Fashion and history of River North neighborhood in Chicago

On the near north side of Chicago sits the well-established art community of River North. In the area between Michigan Avenue, Chicago Avenue, and the Chicago River, shoppers can find everything from galleries to boutiques to furniture shops to national retail stores.

During the late 1800s River North was the highly industrialized home to many Irish and Sicilian immigrants. At the time the neighborhood was filled with so much industrial pollution that it was commonly referred to as the “Smokey Hallow”. In the wake of WWII manufacturing took a dive and River North lost its industrial purpose. In the aftermath of this downfall many of the factories were briefly transformed into warehouses and showrooms before being completely abandoned only a few years later.

Around the 1970s artists and other creative minds began to move to River North in search of cheap studio and loft space. Today River Park is one of the city’s most vibrant places to live and work. Although the neighborhood is still inhabited primarily by artists, other trendy young professionals have begun to move to River North in recent years.

During the first weekend in August, the neighborhood of River North hosts one of Chicago’s largest art fairs, the Gold Coast River North Art Fair. During this three-day long juried event artists come from all over the world to be judged on their wares.

On weekends tourists and Chicagoans alike flock to the River North district in search of trendy shops and galleries. Nearly every street in the neighborhood has something unique to offer. On the edge of the neighborhood is part of the Magnificent Mile, where shoppers can find any and every national brand. Multi-story malls, high-end boutiques, and chain stores line this famous Chicago shopping destination.

The rest of the neighborhood is made up primarily of galleries, antique shops, and furniture stores. And although they do not dominate the area there are several chic boutiques scattered throughout the neighborhood. While many of these boutiques only carry national designers there are a few neighborhood gems that stock the house brand or one or two Chicago designers. There is a trendy, artistic vibe that runs throughout the neighborhood of River North that affects both the clothes that are sold and the people who wear them.

Photos by Hannah Howcroft. Illustration by Teya Bozhilova.

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