Clothing store brings a bit of architectural steampunk to the Boul Mich

November 22, 2011

I just noticed the Allsaints Spitalfields clothing store that opened a few months back on North Michigan Avenue. Had it been a Men's Wearhouse--that's more my speed--I might have paid attention earlier.

The store, 700 N. Michigan, is a bit of a curiosity, designwise. Expensive, edgy contemporary clothes are sold in a faux Industrial Age backdrop with exposed brick walls, revealed steel beams, and old garment-making machinery. The shop windows and the large window over the main entrance are both filled with dozens of old iron sewing machines. Here's the store's facade:

A close-up of the sewing machines--and the faux weathered lettering in shop window:

This is the part where a flaneur like myself would get his underwear--or, rather, his union suit--in a bunch over the store's design being inauthentic. But I won't. Sure, the design is fakery. But no more than some of the architectural postmodernist retail buildings that have fouled the Boul Mich since 1990s. The Allsaints store at least owns up to it with a mild wink. Indeed, the place reminds me of the steampunk subculture, which uses design, clothing, imagery and literature to fancifully revisit the Victorian Era with a modern sensibility--a clunky-cool and unreal past/future world not too dissimilar from the one director Terry Gilliam created in 1985's Brazil. Just without the dystopian overtones: