Brian Merrit

With the relatively recent surge of street-wear boutique’s in the Chicagoland area, you would think it would be rather difficult for them to harnes their own uniqueness. A small, swank, clothing boutique and sneaker cosignment shop lies nestled in the heart of a culturally diverse community seems to have that concept nearly perfected. Solemates…Chicago possess this almost heavenly ambiance, with a pleathora of exclusive sneakers while high-end street-wear brands seem to rest over pieces of vintage furniture that set them footsteps ahead of their competition.

Behind this elegant work of art is a married couple, Autumn and Brian Merritt. They’ve been in business for nearly two years now. The funny thing is, you’ve probably heard Autumn’s view of the boutique, but you don’t really hear Mr. Merritt. I attempted to pick his brain in hopes of retrieving that essential information behind the Solemates brand. “We want to provide people with clothing and accessories that can be worn forever,” he told us. Words well said, but find out what exactly cultivated this idea through our in-depth interview below.


RubyHornet: How/Why did you and your wife (Autumn) start “Solemates”?

Solemates: We came up with the idea a few months before we got married. Autumn has always been in retail and I’ve been a natural entrepreneur, so when the opportunity came about to build a business together it was only right that we picked retail to be our first family business venture.

Brian Merrit

RubyHornet: Solemates is a clever name, can you expound on the meaning behind it and why it was chosen for your store?

Solemates: Well, Autumn and I are a husband and wife team so we are soulmates regardless. We came up with Solemates after deciding what our initial direction was going to be. Sneaker consignment was our original concept so Solemates was only right. Autumn and I also are sneaker fans but not sneaker heads.

RubyHoret: What influences cultivated the idea and path of Solemates.

Solemates: Where do i start? Man, I can just say everyday life has influenced and cultivated Solemates. I have been heavily influenced by some of the other young black business owners who have opened businesses in Chicago. Also, my love for fashion and wanting to have an influence in Chicago and the rest of the world has motivated me to create Solemates…Chicago. Ouigi from The Brooklyn Circus has been a huge inspiration to Solemates…Chicago. Working with him has opened a lot of doors for us. He continues to help us out and offer tons of advice. Growing up in Hyde Park has had a big impact on my life, it has given it some sort of balance. The other Chicago boutique owners have influenced me in one way or another whether they know it or not. My friends have always pushed me to be what America calls successful.  They have influenced me to become an entrepreneur so in a way they cultivated Solemates as well. Going to college was big for them and they were more disappointed than my parents for not finishing. I guess this is a way to show them and everyone that college wasn’t going to define me or my success.


RubyHornet: Going forward, what is your vision for Solemates as a whole, that being the brand name or the boutique itself?

Solemates: My goal is that Solemates is a parent company for many other ventures and ideas that I have. We are working a clothing brand now under a different name but still under the Solemates umbrella, so be on the look out for that. I will definitely keep RubyHornet in tune with what we are doing. I’d also love to open up a shop in a warm location, so I don’t have to deal with this winter year round.

Brian Merritt

RubyHornet: I like to look at Chicago’s wave of boutiques and stores as a soup. Not to be too cliché, but what does Solemates bring to the table that sets you guys apart from the other people that are bringing ingredients?

Solemates: I think we bring a classic flavor/spice that you will always need like salt and pepper. Some of these other boutiques have ingredients that may make the dish look good, but after you ate the dish too much, you won’t bother with it. I like to see us as salt and pepper, a spice that is needed in every dish.  We’ve been taking a classic approach to what we buy over the last few seasons. We want to provide people with clothing and accessories that can be worn forever. How often do you look in your closet and shake your head at some of the stuff you buy. Whether it is denim, t-shirts, sunglasses, or earrings, we want you to feel comfortable wearing them 10 years from now. We are trying to stop this by providing people with clean, quality, and detail oriented products.


RubyHornet: With Lincoln Park being so demographically diverse I’m sure you guys get all types of people in the store, so is there a certain type of shopper that Solemates caters too? How does the Lincoln Park location help/hurt your business.

Solemates: We cater to anyone that has a their own sense of style. We preach individualism here at Solemates, and you see it in the entire staff. We want people buy items because they genuinely like the product and not just the name behind it. I’ve seen some rappers lately come out with clothing lines and just because they can rap or you like their style doesn’t mean they can make good or quality clothing. Lincoln Park helps because we get to introduce our style to people who are not familiar. During the summer the amount of people walking around Lincoln Park is great too. It hurts because there are still a lot of people who don’t understand our vision. Also, a lot of the kids up this way are influenced by what they see in the media, so when they get onto something they’re late as hell. By then we’ve either dropped the company or wouldn’t carry it from the jump.


RubyHornet: On a more personal note, I always see you with fresh gear on from head to toe. Would you consider yourself more of a shoe guy or a clothes guy?

Solemates: It depends. When majority of these sneaker heads didn’t give a s**t about sneakers I would consider myself a sneaker guy. Don’t get me wrong I love sneakers but lately Nike, which is my favorite shoe brand, has been dropping some bulls**t! Lately the general release stuff has been better than the limited sneakers, and it goes on sale! After getting older I’ve become more of a clothing guy. I’ve also sold about 200 pairs of my sneakers, so I think sneaker heads will give me the boot from the club, f**k it lol.

RubyHornet: How important is a man’s appearance in today’s society?

Solemates: Most people look at book covers and breeze through the pictures so appearance is more than half of the battle. Once most people feel comfortable with your appearance then they feel inclined to learn about you as an individual.

Brian Meritt

What other plans (upcoming events, guy’s clothing line etc). do you guys have for the boutique?

Solemates: Like I mentioned earlier, we are working on a men’s and women’s clothing line. I don’t want to give out too many details yet, but Vaughn, you will be one of the first to know. We’re putting together some events with artists, musicians, and designers right now so stay tuned to the blog.

RubyHornet: There are so many brands out there now a days, what designers and brands do you feel is doing it big? Who is amongst your favorites?

Solemates: Ouigi from The Brooklyn Circus is doing some of best designing right now. I’m not saying that because he’s my friend either. He is providing people with a mix of classic and street. It’s like a mix of Ralph Lauren and a street wear brand. You can wear a Brooklyn Circus piece to church and then keep the same outfit to the club. All while your standing out in a good way. Dao Yi and Maxwell Osbourne from Public School are doing it big as well. They provide you with quality and detail like no other. The fit of their clothing works well for me. Cheap Monday denim is dope because of the price and their men’s clothing gets better and better every season. I like woolrich woolen linen, a.p.c, ralph lauren, wesc, j lindberg, gilded age, ymc, nom de guerre, stone island and a few others as well. All of these brands plus a few others have influenced the direction we want to take one of our clothing brands.


RubyHornet: Lastly, seeing that you are a music head and RH is all about lifestyle, what artists are you finding yourself listening to the most right now?

Solemates: I’ve been riding this Max B wave hard since last spring. I’m also feeling Young Chris and Freeway. They’ve been going hard. I’m a big Clipse fan but was kind of disappointed with the re-up album they put out. They were on some lazy s**t. I like Sandman and Ab-Liva a lot as well. Money Boss Players are back so I’m f**king with them too. You all are gonna laugh, but I mess with Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman. 50 and Tony Yayo are going kind of hard right now, they must have albums coming out soon. Drake is pretty dope. I’m not drinking that auto tune kool-aid, so anybody rocking on that is huff as a bag of Bobby Brown. Wu-Tang, Big L, UGK, EPMD, Outkast, NWA, Boot Camp Click, Biggie, and Pac stay in rotation. Locally Mikkey Halsted, GLC, Sly Polaroid, Naledge, Mic Terror and Project Mayhem is who I’m messing with. By the way y’all need to post some Project Mayhem, that Lo Sweatas was retarded.


Brian Merritt

Photography by: Virgil Solis (Benny Rocs)