As streetwear blows up in Chicago and beyond, Windy City tastemaker Isimeme “Easy” Otabor helps push the movement forward at RSVP Gallery.
Photo via Instagram
Streetwear is having a global moment, and few places top Wicker Park institution RSVP Gallery. One of its most prominent flag-bearers: Hazel Crest native Isimeme “Easy” Otabor, who first cut his teeth doing sales for the Damen Avenue retailer (which just opened a second location in Los Angeles) before assuming his present role as consultant, spreading the RSVP gospel by helping facilitate collaborations—like the store’s recent AF-100 Gallery pop-up celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Nike Air Force 1—and imparting tastemaker sensibilities where needed.
“We’re always just trying to lead and not follow; we’re trying to be ahead of the curve,” explains Otabor, who served as the store’s buyer from 2013 to 2017.
That requires, it seems, not only being a man-about-town—Otabor is a fixture on the city’s see-and-be-seen circuit— but a student of the world: Just scroll through his 80K-plus Instagram feed, where you’ll catch him mugging with Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo in Florence or Paris Fashion Week-hopping with Off-White auteur Virgil Abloh.
One frequent pose: Otabor, back to the camera, staring down works of art at various museums (think Takashi Murakami at The Broad or Barbara Kruger at the Whitney). It’s insatiable cultural consumption reminiscent of Otabor’s side project, Infinite Archives, a limited-run line whose garments frequently take creative cues from the past (one recent tee, most prominently worn by upstart rapper Playboi Carti, showcases an old snapshot of Spike Lee rubbing elbows with Fab 5 Freddy, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol).
“You can’t proceed with your future until you know your past,” explains the 31-year-old River North resident. “I don’t want anyone to forget what’s come before them.” In the growing annals of Chicago style lore, Otabor is carving out a memorable notch for himself.