Stylish, socially-responsible fashion is all the rage in Chicago thanks to these forward-thinking and fabulous local women.
Luxe lingerie: Chicago-made silk beach pajamas ($695) from Department of Curiosities, a new brand of nightwear by Production Mode designer Jamie Hayes.
The fashion industry has been under scrutiny for years, as consumers have questioned the ethicality of materials and manufacturing processes. But now, thanks to big names like Stella McCartney, sustainable style is no longer synonymous with ill-fitting pieces in granola-beige and moss-green. The movement is gaining momentum right here in Chicago, spearheaded by four local women who are changing the business—one ethical ensemble at a time.
It was a chance encounter that pushed designer Liz Williams into the outerwear business. Her line, Coat Check Chicago (Cinnamon Boutique, 2104 W. Roscoe St., 773-281-2466), was inspired by a coat attendant who admired Williams’s handmade, self-designed winter coat. “[We] embrace a slow-fashion approach,” Williams explains, “[focusing] on longevity and good design to address environmental impact.” That is, her Chicago-crafted pieces are made to last—unlike the disposable fast-fashion finds that take up wardrobe (and landfill) spaces across the country. Indeed, 85 percent of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills.
“The fashion industry is the second most-polluting industry in the world—second only to petroleum,” notes Candice Stewart Collison, who’s aiming to change that trend with Mod + Ethico (27 N. Morgan St.), her Fulton Market boutique, which boasts a modern, urban aesthetic and a decidedly sustainable philosophy. “We source American-made, handmade, and small-batch manufacturing,” Collison explains, “[plus] fair trade, charitable brands, and eco-friendly materials.” Equally frustrated with the fast-fashion movement, designer Jamie Hayes founded Production Mode (3013 W. Armitage Ave.) after working in the field of immigration and labor rights and volunteering as a campaign leader for Chicago Fair Trade.
West Loop clothing and lifestyle store Mod + Ethico curates modern pieces—like accessories from Modern Vice and The San Remo—made using socially responsible, sustainable practices.
“In all this work, I missed the artistry of fashion—the colors, textures, and cuts as they relate to the body,” she says. “Production Mode brings together the artistic, design, and activist elements of my career.” Think high-contrast pieces (“I like to play with opposites, with tensions,” Hayes says) made in small batches using local resources and vegetable-tanned leather—taking the high road without sacrificing high style.
Sararose Krenger of Sararose on Oak (67 E. Oak St., 773-654-3421) had the same stylish goal when she started her brand, Stix and Roses, in 2010. Now sold at Sararose on Oak, an expansion of her first studio space, the line uses only eco-friendly resources like bamboo, Tencel, organic cotton, and upcycled materials to create beautiful, body-flattering clothing. Krenger’s philosophy? “We don’t ever want to settle. We want the best for you, your body, your home, the environment, and our fellow citizens of planet Earth—and we want to look great while we’re at it.”