at the doctor’s office in back and then select your new favorite accessory.
UPDATED OCTOBER 2009
1751 W. Division, (773)235-2680, shopbonnieandclydes.com
Goods: Men’s and women’s clothing, accessories jewelry and graphic art. Designers: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania, MB_999, Alexander McQueen Puma, Michel Berandi, Rick Owens, Injury, Adidas, Y-3 and Billy Kirk for accessories. Owner: Artist and former Columbia College student Stephen Naparstek began his shop to combine his two passions: art and fashion. Vibe: The store is inspired by the gallery-boutique hybrids of Miami and Paris and showcases cutting-edge clothing alongside pop surrealism art. Price Range: Moderate-Expensive. The Look: Edgy and eye-catching with punk-rock flair. Shopper’s Perks: Shoppers are treated to a variety of beverages while they shop.
UPDATED OCTOBER 2009