We started the day very, very early: we met the charter bus at a walmart at 6:15, and by 7 am we were on our way to Chicago, on the most important trip of the semester! A select few members of the Retail Studies Organization of Indiana University were ready to meet with managers, designers, and buyers of the retail world. There were around 50 of us; all ladies except for one guy. After a five-hour bus ride of watching Bridesmaids and sleeping, we stopped at a Starbucks for some caffeine and then made our way into the big city. First stop: Apparel Mart!
This is an absolutely huge building which houses Chicago’s wholesale businesses, particularly in the areas of fashion and interior design. According to Wikipedia, it once had its own ZIP code because of its size! We spoke to two IU grads who work in the wholesale area of retailing. One of them dealt with convincing stores to come to the trade show in Chicago, so that larger department stores could buy their products. We toured one of the empty showrooms where trade shows are held… I couldn’t believe how huge it was inside!
Here are several of us across the street, at the Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame. It was cold and rainy but we still had a great time!
Next we visited Zamrie, a brand started by designer Ashley Zygmunt. She was a Purdue graduate who studied fashion in Florence and Hong Kong, before interning for Zac Posen and then being selected for the Chicago Fashion Incubator. Although she is only a few years out of college, she is already a successful designer with several fashion seasons under her belt! She is currently working on her Lookbook for Spring 2012. Her story is so inspirational for those looking to break into the fashion industry!
Chicago: gloomy and rainy but still beautiful.
Next we went to Niketown to learn about its history from some of its managers. Did you know that Nike was almost named PBR after the, um, beverages that the founders were drinking while brainstorming names? Also, the interior of the Chicago Niketown was designed by the same man who designed the set of Back to the Future! The tubes that you see have an interesting story: at the top of the building is a warehouse that holds all the shoes. Whenever an employee needs to get a shoe for a customer, he simply presses a few buttons and the warehouse workers find the correct shoe and send it down the tube. So efficient!
After Niketown we were free for the night to do whatever we wanted: shopping, shopping, shopping!! We walked around and went into such stores as Forever 21, H&M, Nordstrom Rack, Marshall’s, American Apparel, and the new Top Shop. I spent waaayyy too much money, let me tell you. Here’s an awesome window display I spotted: it’s for fashion retail AllSaints, and is made up of hundreds of old sewing machines.
My group of friends had a very late dinner at the fabulous Grand Lux Cafe. It is huge and so ornately decorated that it is overwhelming!
I had the most delicious garlic & blue cheese burger, which I could barely eat half of! I also had a tropical smoothie with soda, which was unexpectedly yummy. The desserts also looked amazing, and were baked fresh to order, but unfortunately I was too full to eat anything more.
After a very, very long day, we were all happy to return to our hotel and get some sleep for the next big day!
Our second day started with an early morning and some rushed coffee from Einstein Bros. Our first appointment: Anthroplogie, possibly my favorite store EVER but impossible for me to afford. It was cold and windy and we got to there before it opened, after accidentally going to the wrong location first!
We eventually met with the visual manager for all the Anthropolgie stores in the entire Midwest! Her job is to travel around, going to new locations for the store and setting up all the displays and decorations before the store has its grand opening. Unlike other chain stores, the manager of each Anthropolgie has free reign over all of the design aspects of their own location. Every week they receive a semi-truck full of antiques from London and Paris to use in their displays!
Working at Anthropologie, especially as the visual manager, would be the perfect job for anyone creative. As of right now, it is my dream job!! Here’s a group picture of all the ladies (and gentleman!) of Retail Studies Organization:
Our next and final stop was Coach, we learned a bit about the history of the company. One hundred years ago they made leather gloves; now they are an ever-revolving company that has managed to thrive even in the recession!
We did a bit more shopping and then had a very quick pizza lunch at Giovanni’s before it was goodbye to Chicago!