Designed in Chicago - Optimo Hats, Oak Street Bootmakers, Defy Bags

Designed in Chicago

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

By Stephen Killion; Photos by Jon Shaft

Monadnock Building—Loop Beverly—South Side
With the claim that “life is better in a great hat,” Optimo has been creating custom-fitted hats since the mid ’90s, and doing so with old school Hollywood style. Located on Chicago’s South Side and in the Monadnock Building in the Loop, Graham Thompson’s hat shop caters to a wide-ranging clientele, from musicians to lawyers, and even celebrities John C. Reilly and Johnny Depp are fans. Each hat is a product of both obsessive attention to detail and an apperception of material and style. Ladies, don’t feel left out—they have a beautiful line of women’s toppers that are equally suave. 

Wheaton, IL
Second-generation cobbler George Vlagos first fell in love with footwear while working at his father’s shop polishing shoes. And although the shop isn’t located on Oak Street anymore, founder and head designer Vlagos proudly demonstrates his Chi-town pride by maintaining the famed street for his moniker. Vlagos uses Horween Chromexcel leather for the shoes and boots, and uses his own size—9 1/2—as the basis for each beginning. 

What began as a passion project in designer Chris Tag’s attic in Evanston ended up becoming a business venture. Tired of using his design talents to solve other people's branding needs, Tag dedicated himself to his odd bag obsession and defied what a bag can be created out of, using unexpected materials including a billboard found while dumpster diving, tractor inner tubes, WWII era canvas tents, and American Airlines baggage tarps. Tag’s shop and design studio is an extension of Defy’s goal of creating playful products with a great hand hewn aesthetic.

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