Interview Series: Kaleb Sullivan of Dearborn Denim & Apparel
Welcome to MODA's Interview Series, where we feature influencers and leaders in the fashion industry in the Chicago area and beyond to discuss their design inspirations, their creative backgrounds and what it means to be a self-starter in the fashion world today.
Local denim boutique Dearborn Denim & Apparel opened in Hyde Park with the intention of bringing unique, high-quality and affordable U.S. made denim and leather goods to the Chicago community. For this year's first Interview Series, Head of Retail Operations at Dearborn, Kaleb Sullivan, walks us through the brand's identity, core values and the exciting projects his team are working on for the future of Dearborn.
Tell us a little about Dearborn Denim & Apparel. What drives the brand’s overall aesthetic? Who is your ideal shopper? What are some cornerstones of Dearborn’s design mentality and vision?
Dearborn Denim is a Made in Chicago Denim company offering Men’s & Women’s jeans & accessories. We have our online store and our new brick & mortar here in Hyde Park (located on 1504 E 53rd St), where we offer exclusive merchandise and discounts not available online.
What drives our brand is a desire to revive the garment manufacturing business in Chicago, and inspire others to make things locally, wherever they might be.
Honestly, anyone is our ideal shopper. Supporting local, made-in-the-USA goods is something we should all do as often as we can!
The cornerstone of our vision is, as already mentioned, to bring back garment manufacturing to Chicago. Regarding our design and aesthetics, we create items that are approachable to all walks of life. You get to feel good about how you look, while also feeling good about how it was made at the same time.
How did you get started in fashion and retail? Were you always interested in more creative fields?
I’ve always been drawn to the more creative side of life, but fashion has always been my field. I really got started, though, through my work at Belmont Army (a large apparel store on the North Side). I learned a lot very quickly, and it helped getting me to where I am today.
What has been one of the biggest milestones in your career so far?
My position as a buyer at my last job. It showed me a very pivotal part of the fashion business of which I thought I knew everything. I was delightfully surprised that I definitely did not.
What is the hardest part and the most rewarding part of working for a small business?
When you’re helping run a business where the product you’re selling is your own, the hardest part and the most rewarding part are very, very close.
For the hardest part–you’re really putting yourself out there by creating something, you have a certain standard you want to meet yourself, and you want to make sure it meets the standards of others. It’s why artists like Prince have vaults of unreleased music, or painters have studios full of canvases that we will never see, because they always felt like it could be even better! Even more perfect! Now I’m not saying we're on Prince’s level, but maybe one day!
What’s next for Dearborn? Are there any exciting launches or projects you can tell us about?
There’s A LOT of exciting stuff I want to tell you about, but there are only a few things I can actually tell you about. Denim Jackets are coming soon, and they look great (I’m already trying to steal the sample)! We also have a new Women’s Fit coming out soon as well, more along the lines of a classic “Boyfriend Jean” fit.
We're also launching our Recycled Denim line. We’ve already started it with our recycled denim pouches, which consist of our recycled denim, bits of Horween Leather, a YKK zipper, and belt loops on the back to give it that real fanny pack feel. That being said, we will be expanding the Recycled product line into lots of other fun stuff, too. But you’ll have to wait and see!
We’ve got a list of events coming up with local artists, designers, and musicians, for things like in-store meet & greets, performances, and pop-up shops, which will all happen not just here at the store but all around the city! So keep an eye out!
All images via Dearborn Denim