Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
The latest additions to the rampantly changing Hyde Park are three pop-up shops adding much-needed girth to the emerging fashion community. Joining Akira, which opened a permanent shop in the South-Side neighborhood last year, are the pop-up shops Independence, Comfort Me, and Sir & Madame. All three boutiques have brick-and-mortar locations in other parts of the city: Comfort Me in Lincoln Park, Sir & Madame in Ukrainian Village, and Independence in Near North.
So far, all managers and store owners have echoed each other's observations that, though still very early on, their Hyde Park clientele has been a true reflection of the neighborhood. A mix of non-university-affiliated residents, students, and tourists have been browsing the racks.
Though he additions to the neighborhood were solicited by the University of Chicago, the pop-ups' early successes have hinged on the turnout of the larger community. Alyssa Thomas of Comfort Me notes: "So far, we've found that most of our clientele are people that live in Hyde Park, not as many students or tourists," while Autumn Merritt of Sir & Madame notes that her store, co-owned with husband Brian Merritt, receives a good amount of patronage from student— but they are students from Kenwood Academy and the University of Chicago Lab School.
The three stores are united in their unique merchandise, more reserved and versatile than the trendy Akira. Independence features muted, classic menswear such as brown loafers and striped pullovers, but the inventory is still fresh and appealing to a wide age range. Comfort Me prides itself on being "the true meaning of retail therapy," and features conservative-yet-youthful dresses, tops, jewelry, and bottoms. Sir & Madame stands apart from its peers with its gold lamé pantsuits and button-down tops with colored buttons. Though the most youthful of the three new shops, Merritt notes "You won't find body-con dresses in the store because we want our clothing to be easily definable instead of defining our customers."
Merritt expounds on the sense of community evident in Hyde Park, noting that since she and husband Brian grew up in the neighborhood, they can't go a day without having someone recognize them and stop to chat.
All three storeowners express interest in setting up shop permanently in the neighborhood, but as Thomas explains, "we would like to set up shop permanently, but we have no set plans to do so yet. It still depends on the amount of support we get from the neighborhood in the next couple of months." Merritt adds, "we are beginning talks of setting up permanently, but until anything is certain we invite people to continue shopping." —Amanya Maloba