The Run Down

To West and North Siders, Hyde Park might seem a world away. If you’re at the mercy of the CTA, the trip can be slightly cumbersome. It’s a trek that never fails to prove its worth though. The neighborhood’s cultural influence has grown at an exponential rate in recent years—producing and attracting more and more artists, designers and restaurateurs along the way. For the fashion conscious or all you upcoming designers, we took advantage of a particularly sunny spring afternoon and visited three local boutiques in the Harper Court district who are putting Chicago and fashion on the map. But before we do that, we make a slight detour to a factory where some of these products are made. Here are the details.

1. Tour @ Dearborn Denim Factory
2. Shop @ Dearborn Denim Retail
3. Artist Space @ The Silver Room
4. More Shopping @ Sir & Madamme

1. Dearborn Denim Factory

Before we visit the boutiques in Hyde Park, we’re going to start at the beginning of the apparel supply chain with a visit to an apparel manufacturer. Our first stop takes us to an old industrial laundry in Homan Square on Chicago’s West side. In 2016, Dearborn Denim, a local jeans company committed to making its products here in Chicago, took over a part of this space to cut and sew their own brand of jeans. They offer tours once a month (usually the first Sunday of every month), and we’re paying them a visit. Here are some notes to get you going.

– You can find their tour schedule here.
– Tours are about 1 hour
– You’ll get insight into the entire manufacturing process from start to end
– Tour is led by the owners
– It’s free, they provide drinks, and you get a chance to try on jeans at the end

Getting here is no sweat. The factory is located right off I-290 and Homan Ave., and if you have a car, it’s a quick 10 minute drive from Downtown Chicago. It’s also easy to reach via the CTA Blue Line. The factory is a 5 min walk from the Kedzie-Homan blue line stop. Walk up to this front entrance to get buzzed in. 

While Dearborn Denim has only been around since 2016, they are growing fast and are continually expanding their production facility. By the time you get around to visiting this, they’ll have probably knocked down a few walls and added to their production space.

There are three parts to the tour. They’ll first take you through the cutting phase. This is first part of the jeans making process where they unroll these huge rolls of denim and cut them into the individual components — the legs, pockets, etc. The denim is cut by hand using a giant electric saw. This is no easy feat. There’s a lot of math and technique used to make sure the fabric is cut as efficiently as possible. For an upstart jeans maker, efficiency is the name of the game.

The second part takes you to the sewing room floor where the jeans are constructed. There are rows of sewing machines dedicated to a different part of the manufacturing process.

Once they are constructed, the jeans are taken to the back to be washed, pressed, and then prepped for shipment.

The end of the tour leaves us in the back room with their finished products. They have stacks of jeans ready that you can try on yourself. If the fit is right, they’ll custom hem the jeans to the correct length and get you on your way. Not a bad way to shop if you ask us.

2. Dearborn Denim Retail Store

We’re on to the next stage of the apparel supply chain. So not only are Dearborn Denim jeans designed and made in Chicago, they’re popular enough to warrant an entire storefront. Head down to the HarperCourt district to see the retail side of Dearborn Denim. Like the jeans in the factory, all jeans in the store are unhemmed or, rather, custom hemmed. Once you find the pair that hugs your hips best, the store clerks will take measurements and sew the hem in on the spot. Dig through the store’s utterly random and fun selection of pins, patches and stickers while you wait.

3. The Silver Room

Next up on our fashion tour is a spin through The Silver Room next door. This spot was an early adopter of Hyde Park’s sense of fashion. Cases of gorgeous, handmade jewelry line body of the store where you’ll also find clothes, accessories, candles, soaps, gifts—basically whatever you need to treat yourself.

It might sound cheesy to describe The Silver Room as “more than a storefront,” but that’s what it’s become to the neighborhood since moving to 53rd Street from Wicker Park in 2015. Owner Eric Williams brought his popular Grown Folks Stories (a monthly, open format, adult content storytelling series) with him along with other events that the store hosts including dance lessons and DJ sets. The Silver Room’s “gallery space” towards the back of the shop also regularly features work from local and non-local artists. If you’re prone to FOMO, it would be smart to give the calendar a check before your visit.

4. Sir & Madame

Sir & Madame is the last stop to round out our day and our new outfit. Another Wicker Park area transplant, the husband and wife duo that owns this boutique moved it to their home neighborhood of Hyde Park several years ago where it’s continued to thrive.

Sir & Madame’s line proves that sometimes casual can be the most fashionable from simple screen print tees to intricately stitched jackets. It’s small, but the racks here are stocked with both men’s and women’s tops, bottoms, footwear and accessories.

This is the place to go when you’re updating your wardrobe and want to give yourself a decidedly unique style that you’re not going to get at any of the national chain retailers. Sir & Madame and all the other retailers we visited are the epitome of local style and fashion.

It also feels good to know that when when you spend your dollars here, the money stays in the community and gets circulated around. It’s a win-win all around.