As famously stylish first lady Michelle Obama would likely attest, Chicago has a fashion sense all its own: cosmopolitan, decidedly American, and particularly keen on fashionable outerwear for the winter months. Chicago was at the forefront of the department store boom in the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century, and for generations well-accessorized women shopped at Marshall Field’s year-round for everything from shoes to hats. Today, department stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks still line the elegant streets of the Magnificent Mile shopping district, while small boutiques make Chicago’s fashion scene especially unique and vibrant.
Best Shopping Boutiques in Chicago
Magnificent Mile | North Michigan Avenue
No shopping expedition in Chicago would be complete without a lengthy visit to the famous 13-block section of North Michigan Avenue that stretches from the Chicago River up to East Oak Street. The Magnificent Mile includes all sorts of must-visit attractions, from historic hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants to performing arts venues and spectacular architecture. It’s also here that you’ll find fashion’s biggest international names, making this part of town Chicago’s luxury mecca. Check out the clothing and accessories in stores bearing the names of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, and other famous brands.
East Oak Street
The stretch of East Oak Street just west of Lake Shore Drive is dotted with luxury boutiques catering to just about every occasion and style. This is the place to search for the bridal gown of your dreams at Belle Vie Bridal Couture or Vera Wang. Nearby, Buccellati’s silk-upholstered interior and champagne for patrons make browsing investment-quality jewelry a sensual pleasure. And French fashion outposts Lanvin with its sleek accessories and Christian Louboutin with its legendary red-soled shoes represent equally irresistible additions to any tour of East Oak Street.
ikram | 15 East Huron Street
The decidedly unique shop known as ikram rose to fame in 2008, when Americans wanted to know who was dressing Michelle Obama in fresh, eye-catching ensembles by the likes of Thakoon, Tadashi Shoji, Duro Olowu, and Missoni. Ikram Goldman is the charismatic proprietess of this destination boutique on East Huron Street, and if you’ve never been here, you can’t miss it: the store is cherry red with big round windows and looks as though it was transplanted from an avant garde international design fair. The glamorous interior, illuminated by hand-blown glass lighting, features a cafe, gallery, and home goods shop on the second floor. Goldman is known for her uncanny ability to sniff out big talent before other people do, and her choices have made the careers of a number of rising stars. Her boutique stocks the creations of American, European, and Japanese designers who are revered by fashion folks in the know but might not be household names to the typical shopper, making every visit an education. Collections on display include shoes by Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, and Robert Clergerie and clothes by Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe, Azzedine Alaïa, Comme des Garçons, Proenza Schouler, and Jean Paul Gaultier. With each piece hand-picked by Goldman herself, you won’t find an A-to-Z encyclopedia of fashion labels here, but you will find sophistication, superb quality, and a point of view that will ensure your style is flattering as well as fashionable.
Robin Richman | 2108 North Damen Avenue
Robin Richman’s Bucktown boutique is a bit like a minimalist version of ikram: instead of red lacquer, here you’ll find a serene color palette and an array of clothing and accessories in neutral, subtle colors. And it makes sense: shortly after Richman graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in textiles, she launched her first venture, Robin Richman HandKnits, which was a line of highly textured accessories. At its height, her company employed nearly thirty knitters and her wares were sold at Neiman Marcus, Barneys Japan, and other upscale retailers. Her second act has been every bit as successful due to her shop’s fiercely loyal following, in part because some of the designers she carries are harder to find than the usual suspects. Richman has exclusive deals with Marc Le Bihan, Gary Graham, and Isaac Sellam and also carries Guidi shoes and Jean-François Mimilla’s bold, multi-tiered necklaces. She recently began carrying the creations of M.&Kyoko, a Japanese designer who creates dresses and tops in subtle plaids and stripes. Richman’s aesthetic is faintly New Romantics inspired, but artsy rather than frilly, and her collection of antiques makes the interior of her boutique an experience worth savoring as you browse.