Sit down with Chalk Boutique owners Carrie Kane and Sharon Watrous, and it won’t take long to see the electric dynamic between the two. After years in interior design and fashion respectively, the duo took a collective leap of faith and opened Chalk Boutique in Evanston. Fast-forward five years and Chalk has officially established itself as an urban fashion mecca on the North Shore. Stocking their boutique with unique luxury brands such as Reed Krakoff, Chloé, The Row, and Nina Ricci, Watrous and Kane have made a name for themselves in the fashion realm both locally and nationally, with recent features in ELLE and Vogue.
The Drink:Mexican hot chocolates, extra hot, skim milk, no whip
The Place: Leonidas Chocolate Café in Evanston
Sheridan Road: How do you discover the designers and collections carried at Chalk Boutique?
Carrie Kane: It’s work. I mean, you find designers and collections online, in magazines. We do competitive shopping in New York and Europe, so we’re always looking!
Sharon Watrous: It’s kind of like any industry; it’s about keeping your finger on the pulse of trends and trying to anticipate. It has taken a while, but designers are starting to think, “Okay, we have a fabulous line and we want it to be in this boutique,” which is really exciting. It takes a while to establish that kind of credibility. We feel very blessed.
Speaking of fashion, in both of your opinions, what do you think are the building blocks to a great wardrobe?
SW: Leather pants, a great pair of denim, definitely a really good button-down in white and chambray, and a leather jacket.
CK: I agree, plus you need a great cocktail dress; one that could possibly
go from day to evening with just a change of accessories. And a great handbag is essential.
SW: And boots!
Any favorite designers for these pieces?
CK and SW: The Row!
CK: The Row is the best for luxurious basics.
With the holiday season on the horizon, what are your suggestions for a go-to daytime look, whether it’s for a family get-together or a luncheon?
CK: I think a great pair of leather pants and booties would be amazing. I would pair a structured, wool blazer with it—hopefully one with a severely notched collar, which would be so chic, and a scarf under a nice button-up.
SW: She nailed it!
And, now that gala season is in full swing, what trends are you seeing for a more dressed up evening?
SW: Lately, I’ve been really drawn to kind of an extreme high/low fashion look. We’re seeing people do really funky, fun T-shirts with seriously luxurious ball gown skirts, and then you just string either rhinestones or pearls haphazardly around your neck as the finishing touch. I feel like it’s all about that kind of edgy look, it’s no longer about that perfect gown with matching shoe. People are really taking it to a different level, where they are willing to take risks and they’re willing to have fun with it.
CK: I think another trend is, if you’re not going to do something as edgy, try a more classic silhouette in an amazing print, floral, or plaid—we’ve been seeing a lot of patterns. And it is usually in a more structured, clean silhouette, and then put a fitted leather jacket over it. We love that tension of masculine/feminine. Sweet with an edge—we’re always looking for that tension, because I think that speaks to our client.
What’s the best part of being a North Shore business owner?
CK: We live in the community, so I think that it’s a way to kind of get to know our peers and participate in the town we know and love so much.
SW: The business sprang from the idea of filling a need for a specific client, and I think we’ve been really gratified with the response. Being able to help and service people who aren’t necessarily us, but they’re in our world and we’re in theirs, it’s very interesting to be giving back to a community in that way.