Maria Pinto
135 N. Jefferson St.

When designing her new West Loop boutique, Maria Pinto says she was going for "opulent minimalism"—a phrase that could very well describe her entire aesthetic. She converted the former deli adjacent to Sepia into a retail shop—her first—and adorned it with dark bamboo floors, Bisazza mosaic tiles, and sleek lace-patterned walls. The clothing reflects the same stylishly spare approach. Pinto, who has been designing for the local socialite set ­­­since 1991, is known for impeccable tailoring, flattering cuts, and sumptuous, textural fabrics; the effect is confident, glamorous, and unfussy. "I try to be respectful of a woman’s body," says the designer, who will tailor any of her ready-to-wear items for a client because, as she says, "no two size 8s are the same."


Price range: $325 for slim-cut sweaters (not designed by Pinto) up to $5,000 for an evening gown

Celebrity Clientele: Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey

Accessories: Ties created by Pinto; belts, jewelry, and knitwear from other designers

Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Parking: Sepia valet parking, or the $13 lot across the street

Best known for her eveningwear, Pinto, 51, finally gets the opportunity to showcase the full breadth of her designs: "It’s evening, it’s casualwear, it’s work wear, it’s scarves," says the graduate of Palatine High School and the School of the Art Institute. "This store is an opportunity for people to see the whole brand in context." Her fall collection, for example, was inspired by the sculptor Richard Serra and Ethiopian tribal dress and blends sculptural textures with elements such as feathers, raw chiffon, ruffles, and sequins.

On the casual side, find a bouclé crop jacket ($1,430), wide-leg trousers ($540), and a tailored V-neck dress with pockets ($1,110). For evening, expect to see classics that integrate surprise details, such as a demure black dress with an open back covered in intricate lace ($2,100) and a tank dress with leather edging ($1,455). Her wraps—a signature—also stand out. A simple black pleated scarf ($780) pairs well with trousers and gowns. "My client is a free-spirited person who has a sense of her own style and doesn’t need to be dictated to," says Pinto. "They tell me that when they wear my clothes, they feel different. They feel confident." 

Photography: Kendall Karmanian