photos by Grizel Preciado | model: Lilly Chavarria
all clothing: 18th & Wood
Every day an art scene within a major city is declared dead—it's hard to constantly keep up with what's cool, what's trending in a culture run by those with an "on-to-the-next" attitude towards...everything. But for years now, the world's attention has been spotlit on Chicago—especially the Czech turned Latinx neighborhood of Pilsen, where dozens of the city's promising artistic talent flocks to call home.
Within the neighborhood, a best friends turned business partners duo created the indie fashion brand 18th and Wood—a collection of 90s inspired, simple silhouettes, that celebrate inner and outer creative individuality. We collaborated with 18th & Wood to produce an completely Pilsen based shoot—all those involved to bring it to life call the neighborhood home—and below we spoke with the brand's founders, Jonathan and Elena about how their line came to be.
Your brand’s name is based off one of the co-owner's old apartment location. Why did you two decide to start a clothing brand and why did you decide to dedicate it to the neighborhood of Pilsen?
We were both tired of our 9-5's. We wanted something that would allow us a sense of ownership and creativity and the ability to have that on the regular was a necessity. We had discussed wanting to pursue our own ventures before we realized that we could combine our energy and need for a creative outlet to create something beautiful and representative of our personal styles. 18th & Wood is a reflection of who we are, our style and personal aesthetic. Elena grew up in the Pilsen neighborhood and Jonathan's parents lived in Pilsen. As children of Mexican and Polish immigrants, we are direct products of the rich history of Pilsen. So much of what we create and strive to bring to fruition is a product of our environment and we are surrounded by a thriving community of artists. We were dabbling with a lot of different names and dealing with trademark legalities before coming to terms with what was bringing us together. That's how 18th & Wood came to be what it is now.
How does the neighborhood’s personality affect the designs of your pieces?
For us, we are all about color and wanting the clothes stand on their own merit. That's why we strive to be so minimalist in regards to our store and site design. Every block in this neighborhood feels alive and has a sense of individuality. We want our customers to feel like a part of our metaphysical block that is 18th & Wood and so much of that comes from where we are in Pilsen. Whether it's from the clothes or the content we produce, Pilsen is always the inspiration.
Pilsen has a strong sense of social activism and awareness. We try to shed light on the social issues within the community and give voice to different local artists with our various pieces. We have collaborations every season with a local artist or organization. From our first collab with Yvette Mayorga, to our student contest with Benito Juarez Community Academy, with proceeds benefiting the Art Department, we showcase talented artists that have something to say and give back to the community whenever we can.
How would you describe the ideal 18th & Wood wearer?
We first and foremost describe 18th & Wood in three terms: 90's, modern, minimalism. Our shoots are never hyper-stylized nor are our models. We want people who see our clothes, shoots, and the content we produce to feel like the look is aspirational but also attainable. So much of what you see now is so over the top in so many ways. Heavy make up and statement accessories that drown the model can leave the viewer thinking, "How the hell would I wear that?" Of course, we want to be editorial, but we're also realistic. Our wearer responds to what we produce because we are not trying to be something we are not. These are real people wearing real clothes. We have such a diverse set of models that anyone can feel like they belong to what we are putting out there. Our wearers are real people and we want to capture that in everything we produce, from the clothes themselves to the photos we capture.
You incorporate vintage items into your clothing inventory as well. Why is that?
Vintage has always been big in fashion. Being able to tie in a vintage piece to complete a look creates a unique dynamic that would be missing if we only used new and branded pieces. Vintage can be such a different vibe but we try to tie in every item to our collections in a cohesive way and give people options.
How would you describe Pilsen’s role as an art and style influence in Chicago?
Pilsen has been such a vibrant and colorful neighborhood for decades and home to many artists. We're seeing younger artists contribute to the art scene here in new ways. The murals here have definitely influenced the rest of the city; we see more public art popping up everywhere that have similar attributes to the ones here.
How do you two want to see 18th & Wood grow in the next few years?
We just want to keep building and creating. We've only been around for less than a year and a half and feel fortunate to have had such a great reception. We didn't expect to have a physical storefront at this point, but we outgrew our home base quickly. We just want to keep producing cool clothes, cool content, and cool imagery all while staying true to who we are.