A little while ago, Michael and I visited Sir & Madame, a boutique in Ukranian Village featuring fresh fashion and accessories reminiscent of Chicago style.
Owned by young couple Autumn and Brian, Sir & Madame can be described as a juxtaposition of sorts- the look of the store is old- antique dressers dot the walls and rich red drapes line the windows, yet the energy in the store is young. Sleek clothes in vibrant fabrics and edgy yet practical accessories are displayed throughout the room.
It’s a cold rainy day in Chicago the day Michael and I head to Sir & Madame, but the mood inside the store doesn’t reflect the somber weather outdoors at all. Kanye West plays through the store’s speakers, and we hang out with employees Najee (who doubles as a manager and fashion designer) and Zakiya, chatting and laughing about the latest YouTube sensation while waiting for Autumn and Brian to arrive.
Autumn greets us with hugs as soon as she walks in. Michael and I are returning customers, but she instantly makes us feel like returning friends. I ask Autumn how Sir & Madame stands out from competitive small businesses.
“By our interactions with our clientele- first and foremost,” she says. “We really try to get to know the clientele that is coming in the store. You know?”
We know. Michael and I are longtime fans of the Sir & Madame label and make frequent shopping trips to the store. There has not been a single occasion that we’ve walked out of the store without catching up with any of the employees.
“I think it’s all about networking and building relationships,” she says. “Establishing relationships is the most important.”
Establishing relationships and distributing really great pieces, I would say. Autumn describes the style at Sir & Madame as “classic with a twist.”
She goes on to explain, “we say we style the urban sophisticate, but I think classic pieces with a twist is a really accurate way to say it. For example, we have a classic men’s or women’s button up and the twist might be in the cufflinks or what we use for the fabrication or color.”
I am curious whether the Autumn and Brian’s own closets resemble their store. When I ask Autumn to describe her own style, she says, “I like the basics, I really do. You can give me a t-shirt and jeans or a white blouse and some pants and I’m good to go- just give me some accessories. I always need that statement piece. I love mixing vintage with new.”
She is not ashamed to admit that people watching is what inspires her style.
“It’s nice to sit back and observe people and see how they put their own little spin on certain pieces. I think that helps with building our brand, our personal style our marketing.”
It’s a little more difficult for Brian to define his style.”My style? Hmmm. It’s my style.”
Autumn chimes in to help him out, referring to Brian’s fashion sense as “sophisticated with a little rat,” and we all laugh.
“I like clean brands but wearing them sloppy,” Brian says. “Like this cashmere hat- I’ll flip the brim up and let the things down. Nice boots, beat em up a little bit…”
“Sophisticated hood,” Autumn chimes in again laughing.
Brian draws fashion inspiration from Japan.
“As much as I like looking – what are we calling it again- sophisticated hood- I like looking at different fabrics, feels, fits,” Brian says. “I’m really inspired by what goes on in Japan. They’re just so open and when they find something they like they take that beyond to the next level. I think it’s fearless style.”
Regardless of their personal tastes, Autumn and Brian have pieces in the store that could appeal to any Chicagoan. For those looking to round out their wardrobe for the rest of the season, Brian suggests the denim weekender bag, versatile for both men and women. Autumn, on the other hand, recommends the cape for women and the Sir & Madame crewneck for men.
And for those looking to wear their new Sir & Madame pieces out in the city, Autumn and Brian have two favorite spots in Chicago. For Autumn- it’s the trendy restaurant Mercadito. For Brian- it’s The Cove- a dive bar in Hyde Park.
The last question that I ask the duo is what they believe is the most important thing for small businesses starting up. They both respond confidently, “a solid foundation.”
In my opinion, that is exactly what Sir & Madame has and what makes the store so special. They have dedicated employees that understand the vision of the store and who Autumn refers to as “the pulse”, keeping the rhythm flowing and business alive. They have built relationships with customers who happily frequent the store, and they have fashionable pieces that have a look and feel of their own. If that isn’t a solid foundation, I don’t know what is. -Maggie Bojda
Sir & Madame is at Project Las Vegas today. We wish them a successful trip.
Follow Sir & Madame on twitter @sirandmadame