870 N. Orleans St. 312-751-9220
After June Blaker shuttered her store City in 2001, she briefly operated out of George Greene on Oak Street, then bowed out of the retail scene. We’re thankful she’s back, albeit with a different focus. For years, her shop was the only place to find Danish furniture and clothing from the likes of Comme des Garçons. The retail business has changed—exclusives are much harder to secure—so Blaker has, too. Now she’s bringing her impeccable eye for sleek up-and-coming designers to a new River North venture that showcases eclectic, high-style novelty items, such as graphite sculptures in the shape of body parts (hands are $65 each; feet are $58 for the pair), jewelry, and gifts.
Many of the items could double as works of art, so it’s fitting that they are displayed on light boxes in a gallery-like setting, as if they were art. Mounted butterflies and other insects ($125 to $1,500) straddle the line between art and science. The insects are gathered on private reserves where their numbers and habitat are protected and where even the broken wings aren’t wasted. Instead, artists press them into pendants ($25 to $45) and earrings ($40 to $75).
Other jewelry ranges from dramatic to sleek, starting with Blaker’s own chunky brooches. Don'’t miss being introduced to the German designer Brigitte Adolph, who works first in lace, before making a mold and casting her delicate pieces in silver and gold (rings are $495; a brooch is $800). A fixture on Chicago’s retail scene for the past 30 years, Blaker is known for importing such undiscovered talent from overseas. “Customers trust my taste,” she says—and with good reason. She was among the first to bring Philippe Starck to the United States in the 1980s.
Photography: Kendall Karmanian