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Sister Act

Entrepreneurs Monika and Erika Simmons hook up Chicagoans with their funky crocheted apparel line.

Photo: Jeff Sciortino

Double vision: Erika Simmons (left) and her twin, Monika.
Monika and Erika Simmons are used to people staring at them. Lithe and lovely identical twins will always turn heads, but these days, the 32-year-old South Siders are drawing attention for their two-and-a-half-year-old line of colorfully dramatic crocheted clothing that they create under their label, Double Stitch. Their fashion career began as a side project to their work as commercial models-Erika’s silhouette is currently gracing the sides of CTA trains all over the city in iPod ads-but lately it has begun to take over their lives and living space as an increasing number of women clamor for their supple and shapely tunics, dresses, and shrugs. “Women wearing our clothes become the main event,” says Monika, laughing. “You’d better not wear Double Stitch unless you want to be noticed.”

 

The Simmons sisters first learned to crochet from Mrs. Pugh, their fourth-grade after-school teacher at John P. Altgeld Elementary School in West Englewood. They kept up the hobby through high school, often embellishing thrift store finds. After college, the sisters moved in together, began modeling, and started a hairstyling business, twisting and braiding for neighborhood folks. The fashion bug bit when friends and hair customers began asking the twins about their unique crocheted clothing, which they were still making for themselves. After a stint holding popular in-home sales, the Simmonses in 2003 launched a retail Web site and a business was born.

At the monthly Indie Designer Fashion Market, just follow the noise and laughter to find Monika, Erika, and a dozen or so of their newest friends lined up three deep at their booth, excitedly pulling on bright wraps and flattering A-line dresses. Although its work is carried at the tony Gold Coast boutique Mira Couture, Double Stitch prides itself on the personal touch: the sisters encourage new clients to visit them at home for custom fittings. Des-pite the iPod gig and their hip, energetic looks, the twins are decidedly low-tech. “Our friends have offered to buy us a cell phone, and we still have a VHS recorder,” Erika says. “The earthy thing is not an act for us.”

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