News & Runway

Sofia Oak Street: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

In most major cities, there's a Holy Grail strip of shopping. It's not the famed tourist-ridden stretches like 5th Avenue, Rodeo Drive, or Michigan Avenue; rather, charming, tree-lined streets curated with the perfect blend of boutiques and brands that, in succession, make up the perfect retail experience. In my hometown of Chicago, that is Oak Street.

Sofia Chicago

Yet, when I went back home for the holidays, I barely recognized it. Sure, the Prada, Hermes, and Jimmy Choo stores still stood proud, but there was a smattering of newcomers that added a modern edge to the mix. At the cool kid epicenter lay Sofia, a progressive-meets-vintage boutique with a healthy dose of Chicago-exclusive styles from designers like Boulee, Ember Skye, and Koolaburra. Sofia seems to be ushering in a new era to Oak Street, bringing the best of both coasts to the Midwest. I caught up with Store Manager and Assistant Buyer Erin Kannett to chat about Chicago style and the Sofia aesthetic:

Julie Bensman: Who is the Sofia customer?

Erin Kannett: That question gets me every time, because we really do have something for everyone: styles and trends from New York and LA, but with Midwest flair. Some of our designers are well known, some are local, some you've never heard of, but all are for the Sofia customer.

Sofia Chicago

JB: How have you seen Oak Street change in the past few years?

EK: Drastically. People used to walk down Oak Street because of the beautiful lake views or its adjacency to the Mag Mile; now, it's to shop. I like to think Sofia had something to do with that. We are the only independently owned clothing boutique on the street. In an economy where small shops close all the time, we are able to thrive both because of our location and the designers we choose to feature.

JB: One of the most iconic aspects of the store is the celebrity-autographed dressing room. Who has been spotted at Sofia?

EK: Faith Hill, Nicole Richie, Kristin Cavallari, Emmy Rossum, Kristin Chenoweth, LeAnn Rimes, Joel Madden…just to name a few.

For a chic souvenir or an exclusively-designed piece (I picked up this Luxla bracelet and haven't taken it off since I left the Windy City), make sure to check out Sofia and the Oak Street shopping scene next time you find yourself in my hometown.