Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift or just something unique for yourself, Chicago’s shopping scene is home to tons of local makers crafting one-of-a-kind goods. These skilled artisans make everything from handmade leather bags to bespoke string instruments to custom bicycles. Check out what’s being made in Chicago — you might just find the perfect souvenir.
Dearborn Denim was born from a simple idea — better apparel, made the right way, and sold at a great price. Every item they sell, from the t-shirts to the leather belts, is cut, sewn, and made at their Chicago factory using U.S. materials. That include their jeans, which have inspired something of a local cult following. They come in a variety of fits, from skinny to high ride to straight leg, and each pair is custom hemmed to order for a perfect fit. Visit their retail locations in Hyde Park and Andersonville or find your perfect fit online.
Spell “individual” backward and you get Laudi Vidni. And catering to the individual is what this custom leather goods shop is all about. Create your perfect handbag, whether it’s a wristlet, tote, duffel, backpack, crossbody, wallet, or something else entirely. Just choose your style of bag, then customize the leather, hardware, and details. Your one-of-a-kind bag will be shipped to you in two weeks. Shop their Lincoln Park boutique or explore online.
You Are Beautiful
It started with 100 stickers. Now, the message on those tiny stickers has been shared more than 5 million times all around the world. You Are Beautiful, which began in 2002 as a way to brighten peoples’ day, has since evolved into massive murals, public art installations, and exhibitions at cultural institutions involving thousands of artists. Visit the retail storefront for clothing, art, and (of course) stickers.
Brown Sugar Bakery
Led by a James Beard Award-nominated baker, Brown Sugar Bakery is a city bakeshop with Southern flair. People come from all over the city to indulge in an array of traditional sweets like cheesecakes, cupcakes, cobblers, cookies, pies, and more — but their most popular item is their luscious caramel cake. Try it at their Chatham location or their outpost at Navy Pier.
Chicago Distilling Company
Distilling is a long-held tradition in Chicago, dating back to the days before the Great Chicago Fire and using the bounty of the surrounding farmland. That historic tradition lives on today with Chicago Distilling Company. Their craft spirits are handmade in small batches by third-generation distillers, using organic grains sourced from Illinois farms. Head to their Logan Square location for a distillery tour where you can see the process for yourself. And don’t forget to pick up a bottle to bring home.
Specimen Products & Chicago School of Guitar Making
Have you ever wondered how a guitar gets made? See it for yourself at the Chicago School of Guitar Making. The Humboldt Park school offers workshops throughout the year, taught by a professional luthier with more than 30 years of experience. You can also shop one-of-a-kind instruments and equipment made by hand, like guitars, ukuleles, basses, electric violins, mandolins, unique amps, and more. They always have a wide selection in stock under the Specimen Products brand or you can have something custom produced just for you.
This family-owned sweet shop was inspired by a recipe passed down from Terry’s grandmother. They’ve since expanded on that original recipe, handcrafting an array of creative, artisanal toffee from elevated ingredients. Try grandma’s classic toffee recipe (blended with slivered almonds, coated in milk chocolate, and dusted with Georgia pecans) or branch out to other flavors like peppermint pistachio crunch, lemon paradise, pretzel sea salt, lavender vanilla, and more.
Optimo Hat Company
Nothing completes an outfit like the perfect hat. Optimo Hats carries hand-crafted hats in timeless styles that will last a lifetime. These expert artisans are masters of fit and style, so they’ll help you find the right hat based on your lifestyle, facial features, and the types of clothes you favor. They can also create a custom hat just for you that’s guaranteed to be the perfect fit.
This hybrid bike store/coffee shop is known for their locally made custom bicycles. Choose from classic cruiser-style frames in an array of vintage-inspired colors, then add on baskets, accessories, seat upgrades, lights, a helmet, and more. Plus, they take the same amount of care with their house-roasted coffee as they do with their bikes. Visit their locations in Uptown, West Loop, and Lakeview to grab a cup or a bag of beans.
Travel the world through flavor at Vosges Haut-Chocolat. This luxury chocolatier is known for their exotic ingredients sourced from all over the globe, like Sri Lankan coconut ash, Hungarian paprika, Fijian ginger, and Ghanaian cocoa nibs. Stop by their chic boutique near The Magnificent Mile to pick up a box of truffles or a couple chocolate bars, all in their signature royal purple packaging.