“I‘m a Midwestern girl, and this is a way to go back Midwest,” says Youngstown, Ohio, native Nanette Lepore. “[Chicago is] as close as I can get to where I grew up where they will still understand the clothes.” Her first Midwest store (her fifth nationally) is more than a nod to her roots; when it opens in Bucktown in late October, it will be a barometer, Lepore says. “We have several warm-weather stores, and we can’t really gauge the collection, so I think this will be an important store for our fall line.”
By “understand the clothes,” Lepore is alluding to her rich fabrics, bold prints, and bohemian touches—think bell sleeves and gathered hemlines—that aren’t typically worn by the fashion meek. The fall line, she says, was inspired by Julian Schnabel’s bold revamp of the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan. “We started with textured fabrics and lush colors,” she says—romanticism that is reflected in a purple silk shift with funky sleeves ($305) and a tweed bubble coat ($495). The Chicago store also stocks her dramatic line of shoes; look for a lovely velvet peep-toe pump ($350).
Does the opening of yet another New York boutique signal the end of Damen Avenue’s indie spirit? For her part, Lepore hopes the answer is no. “We’re very excited about the area,” she says. “The neighborhood in London [near our store] has changed so much since we opened, and we don’t want to see that happen.”
Photography: Courtesy of Nanette Lepore