When people hashtag “relationship goals”, it’s usually a picture of a beautiful couple surrounded by wealth or vacationing somewhere exotic.
Being in the streetwear scene since 2007, the husband and wife team now have their boutique back in their old stomping grounds. Preparing for the interview, the two were going over color patterns and fabrics that they wanted to use for upcoming garments. With smooth rap music bouncing through the store, and the colors of the clothing creating a contrast with the stark white walls, the couple seemed at home.
CUSP Magazine caught up with the Merritt family to discuss their big move and what they plan to bring to the neighborhood of Hyde Park.
Q&A – CUSP Magazine & Sir & Madam
CUSP Magazine: What would you say defines the style of Sir and Madame?
Brian Merritt: Classic with a twist. We keep pretty classic styles in here, but we add our own little touch and flair to it, to give a modern twist.
CM: You guys design a lot of the clothing. What goes into the designing process?
Autumn Merritt: As far as where we start, it’s something that we both can agree on and relate to. We usually try to net out some theme for us to really round out the collection, and we take it from there. Having this theme, we go from “How do we see this coming to life and through what garments?” Like, what cut and sew pieces? What graphic tee? What fleece wear? Does it translate into bags? So, those are some of the things we have to assess when it comes to building the collection.
CM: Being a husband and wife team, are there any arguments when it comes to designing the clothes?
Autumn: Yeah. [Laughs.] There are definitely times where we butt heads. I feel like we learned over the years to work around those things. I mean, some of those things take a mediator. Sometimes we need to bring in a third party and say, “Which one do you prefer?” Sometimes I’m like, “This is what I’m going to let you run with, and I’ll support it.” I might even wear it [laughs], because sometimes it may turn out to be a really great idea. There are also times where things really come together, and we end up thinking of what direction we may go in.
CM: What led you guys back to Hyde Park?
Brian: We’re from Hyde Park. We had a pop-up shop, and it was always nice to be in Hyde Park. Being from the neighborhood, living in the neighborhood, growing up here, it just really felt like home. I never felt like we were at home when we were in Wicker Park. It just wasn’t our people. That’s not in the terms of race or religion, but I don’t think they got it when it came to our style.
CM: What’s the difference between customers in Hyde Park and Wicker Park?
Brian: In Hyde Park, it’s like a mini-Chicago. You get every demographic that comes through here. We cater to every demographic: old, young, wealthy and those that aren’t wealthy.
Autumn: I think it’s more urban.
Brian: It’s a small representation of the entire city.
CM: With stores like Fashion Geek, Fat Tiger Workshop and Iridium, what’s your opinion on streetwear in Chicago?
Autumn: It’s thriving. We’ve been in this a long time. Not just having our own brand, but just being in it. To see where it is right now, you’ll see the following all of us have collectively. We respect each and every [streetwear brand] for pushing out and doing their own thing. What people fail to realize is that Chicago is a huge city. There is a lane for everyone. For the longest, people got so caught up in the “Chicago is the city of haters” and the “There can only be independent brand.” Who said so? All of us can stand out.
Brian: I think the brands that do stand out are doing something in their own lane. We’re all riding the same highway, we’re all going the same direction, but everybody is doing a true representation of them.
CM: What advice would you have for someone who’s trying to establish their own brand?
Autumn: Find a way to tell your story. What’s unique about your brand? Not to say, “Oh my god, this is some shit I’ve never seen before.” What’s unique about you? Because everyone can create a sweatshirt and create a garment. What’s the story behind it? Find that passion point when it comes to relaying your brand and it’s messaging to the consumer.
Brian – “I think the brands that do stand out are doing something in their own lane. We’re all riding the same highway, we’re all going the same direction, but everybody is doing a true representation of them.”
CM: What kind of customer does Sir and Madame cater to?
Autumn: You know, what’s crazy is that we get asked this question a lot. People want to know our target demo. At times, it’s sort of hard to answer that question. We know the people we reach moreover than who we target. I would say we hit that 18-45 age group, the sweet spot being from 28-35 … but anybody can come in here and find a piece. That’s one reason why we say we don’t pride ourselves on being a trendy store, it’s classic. At any age, you can come in and get a great leather bag, sweatshirt or some great denim. People respect the quality that’s put into garments. That happens a lot with the older consumer.
Brian: We target a mindset. You can be 16 and want to be stylish and an individual. You can like quality and be 60 and be the same way. It’s not like, “I want to target all the high school kids or the college kids over here.” We want to target the people with a sense of style.
CM: The boutique, Silver Room, used to be in Wicker Park but moved to Hyde Park. Do you think Hyde Park could have a bigger fashion following?
Autumn: Of course, but it’s always been here. We’re from Hyde Park. The only thing is that it was just hard for small businesses to get in, and it wasn’t as attractive. It was denim shops on 57th Street, but maybe at that time certain folks were ready for [streetwear] in Hyde Park. It needed a bit more support. I think now it has it support from the big wigs — the University of Chicago, so to speak. Now that it has that support, people want to buy local. People love the fact that they don’t have to go downtown.
Brian: Growing up in Hyde Park, especially in the ‘90s, we always felt like this was the mecca for hip-hop and fashion. It’s always been here, but you don’t want to be on a retail desert by yourself.
CM: Do you think you will be expanding soon?
Autumn: Not right now. I think there are other things we have planned as far as branding and getting into more doors. We want to build the line before we look at expansion, like maybe a more robust, online platform and open a few 4-5 wholesale accounts. We can focus on that and then see what comes.
CM: What impact do you think Sir and Madame will leave on Chicago?
Autumn: That it could be done. I think building a brand brick and mortar — a husband and wife team at that — shows that it can be done. I’m not saying it hasn’t been done before, but it can be done on a more visible level. To the consumer, people haven’t seen this before. I think that serves as inspiration for a lot of people. It’s tangible, you know? People can come in and talk to us and realize what we’ve achieved. They respect it, and they’re inspired.
Brian: We also want to show that you can build something with your family.
Sir and Madame is currently prepping their Spring 2016 collection. The brand advocates to keep pushing forward with clothing that reaches multiple demographics. The store is small but offers a cozy, more personal feel to it. Located at 5225 South Harper Ct., Sir and Madame is fitting to Hyde Park’s sophisticated and classical vibes. To stay up to date with this husband and wife power duo, follow Sir and Madame on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.