Walking around Chicago – especially down Michigan Avenue – we are overcome by fast-fashion giants such as Forever21, H&M, Topshop and UNIQLO, to name a few. While we may struggle to find ethical and sustainable boutiques in the concrete jungle, the outlying suburbs have a lot more to offer than just clothing and accessories – they offer pieces that don't harm our environment or the people who make the clothing.
In the suburb of Oak Park, beautifully dressed mannequins and decorated displays fill the windows of the shop at the corner of North Oak Park Avenue. These windows belong to the shared store space of Nora’s Shoes and Manouche. After walking in, I completely forgot that I was in two different stores at the same time. Although there were two different cash-wrap registers, the combined store space was aesthetically cohesive. On the left, Manouche houses clothing with pieces ranging from slip dresses and kimonos to cashmere sweaters and whimsically-printed skirts. On the right, Nora’s Shoes are displayed on ‘floating’ shelves featuring fringed booties, printed slips-on’s and chunky wooden heels.
"I really appreciate how [pieces] are manufactured and how they're ethically sourced, organic or artisan made," said Manouche owner Kim Shimkus.
While the apparel and footwear may be the shining stars, this boutique has much more to offer. In addition to the vast array of handbags, clutches, jewelry and bath essentials all of the products are made sustainably and ethically allowing for a guilt-free shopping spree. At Nora's Shoes and Manouche, brands matter! Both owners take pride in the origin of their pieces.
"Nora does all of the buying herself – there is a Nora behind Nora's shoes – and she works with the companies where she can get details added or taken off and she's looking for a comfort shoe that's stylish and well-made," said Morgan Skeffington from Nora's Shoes.
Owner of Manouche, Kim Shimkus, agrees. She think's it's just important to care about what we put on our bodies, similarly to how we care about what we put in them.
"We sell Ace & Jig, they have a factory in India and they help support all of these women who need childcare and healthcare and all of their garments are hand-woven, and it's amazing. It's just so rewarding to know that what you're wearing and buying is actually helping a lot of people," Kim said.
A LOOK INSIDE...
"The fashion industry is an extremely toxic industry and it's terrible for the planet. If you can buy less pieces and buy better pieces and [items] that you'll love for a long time... it just has so much more soul."
- Kim Shimkus
WITH TWO CONJOINED BOUTIQUES, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS...
The holidays are right around the corner, and why look like every other gal at a holiday party when you could be the star of the show? Below, are three looks to spark inspiration; make sure to head over to Nora's Shoes and Manouche to shop the ensembles.
Fall is here which means it's the perfect time to pull out a pair of knee high boots and your favorite chunky sweater. Manouche has the best sweaters made out of the softest fabrics — perfect for keeping you warm when the weather has snow and brutal winds on its' mind. For accessories, a long necklace is a must for creating a feminine look to contrast the fullness of the sweater.
While fall and winter may not scream 'tank top weather' your summery pieces are the perfect options for layering when you've had about enough with your turtlenecks and parkas. My favorite way to wear a summer tank? With a pair of high-waisted boyfriend jeans and a leather jacket — the ultimate cool-girl look that allows you to switch up your ensemble by pulling some past loves out from the back of your wardrobe.
Instead of looking like everyone else for a night out (or during Thanksgiving, which is right around the corner) switch up your look by mixing together unlikely pieces, such as a turban with a velvet dress and pearls. To amp up the look to make it more 'fun,' a printed shoe is the way to go. Not only are these slip-ons comfy but they're a fashionable addition to any look.
This look combines the owner's favorite pieces. Who doesn't love a great monkey-printed skirt paired with a eccentric shoe and vintage-inspired handbag? This ensemble is a must for a day out with the girls or an evening out with your significant other — it's stylish, comfortable and practical for any occasion.
For a daytime date or a GNO (girls night out) it's important to carry the necessities. For those of us who enjoy pampering, rose water, face oil and essential oils are musts — not only do they smell amazing but they keep our skin looking young and rejuvenated. If you're someone who doesn't like to carry around more than one bag at a time (I'm the same way) opt for a chic clutch or pouch that can double as a wallet.