Friday, October 3, 2008

Chicago style starts with Oxxford

With Hurricane Ike behind us in the Houston area and the fall season settling in, I took a trip to the Windy City ... that wonderful town ... none other than Chicago. I had not been to CHI in more than 10 years, but its charm remains intact.

On a warm, breezy September day, I was invited to tour the esteemed site of Oxxford Clothes on 1220 Van Buren, where it has resided since 1948, according to my guide, merchandising coordinater Alex Williams.

Selecting a suit from scratch starts with numerous swatches of fabric bound in books. There are various thicknesses and patterns. Beneath the grizzled journalistic exterior, I was a kid in a candy store.

Ms. Williams informed me that all garments are made by hand on the premises. "One hundred twenty artisans touch the garment," she explained as we walked through a floor where the patterns are cut, then down a flight of stairs where jackets are assembled, and down yet another floor to where trousers are made. The processes on all floors go in a clockwise direction. Master tailor Rocco Giovannangelo maintains an eagle eye on the assembly line.

Finished suits take about six weeks to complete, and prices start at about $4,000 depending on fabric.

Going into the tour, my limited knowledge about Oxxford was that it outfitted George W. Bush for his presidential inauguration in 2001 and well back in the day, the clothier outfitted Chicago's most notorious client, Al Capone. Since its founding in 1916, Oxxford has had many a prominent lawyer or politician enter its doors.

Oxxford's flagship store is located in New York, but its clothes are still made in the USA town of Chicago. The craftsmanship of each garment is first-rate, the styling impeccable, and true to its motto: "Always Be Faithful to Quality."

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