What Chicago Wears: Mulberry and Me Boutique Owner Jana Zacek Charles on the City’s Style

Mulberry and Me Owner Jana Zacek Charles (Photo: Ten Photos)

While most visitors to Chicago swipe their credit cards at more than one big box store along the Magnificent Mile, much more interesting shopping destinations await just a few miles west. In Wicker Park, you’ll find hipsters (shhh, they don’t like to be called that) sipping no-nonsense coffee, waiting for tables at some of the city’s newest restaurants and browsing through trendy little boutiques. The fashion scene in Chicago has moved west, as well. Jana Zacek Charles, owner of Mulberry and Me, has the intel on how the the best-dressed locals shop.

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Leave it to a New Yorker to see the potential in Wicker Park. In 2008, Zacek was living in the Nolita and working in marketing, feeling uninspired. A self-proclaimed stylist with an obsession for curating outfits for herself, her friends, her coworkers and anyone who stood still long enough, she set out to make a change. She moved to Chicago, found a cool neighborhood, and Mulberry and Me was born. Being inspired by all the charming boutiques in Nolita and the neighborhood itself, she was bound and determined to re-create a boutique just as fashionable and captivating for Chicagoans.

Now, six years later, Zacek’s clientele ranges from young professional women to stay-at-home moms out for a stroll. The true common denominator is the woman who wants to move through life with effortless style.

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Now that Zacek has resided in Chicago for six years, how has Chicago changed her style? “My style is definitely urban, reflecting the environment that I live in, and layering is a critical component of my personal style.” With so many cold months in Chicago, layering is an obvious fashion decision and can take over anyone’s closet. Pieces can accumulate for sure, but maybe there is strength in numbers. Zacek assures anyone that collecting pieces and layering can be super stylish, especially with designers like Smythe, where the jackets are classically tailored. Couple a nicely tailored jacket with the basics of another one of her favorite everyday lines, Bella Luxx, which adds a little “California cool,”something to motivate any Chicago day. A great winter topper that will always take a little tee and jeans to the next level is a Mackage coat, and it’s regularly a top pick in Zacek’s closet.

Local standouts in the design community go to Jules Jewelry by Jules Vance, which goes back to Zacek’s mantra of layering — not to mention she can’t get enough of the subtle sexiness. She’s devoted to designer Sophia Reyes and loves that Reyes continues to use beautiful, high-quality silk. “She does this ‘soft cinch’ on the backside of many of her pieces that is completely original to her and very flattering on a woman,” she notes.

Mulberry and Me flourished into her dream shop and is defined by the casual lifestyle of the Wicker Park vibe. Zacek wants people to feel comfortable and stylish when they are grabbing a cup of coffee or heading downtown for a night out. She, too, likes to get dressed up, but even so, her version of dressy is still what she defines as “casual luxury” — just like her boutique.