Shopping the Magnificent Mile/Chicago for Clothing made in USA

Mainpoint: clothingmadeinusablog goes to Chicago’s favorite shopping destination, the Magnificent Mile, in search of clothing made in USA.

Clothingmadeinusablog heads to the third largest city in the United States, Chicago, Illinois to shop.

Shopping in Chicago used to mean shopping on State Street at McCormick Place and Carson Pirie Scott & Co. However, those places are history, and instead the favored shopping area now is on North Michigan Avenue between Grand Avenue and Oak Street, called the Magnificent Mile. There are 460 stores, 275 restaurants and 51 hotels. So, is it worth checking out? Yes. Is it the best? No, but it is in the top 5 in the United States.

Stores within the Magnificent Mile

If you come from a small town or a medium size town but many miles away from a large metropolitan area, then you may find this place overwhelming. Many of the major department stores, medium to upper end are located within a half mile from each other: (from South to North) Nordstrom’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Nieman Marcus, Macys, and Bloomingdales. And then there are chain stores galore. If you are a seasoned shopper, and have been to most of the big city stores and department stores then this place might not be as a big deal – but still it is nice that all these major department stores are so close together. The luxury stores are ample: Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Escada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Venetta, Chanel and Armani. Barney’s and Hermes  are actually a little ways down on Oak Street near Rush Street. There are three malls on the Magnificent Mile – the Nordstrom’s mall also called The Shops at North Bridge (520 N. Michigan), The Macy’s mall called The Water Tower (845 N. Michigan), is at the base of the 100 story John Hancock Tower, and the Bloomingdale Mall which is just called 900 N. Michigan. My preference are to see more independent stores. It gives the place more character, places likes Garrett’s Popcorn and Harry Caray’s restaurant  just down the street. Whereas, chain stores look the same no matter where you are whether in Little Rock, Arkansas, Honolulu, Hawaii or New York City. Of course, there are some exceptions. The independent stores tend to be rougher around the edges and may have more American made clothing. I have said in the past that independent clothiers may have more USA made clothing, but I may need to amend that when it pertains to men’s clothing. Men’s clothier’s tend to be more upper end, and with many of American manufacturers of men’s clothing, especially upper end rapidly disappearing, the void has had to be filled with foreign made clothes, European as well as slave labor countries. That is true for Mark Shale clothier’s as well.

Surprises on the Magnificent Mile

When shopping in these large complexes, we expect to see many of the same old chains: Gap, H & M, Maxa Mara, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc. But occassionally, we will see something new, like a brand new chain starting up (more likely) that just hasn’t made it to your neighborhood or a new, independent  store all together. These are called the surprises. One store, I had not seen in Northern California is Zara’s (700 N. Michigan). It is a chain that started in Spain, most, well maybe 50%, of its clothing is made in Spain, Portugal or Turkey, the rest in countries like China. I purchased a nice $60 dress shirt made in Spain at Zara’s. Next – All Saints Spital Fields (also at 700 N. Michigan)- it has has an impressive entrance with an entire wall made up of old Singer Sewing Machines, and the inside has some old sewing crafts and tables as well. It started in the United Kingdom. It is too bad that 100% of their products are from slave market manufacturing, except for the items from Turkey (I am still undecided if Turkey is slave labor or not.) Wohlford (in the Stores at North Bridge) is an unusual store in that most of their products are made in Austria. It is mainly a high end ladies undergarment store. Bras run about $160. Adele Dallas Orr is another interesting place, also located in the Shops at North Bridge – it carries ladies clothing and coats,  with a higher percentage of US made clothing. Many times I had to take the word of the salesperson that some of the garments were US made, because I could not find the labels anywhere inside the garments.

There were several small places in the Bloomingdale’s mall (900 N. Michigan) that were worth visiting: Space 519, probably named for the numbered  space within the mall, is a quirky little delight – on the one side is a tiny book-like shop with travelbooks and souvenirs and some items of furniture and on the other side were ladies clothing with a higher percentage than most of US made clothing. Definitely worth a stop. Another place worth a mentioning is DNA 2050 (in the same mall)- it is mainly clothing for younger people but had a fantastic selection of US made jeans. Akira (located in Water Tower place) is a clothing and shoe boutique that started in Chicago in 2002, now they have 17 stores around Chicago-land. The look is more younger and hip, but sadly, 100% slave labor made.

Special place not to visit: Isis – extremely rude service, even after I said I might help them to drum up business (and it’s not like they even had upper end merchandise like Louis Vuitton either).

The Best Places to Buy American Made Clothing on the Magnificent Mile

First – Allen Edmonds – men’s shoes, all American made, well made, very fashionable, they also carry some of their golf shoes in their stores.

Second – St. Croix (located in the Bloomingdale’s mall) – all sweaters are US made. All other clothing is European made.

Third – Nordstrom’s – still the best department store for finding clothing made in the US for both men and women.

Special mention: Nieman Marcus, Brooks Brothers and St. John.

Addendum: There is a brand new store has opened that features products only made in the USA. It’s name is Independence, located on 47 Oak Street (2nd Floor) just off N. Michigan Ave, at the north end of the Magnificent Mile. It is owned by George Vlagos, owner of Oak Street Bootmakers.

Places that have 0% US made clothing – too numerous to mention.

I had one other goal – to check out the places that have until last year were 100% foreign made, but since 2011, have started carrying “Made in USA” products. They are Levi’s, Orvis, LL Bean, Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco. Alas, the only one that had any US made clothing was Orvis, and that was rare. Ralph Lauren had dress shoes and jeans made in the USA but all the RRL (Retro Ralph Lauren) shirts were foreign made – India. I learned something interesting and trivial at the same time. The RRL brand, with the second R printed backwards, is the same logo as the Ralph Lauren Ranch in Telluride, Colorado, named after Ralph and his wife, Ricky Lauren. RRL was designed by Ralph Lauren, based on clothing he liked to wear out on his ranch.

Remember to avoid slave labor clothing when you can and better yet, buy US made clothing.

“The difference between style and fashion is quality.” – Giorgio Armani


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