// CHICAGO BLUES

THANKS TO A TRIO OF WINDY CITY LA­BELS, CHICAGO’S DENIM SCENE IS HAV­ING A REAL MO­MENT.

Michigan Avenue - - CONTENTS - BY MURAT OZTASKIN

Thanks to a trio of Windy City la­bels, Chicago’s denim scene is hav­ing a real mo­ment.

With our his­tory as a city of work­ers, Chicagoans have had a long affin­ity with the con­sum­mate work­wear: blue jeans.

Now, three Windy City brands are reestab­lish­ing denim as a lo­cal sta­ple, pro­duc­ing na­tive pieces for the city’s mod­ern work­force—and reen­er­giz­ing Chicago’s man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try while they’re at it.

Back in 1926, 25 per­cent of all ap­parel sold in the US was made in Chicago, notes Rob Mcmil­lan, 33, who last year es­tab­lished Dear­born Denim & Ap­parel in a for­mer in­dus­trial laun­dry in Garfield Park. There, Dear­born’s 17 em­ploy­ees knock out some 110 pairs of hand­crafted stretch jeans a day us­ing 100-per­cent do­mes­tic ma­te­ri­als ($59–$64), with slim, tai­lored, and re­laxed fits for men and skinny and straight-leg for women. Dark and light blue, black, and khaki washes are joined this fall by shorts, a jean jacket, and more women’s fits. Man­u­fac­tur­ing its own cloth­ing and sell­ing di­rectly to cus­tomers—via Dear­born’s web­site (dear­born­denim.us) and new Hyde Park store­front (1504 E. 53rd St., 872-465-3188), which opened in May—makes pre­mium denim af­ford­able, says Mcmil­lan, a North Side na­tive who, frus­trated with the denim op­tions avail­able to him, left his ca­reer as a bond trader to “build a bet­ter ap­parel brand.” “We’re

try­ing to be as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble,” he says.

An­other lo­cal denim player is two-year-old Mugsy Jeans, which like Dear­born was born from its founder, Leo Tro­peano, not be­ing able to “find any­thing I liked that was stylish and com­fort­able.” With the in­tro­duc­tion of its sig­na­ture FLX denim—a warp-, shrink-, and wrin­kle-re­sis­tant blend of cot­ton, rayon, and polyester—late last year, Mugsy, which de­signs only men’s jeans ($98), came into its own, says Tro­peano. Sum­mer ex­pan­sions like shorts and a new ath­letic fit are bol­stered this fall with more new colors, in­clud­ing neu­tral gray, tawny port, and ink black. An e-com­merce re­tailer, Mugsy put down firm Chicago roots in May with the open­ing of its first by-ap­point­ment brick-and-mor­tar lo­ca­tion (1118 W. Ful­ton Mkt., Ste. 200; mugsy­jeans.com). “Al­though it would have been eas­ier [to do it else­where], start­ing here was a very im­por­tant as­pect,” says Tro­peano, 29, a for­mer in­ter­na­tional tax con­sul­tant with Price­wa­ter­house­c­oop­ers who moved from New York to Chicago, his wife’s home­town, five years ago. “We’re all in on Chicago.”

Home­town high fash­ion is even get­ting in on the lo­cal denim craze, with Chicago na­tive Maria Pinto

(833 W. Wash­ing­ton Blvd., 888-8682057; m2057.com) tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach: While her new M2057 cap­sule col­lec­tion ($295–$495) in­cludes both skinny and high-waist/ wide-leg jeans, it also fea­tures denim tops, dresses, skirts, wraps, and (new for fall) a jacket. Named for iconic 20th-cen­tury women—think Katharine Hep­burn, Lau­ren Ba­call, and Meryl Streep—the col­lec­tion is made us­ing an ul­tra­fine Ital­ian cot­ton (tightly wo­ven with a touch of elas­tic) and pro­duced in Chicago and New York. “These pieces are a blank can­vas, so they can go very ca­sual but also be re­ally el­e­vated,” says Pinto, who has de­signed cloth­ing for the likes of Oprah Win­frey and Michelle Obama. “Be­ing an Amer­i­can de­signer, and look­ing at Amer­i­can women… We wear a lot of denim. It helps ground things,” she adds. A main­stay for all, born in Chicago.

Chicago de­signer Maria Pinto is among sev­eral lo­cal fash­ion fig­ures em­brac­ing denim for fall, with looks like this Du­n­away denim dress, $325, Hut­ton skinny jean, $295, and Streep denim wrap, $295.

ơƞƫƞ ƚƧƝ ƫƣơơƭ: Lo­cally made blue jean line Dear­born Denim has opened its first brick-and­mor­tar store in Hyde Park.

Mugsy Jeans Founder Leo Tro­peano wears the slim fit “squid ink” wash, avail­able in the la­bel’s new Ful­ton Mar­ket lounge (ƛƞƥƨư .

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