The uncanny likenesses of stars such as Britney Spears, David Bowie, and Uma Thurman practically leap from Kris Cantu’s sewing machine and out of his Wicker Park studio, en route to influencers and celebrities around the world.

In August 2020, Cantu launched Knitwrth, a fashion label featuring striking odes to pop culture idols on sweaters (from $220), tank-and-skirt sets, and trench coats. The advertising-exec-turned-designer, who taught himself to sew on a Singer home sewing machine, says that while he is influenced by Japanese streetwear, his products — like knit depictions of Chance the Rapper and Michael Jordan — also pay homage to Chicago’s “melting pot of fashion influence.”

“I’m comfortable in the streets of Chicago — it’s like my studio for inspiration,” says Cantu, 30. “But Knitwrth speaks a universal language available to anyone.”

Until recently, Knitwrth was a tiny, two-man operation, with Cantu sewing each item on that same Singer and his brother overseeing imagery. But the brand’s success has allowed the duo to hire additional sewing help. Monthly drops are announced on their Instagram account (which has already amassed more than 25,000 followers) and typically sell out within 24 hours. Knitwrth gear has been spotted on celebrities including Lizzo, Gigi Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski.

“Our growth, up to now, has been completely organic,” Cantu says. “Our customers can’t go out wearing a Knitwrth piece without getting stopped on the street. It’s exciting to see that what we create gets people talking.”, @knitwrth