Last fall, Jessa Brinkmeyer opened the doors of the city’s first—and only—eco-friendly clothing boutique. Eight months later, she’s still open for business, despite a crunchy philosophy and an easy-to-miss West Loop location tucked among restaurants and art galleries. “I didn’t want to pack myself in among other boutiques,” she says.
The challenge, says Brinkmeyer, 24, has been fighting the perception that eco-friendly clothing consists of hemp-sack shirts and hippie-dippy pullovers. And while the clothing is created from environmentally friendly materials such as soy fabrics, organic cotton, organic wool, hemp silk, and bamboo—all of which are comfortable and, yes, breathable—Brinkmeyer recognizes that the fashion has to stand on its own. “Once people come in here, they realize they don’t have to sacrifice style.” Another challenge has been the elevated price tag for one-of-a-kind items. “The labor and thought come with a higher price tag, but value comes with it,” she says.
One strategy that has paid off is her focus on classics, such as basic black pants that will remain closet worthy for years. Other sturdy standbys include bamboo tees and zip-ups, Stewart + Brown cashmere, and high-waisted organic jeans from del Forte ($193). And while shoppers have not embraced dressier options with gusto, Brinkmeyer will try again in spring. On the way are tulip skirts from the U.K. brand Ciel ($340), a six-pocket trench in organic cotton ($252) from Frei Designs, a scalloped clutch from Teich ($210), and a platform wedge sandal from the vegan shoemaker Beyond Skin ($212).
Brinkmeyer says she’s waiting for the day when Chicagoans adopt the full-green philosophy of, say, San Francisco. “It hasn’t fully permeated every aspect of people’s life,” she says. “One of the most powerful tools we have is our money-and what we choose to support with it.” Pivot, 1101 W. Fulton Market; 312-243-4754; pivotboutique.com.
Photography: Kendall Karmanian