Bear Down: What to Wear to the Football Game

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By Alexandra Delaney

Just below street level on the 3400 block of Broadway lies buried treasure. Well, it’s not exactly buried treasure so much as it is “bear”-ied treasure. Chitown Clothing, a pop-up shop located a short stack of steps below the sidewalk in what would be considered a garden apartment, offers a selection of Chicago Bears t-shirts for fans to sport at the game this Sunday. For fans wondering what to wear to the game—or how to show their spirit when they can’t cheer on their team at Solider Field this Sunday—ponder no more.

Chitown Clothing (3435 North Broadway) sells unique, creative t-shirts designed and sold by husband-and-wife team Kevin and Sara Kasarski. The company is a joint effort, drawing from Kevin’s background in fine arts and graphic design and Sara’s in writing and Internet marketing. Kevin’s father also owns a screen-printing company in Carpentersville. What started as a side venture set on the back burner behind the couple’s full-time jobs has become their full-time work in less than three years.  Read the rest of this entry »

Lords of the Ring: True Tales of Diamond Dealing on Jewelers Row

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By Elena Rodina

I know all the diamond dealers in person. Amar, an Indian with dark sad eyes whose secretary wears a bright sari and a flowery perfume. Israeli Amit, with his heavily gelled black hair, endless number of pink shirts, and insatiable energy to flirt. Each time we meet he blurts out all the Russian words he knows: “stopochka,” “zdravstvuite,” “svoloch” and “ochen khorosho,” smiling seductively. A Chinese lady, Mina, so small she is barely visible behind her littered table. Whenever I come over she is eating, her head hovering over a bowl of aromatic noodles. We all work in one tall building, a tower of Babel in downtown Chicago, filled with Israelis, Indians, Mexicans, Chinese, Russians, Poles, Bulgarians, Argentinians and Chileans, and so many more strange and unidentifiable characters from faraway places. English is used here less frequently than Chinese or Hindi, but we understand each other perfectly. We all do the same thing. We sell diamonds.

Everything Is Illuminated
“Once I almost committed suicide. I arranged everything: dying in a car crash, wife getting one-million-dollars worth of life insurance. But I screwed it up. Got too drunk and the cops got me for speeding. So I am still alive, don’t know what for, really… How can I help you?” John abruptly ends his tragic monologue and smiles with a fake, weary smile to the young couple awkwardly entering the store. Read the rest of this entry »

What to Wear to a Riot: This Is Not About White Collar Workers

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A customer I was bagging groceries for asked, “Are you guys wearing your aprons the week of the summit?”

Perhaps she’d read the Crain’s Chicago Business article entitled “What not to wear during the NATO summit,” in which Ryan Ori writes, “downtown workers may experience casual Friday and casual Monday,” because the goal is to blend into the protesting crowd and appear as neutral as possible. In fact, Ori writes that through this small change, corporate employees will “avoid being targeted by protesters during the meeting of world leaders May 20 and 21,”  so long as they “set aside suits, ties and anything with corporate logos.” Read the rest of this entry »

411: Why Half-Naked Men Roamed Chicago Trying to Get Your Suits

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Fourteen half-naked men roamed the streets of Chicago last week trying to take your suits. Men’s Wearhouse used the day of debt-ceiling talk specifically to highlight the problem of unemployment and promote its month-long National Suit Drive by sending out models cloaked only in boxers and armed with signs asking the public to “Give the Suit Off Your Back.” “Utilizing these visual tools is a lighthearted approach to bringing attention to such a serious issue, ” says Julie Town, director of corporate giving at Men’s Wearhouse. The suits provide a key element of beating unemployment: having something to wear to interviews. Although the suit drive happens at locations all over the U.S. throughout the month of August, only select cities hosted the promotional event. Read the rest of this entry »

Living Art: What’s a vegan to do about tattoo ink?

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A vegan tattoo by Brian Thomas Wilson from Scapegoat Tattoo

It’s no surprise that going vegan involves making sacrifices: in food, clothing, shoes—but what about body art?

Tattoo ink, none of which is approved by the FDA, is essentially a thinner acrylic paint made of glycerin, which is often derived from animal fat. Black ink in particular can be made with shellac, a resin secreted by a female lac bug, or carbon, often made with charred animal bone.

So, where can a good Chicago vegan get inked? A quick Google search for “vegan tattoo Chicago” brings up few results other than message boards asking the same question. One directs readers to Patrick Cornolo, who runs Speakeasy Custom Tattoo in Wicker Park.

But Cornolo stopped using vegan ink not too long after he first experimented with it five or six years ago. He still gets a few emails a month requesting it, but says he didn’t like the results he got with the set of vegan ink he tested.

“My only problem was the consistency; it’s a little bit thicker. My job is to put the stuff in efficiently and quickly so it heals properly,” he explains. The ink was thicker than he was used to, and thus had to be handled more slowly. “Since I’m not a vegan myself it wasn’t a big priority—I wasn’t going to compromise my technique.” Read the rest of this entry »

Time for a Makeover: In search of that old magic at Macy’s Water Tower Place

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By Brian Hieggelke

That I don’t regularly write about store renovations for the Chicago outlets of multibillion-dollar out-of-town corporations should come as little surprise, but this one is personal: back in the summer of 1980, I worked in the Marshall Field’s store at Water Tower Place, commuting each day by train from my home in Joliet.

Times are always heady when you’re eighteen, but those were special. The mating of disco and punk rock spawned new wave and hip-hop, fashion was becoming a mainstream obsession, thanks to the innovation of designer jeans—nothing came between Brooke Shields and her Calvins, and the mighty Vanderbilt fortune became synonymous with an embroidered little swan on denim—and the recent movie hit, “American Gigolo,” which made Giorgio Armani a household name. Water Tower Place was a fresh phenomenon, just five years old or so, half familiar—a shopping mall in that medium’s heyday—and half exotic—it was vertical, and located in the big city not the suburbs, with  over-the-top stores like Fiorucci that exuded exotic decadence. Suburban kids like me felt cool cruising its escalators and eating giant sandwiches at the Levy brothers’ D.B. Kaplan’s Delicatessen. A couple of years later, a teenage Andrew McCarthy would bang the MILF Jacqueline Bisset in its glass elevator in an iconic scene from the otherwise forgettable film “Class.” Somehow, the whole thing—the music, the culture, the fashion—seemed to come together at Water Tower Place. Especially if you were eighteen. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Fashion Cycle

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Mr. P.W. Farthing is the mustachioed face of ShyCog Co., an up-and-coming apparel company, and he wants you to ride your bike. As spring awakens, Chicago cyclists need a little motivation to tune up their wheels, dust off their helmet, and hit the streets. To these folks, Mr. Farthing has a message: “Live Fearless, Ride Serious.”

ShyCog Co. was “born out of inspiration of being a cyclist here in Chicago,” explains creator and designer Justin Siddons. A decade-long Chicagoan, much of Siddons’ adoration for the city stems from a passion for year-round urban cycling. Siddons says enthusiasm for the sport resulted in an “interest in the bike as a center image” of apparel design. ShyCog Co’s designs are “heavily influenced by the Industrial Age of Chicago,” Siddons says, taking inspiration from early 1900s cycling advertisements and historical photographs of the city.  Decals and cotton tee shirts can be purchased through the website, with free shipping as a grand-opening special. Siddons plans to expand the apparel line with additions such as cycling caps and button up shirts. (Tiana Olewnick)

Still in Style: On the eve of its big week, what’s the present and future state of Chicago fashion?

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By Nicole Briese

Monday marks the beginning of local fashion mavens’ favorite time of the year: Fashion Focus Chicago. While the Second City’s version of fashion week may not boast the allure of similarly dedicated weeks in New York, Paris or Milan, Chicago’s efforts to bring fashion to the forefront of the community have definitely become a highlight in recent years. Exciting shows from known and up-and-coming designers alike combined with shopping events and seminars designed to celebrate the industry have given us something to look forward to mid-October for the last five years running.

But changes wrought by the economy and even bigger uncertainty about the city’s future political lineup beg the question: what will become of Chicago’s fashion scene? With the demise of Gen Art in May, along with the city’s well-publicized economic woes, rumors started circulating that Fashion Focus Chicago might not even take place this year. After all, Gen Art sponsored one of the event’s most anticipated shows with Fresh Faces in Fashion Chicago; who would be there to take their place in the lineup? The rumor mill churned again when Chicago’s first and only director of Fashion Arts & Events, Melissa Gamble stepped down not long after. But the city’s fashion imperative has been a pet project of Mayor Daley, so when he surprised everyone by announcing that his current term, ending in 2011, would be his last, questions about the future came into stark relief. And what about the loss of some of the city’s most renowned names in retail and design? The doors to high-profile gems like Maria Pinto, Ultimo and Jake began to close as economic casualties in the last year, leaving in their wake the question: was Chicago’s nascent fashion industry fashion doomed before it could ever reach its full potential? Read the rest of this entry »

Fashion Focus Dates Announced

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The city issued a save-the-date right before the Labor Day weekend (and last than a week before the Mayor’s announcement that this would be his last FFC, among other things), announcing the dates, but no event details, for Fashion Focus Chicago 2010: October 18-24. Stay tuned for details.

Me and My Supermodel: The tale of Behati Prinsloo

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By Rhianna Jones

Tall, stunning, happy, confident, cool: these are the words one would use to describe Behati Prinsloo at first glance. This is not, however, the image most of us would project working off of four hours of sleep the day after your best-friend’s wedding in a château in France, but so goes the life of a model. As a newly inducted Victoria’s Secret Angel, Behati is at the Victoria’s Secret Michigan Avenue store this June day, debuting the new VS Pink MLB line. She is joined by fellow Angel Candice Swanepoel, Sox player Gordon Beckham and Cubs player Randy Wells.

A host of prepubescent boys, overgrown boys, Pink-obsessed girls and Chicago sports fans impatiently wait to get a two-second snapshot with the gang. Behati wears a glittery Sox tank, whereas Candice sports a Cubs shirt and pink bat. By now, the Sox have officially shut down the Cubs 10-5 in the first game of the Crosstown Classic. And as a daylong fair-weather fan, Prinsloo is beaming with pride for her team. To most of these fans here, Behati is just another staggeringly gorgeous Victoria’s Secret model. To me, she is so much more inspiring. Read the rest of this entry »