I’ve lived in Chicago since ’04. My relationship with the city has definitely been a love / hate one. To be fair, most of that hate isn’t really Chicago’s fault. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and like most native New Yorkers, I have a terrible habit of comparing every place I visit with the city of my birth – and Chicago is absolutely nothing like NYC. But, as I said, there’s been a good amount of love these last seven years too. And a lot of that is thanks to the independently owned businesses here. It’s not just that they offer great product / services, they’re also run by great people. Many of whom, I’m happy to call my friends.
I’ve decided to spend the next four weeks spotlighting some of these businesses. In keeping with the local theme, I’ve asked Chicago-based photographer, and all around stand-up guy, Nathan Micheal to handle the visuals. My goal here is twofold. Firstly, with the holidays coming up, I’d like to remind all Chicagoans to please, if you can, shop locally. Without your patronage, these businesses wouldn’t exist. Secondly, these posts are my way of saying thanks to the people and places featured for keeping this city fun. I couldn’t imagine living here without you. First up, clothing boutique Sir & Madame.
I don’t know how many times I walked past Sir & Madame before finally going in, but I do know the number is far too high. Located just a few blocks from my apartment in the primarily residential Ukrainian Village area, the shop’s storefront always stood out amidst the drab facades surrounding it. However, almost every time I passed, I was en route somewhere else, and thus never ventured inside. But then, I heard from several trusted sources that it was actually worth a look. So, one afternoon, with my girlfriend in tow, I paid a long overdue visit. Immediately upon walking through the door, I realized how foolish I had been to not have gone in sooner.
Opened in 2009 by husband and wife team Autumn and Brian Merritt, Sir & Madame proffers an eclectic mix of men’s and women’s goods from both well known and cult brands. Though the space is small, there’s an ample amount of product, which is handsomely displayed on a number of perfectly patina-ed salvaged furniture pieces. The store’s real show-stealer, however, is its in-house line. Designed by the couple, and produced entirely in Chicago, the garments offer a nice mix of Heritage and Streetwear styling. Or, as Autumn and Brian like to call it, “Urban Sophistication.” The pair were kind enough to take some time out to answer a few questions. Here’s what they had to say.
Well Spent: Are you from Chicago?
Autumn Merritt: Raised in Chicago, born in Buffalo, NY. A new job for my father brought the family to Chicago in ’86.
Brian Merritt: I was born in North Carolina, then moved to Virginia, then Chicago. My stepfather passed away so my mother wanted to be around more friends and family so we moved here. Best move my mom ever made outside of having me.
What neighborhood do you live in?
BM: I’m from Hyde Park on the South side, but right now we live in the West Loop.
AM: It’s the perfect mix of industrial, residential and commercial. The location is ideal and the dining options are pretty on point.
What’s the best part about owning a business in Chicago?
AM: Getting to know our clientele. We are blessed to interact with so many talented people that appreciate our approach to fashion. They really serve as our inspiration and keep our wheels turning.
What’s the worst?
AM: It can be hard to get people to support and highlight their local businesses.
Your thoughts on Chicago style…
AM: When represented properly, Chicago Style offers the perfect balance of comfort and cool. Outside of this, it can be too conservative and lazy at times.
BM: I think Chicago style is evolving. We don’t get a lot of the outside influence that most major cities get because we’re land locked. However, with the increase of fashion blogs / websites I think it’s coming into its own. Then you have to consider the extreme temperatures in Chicago. You have to dress for warmth in the winter and humidity in the summer. Not that the weather should be an excuse.
I’m visiting the city for the first time, and I’ve only got 24 hours. What should I do / where should I go?
BM: Of course Sir & Madame for clothing. There are some cool vintage shops to check out like US No. 1. If you come to Chicago your food options are endless so I would say Harold’s Chicken Shack for the best fried chicken on Earth. Make sure you get it with salt, pepper, mild, and hot sauce. For burgers, Kuma’s Corner is awesome. For something real special and different I’d check out The Girl & The Goat. If you have the opportunity to go to a Bears game I’d do that as well. The remodeling of Soldier field looks hideous from the outside but there isn’t a bad seat in the place. Also, a Sox vs. Cubs game is always a good chance to see the difference between Southsiders and Northsiders.
AM: Eats & Drinks: Harold’s Chicken, Habana Libre, Violet Hour, Gilt Bar. Shopping: Sir & Madame, Robin Richman, Deliciously Vintage, Jayson Home & Garden. Public Spaces: Travel on Lakeshore Drive, between 57th Street and McCormick Place, it’s so calming.
What’s at the top of your holiday wishlist?
AM: Sir & Madame Ilya Cape and iClutch, and Fendi Chameleon Pumps.
To view the complete Sir & Madame photo set, check out Nathan Michael’s Tumblr.