Sarah Burrows and Nick Behr
Founders, Modern Sprout
“Our mission is simple,” say Sarah Burrows and Nick Behr, founders of Modern Sprout, “uncomplicate indoor gardening.” Bringing the benefits of hydroponic growing to your home, the husband-and-wife team, who began gardening in their small Chicago apartment, is determined to turn all homes into green ones, providing sustainable solutions for all—whether with cilantro, cherry tomatoes or Asian herbs. Their design is sleek, too: Colored Mason jars, ceramic tumblers, black glass vases, wooden planters and misters of brass make sure plant life looks more like a design object carefully matched to home design. Just add water.
Founder-Principal Designer, Siren Betty
Leading the all-women team behind some of the most Instagram-worthy places in town—The Press Room, discreetly located in the basement of The Publishing House, the eleven-room West Loop bed-and-breakfast; Quiote Mexican restaurant and lounge; pHlour all-natural bakery and café; Solo salon; and Dustin Drankiewicz’s cocktail bar, The Pink Squirrel—Siren Betty founder and principal designer Nicole Alexander pays attention to detail, carefully listening and anticipating her clients’ needs, leaving no stone unturned until she finds the perfect cowskin rug, taxidermy or mid-century-modern piece scavenged from flea markets and thrift stores around the country. “I believe the creative community will find more support and communication internally than ever before,” she says. “I envision that we will all share contacts and outlets, embrace each other and help each other reach our goals and maximum potential. We will all rise and prove that, once again, Chicago is a city filled with amazing creatives and that we all work together to help the city thrive and produce great entrepreneurs.”
Max Temkin, Sarah Gardner and Caleb Vanden Boom
Graphic Design Team, Cards Against Humanity
It was December 2010, when Max Temkin and seven friends launched a Kickstarter project to print a card game they had been working on for years. Cards Against Humanity, a self-proclaimed “party game for horrible people,” has since been crowned the king of party games, and Temkin has become an important figure in the Chicago design scene, tirelessly working alongside his design team, Sarah Gardner and Caleb Vanden Boom, to bring contagious laughter to the masses.
Sarah Azzouzi and Kyla Embrey
Founders, Lost Girls Vintage
Lost Girls Vintage is Sarah Azzouzi and Kyla Embrey—and Winnie, their hand-painted 1976 camper van that started it all. True to the Peter Pan reference they were named after, they see fashion as a never-ending adventure: From in-town pop-ups to cruising with style across the country, and from a mobile vintage store, to a brick-and-mortar home inside Humboldt Park’s Humboldt House and to another soon to open in West Town. “Lost Girls Vintage is more than just a vintage clothing business—it’s a mindset,” they say. “We want to lead the way in creating unique retail experiences that are both fun and meaningful, where you don’t have to choose between style and values. We see our scene at the intersection of good design, sustainability, accessibility and fair labor practices. Small businesses can have big impacts!”
Creative Director-Founder, M2057
A favorite of former First Lady Michelle Obama, Mick Jagger and Oprah Winfrey, Maria Pinto is not afraid to start over. After closing her brick and mortar store in 2010, her label M2057 was fully backed by crowdfunding. Her work sits at the crosshairs of minimalist design and contemporary practicality. Named for the year she will turn 100, M2057 is focused on low-maintenance, high-function clothing that looks amazing but can also be thrown into the wash.
Andrea Reynders, Anna Brown, Gillion Carrara
Founders, we are MATERIAL
The we are MATERIAL manifesto is to redefine artisanal tradition by intersecting with contemporary silhouettes. Their goal is create meaningful experiences through design practice, collection design and material sourcing. Andrea Reynders, professor emeritus of the School of the Art Institute Fashion Design Department and design director of the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s, joined forces with founding director of the School of the Art Institute Fashion Resource Center and faculty member Gillion Carrara, as well as Anna Brown, whose designs are informed by historical menswear and workwear, twentieth-century art and design, and the built environment’s interaction with nature. “Unlike a family where you do not get to choose who you belong to, we as colleagues and friends made a conscious decision to form a collective out of a mutual respect for one another, and a respect for the work we do,” says Reynders. “We all work independently but when joining forces we feel we have formed a new strength going forward.”
Co-Founder-Executive Director, Sweet Water Foundation
Self-described artist and social practitioner Emmanuel Pratt tells the story of the Sweet Water Foundation, a mash-up of urban agriculture, art, education and think-do lab, like a proud parent with boundless energy. He describes the Perry Ave Commons neighborhood garden hub he helped craft as “regenerative placemaking” and the soul of the organization, transforming vacant urban lots into productive assets. “We operate between the public and private sector,” he says. Pratt’s ability to coalesce creative interventions with public exhibition in “We The Publics,” a collaboration with Dan Porelli and “Radical [Re] Constructions,” broadens the conversation about connectivity with nature and the impact of community-conscience economic development.
Otis D. Gibson and Heather Knapp
Chief Creative Officer and President, GERTRUDE
“Five years ago, fourteen-year-old GERTRUDE relocated our headquarters to Pilsen to better align the agency’s foundation in fostering a culture of creativity, global innovation and brand development with what we view as one of Chicago’s most dynamic, creative and inspiring communities vital for the city’s creative future,” says GERTRUDE founder and chief creative officer Otis D. Gibson, who, together with the company’s president Heather Knapp, strive to be different than your average agency—from concept to design to execution. Working with high-end clientele that include global companies such as Absolut Vodka, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Disney and Google, GERTRUDE always meant to be a global agency and has expanded to offices in London and New York. But when it comes to design and fabrication, collaboration on a hands-on level with artists and craftsmen within the local community is key. GERTRUDE remains proudly Chicago-based. Taking it a step further, they are developing a 35,000-square-foot, seven-city-lot property in the heart of the neighborhood that will be a hub dedicated to the development, consumer co-creation, incubation, and activation of brands, as well as serve as the agency’s new headquarters along with its two divisions OZ MFG. CO and RAYE. Gibson says, “GERTRUDE is creating a concept with the agency’s own mark of design craftsmanship, imagination, and branding that will see closer collaboration between our clients, consumers, and a wide array of disciplines across the Chicago creative community within a modern, premium, mercurial working environment that perfectly aligns with Pilsen’s reputation as a forward-looking hub for the city’s creativity and culture.”
Benjamin Edgar Gott
Designer and Founder, Boxed Water, The Object Company, The Brilliance
Boxed Water is better. Benjamin Edgar Gott should know. Starting with the idea of creating a bottled-water brand that is kinder to the environment, Gott realized that water should not be bottled at all, but boxed instead. His eco-friendly packaging idea took the form of 250ml and 500ml cartons, and was suddenly everywhere. The maker and design entrepreneur has kept busy with his Object Company, th-oughts, and The Brilliance spanning design objects, apparel design and writing. Gott makes sure he remains radically creative. His vision? “No longer the concern of the ‘second’ city, and instead producing work that is specifically ‘Chicago’ and a reflection of our sensibilities without comparison to other metros,” he says. “I’m interested in increasing accessibility to contribute to the context of what this city is. I have no concern what someone’s pedigree is, background, etcetera. I’d love to continue to flatten the playing field so that the best rises to the top.”
Founder, Rebirth Garments
“My vision of the future is always for it to be more accessible to disabled folx including people with physical disabilities, mental illness, neurodivergent, intellectual/ developmental disabilities and beyond,” says Sky Cubacub, who founded Rebirth Garments, a brightly colored line of clothing, lingerie and accessories to fill a void in fashion “for people on the full spectrum of gender, size and ability.” “I want people, especially youth who are queer, trans, disabled, fat/plus-size folx and people of color to feel like they have a future that is celebratory of our existence,” Cubacub says. “I want all spaces and scenes to recognize the importance of accessibility and that if a space is accessible, more than the ADA requires it to be, everyone’s experience will be improved. I hope my work helps shift attitudes and promotes radical visibility for everyone that society has shunned.” Spreading their psychedelic aesthetic via fully customizable fluorescent-colored spandex fabrics, sheer negligee tops, metallic catsuits, add-on mermaid tails or elaborate scalemaille headpieces, Cubacub’s super-inclusive and disability-specific clothing makes sure to convey an electric energy that is impossible to ignore.
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