On the Legendary Chicago Boutique Ultimo: Ikram’s Ancestor

Where did Ikram Goldman, the most important figure in Chicago fashion, get her start? At Ultimo, the elite boutique run by her mentor, Joan Weinstein.

Ikram Goldman Joan Weinstein

Recently I got sort of interested in fashion—I say “sort of” because I still don’t own anything that I paid more than $100 for, including my suit, but I have been reading up on it. Maybe it’s because I read Dana Thomas’s Deluxe and learned about how the evolution of the fashion industry parallels the evolution of the American economy in the past three decades. Or maybe it’s because I got an iPad, which has neat fashion apps like Gilt and Valet. Or maybe it’s just because I recently started working at a magazine with an emphasis on fashion.

This month Chicago has a profile of Ikram Goldman, who dresses Chicago’s A-list, including Michelle Obama. She’s in the news more than usual right now, thanks to a T magazine tour of her home, and rumors that she might go back to being the first lady’s stylist (via Heather Kenny).

As always I’m curious where people like that come from, and our profile has a bit on that, as does the 2006 piece Marcia Froelke Coburn wrote about Goldman:

After her mother died, Ikram started working as a waitress and a babysitter and then as a sales associate. Eventually she landed at Clown, a children’s clothing store on Oak Street, and it was then that she would see Joan Weinstein walking up and down the street, going between Ultimo and the Armani, Jil Sander, and Sonia Rykiel boutiques that Weinstein also oversaw. “I had never met her, but I just adored her,” says Goldman. “She had such presence. One day I decided that I wanted to work for her.”

In 1990, Ikram got her wish. She worked mainly in the women’s department and occasionally in the men’s section. There she perfected her style of dealing with privileged shoppers looking for high fashion. “I learned everything from Joan: relationships, creativity, styling,” she says. In 1995, she married Joshua Goldman, a lawyer and a photography collector. His parents, Jean and Steven, are well known in the art community. In 1999, they donated their collection of Renaissance drawings to the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the money to build the Jean and Steven Goldman Study Center there. Suddenly working was no longer a necessity for Ikram. “You know, shortly after we got married, I asked Josh what he envisioned as my life now,” says Goldman. “And he said, ‘Oh, you know, philanthropic work, charity work.’ And I said, ‘Boy, have you married the wrong girl.’”

It so happened that I’d been going through the Chicago archives, and came across a 1988 profile of Joan Weinstein, during the glory days of Ultimo (it closed last year; Weinstein died in 2009, a decade after she retired from the store), when it was dressing what was then Chicago’s glamorous set: David Mamet, Cindy Pritzker, Gene Siskel, John Malkovitch, and so on. It’s an interesting look into what elite Chicago fashion was back then.

Favorite line: “I don’t want to look like a page in Vogue. Well, I do want to look like a page in Vogue, but a new page, not one that’s been in already.”

 

Photographs: Anna Knott (left), Chicago Tribune (right)

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