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The inside of Neapolitan Collection

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A Day of Shopping and Nature in Chicago’s North Shore

Spend the morning window-shopping couture and the afternoon taking in the sights at the Botanic Gardens.

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Welcome to Summer Getaways: Your guide to the best day trips outside eight major US cities — and where to shop when you get there. For each starting point, we’ve enlisted the help of a local to tell us where they go when they want to get out of town.

Your guide for getting out of Chicago is Jenna Levine, the very chic founder of skincare line Linné Botanicals, who splits her time between her native Chicago and new home of Brooklyn. Her destination: Winnetka and Glencoe, IL.

Neapolitan Collection
Clothing inside Neapolitan Collection.

The northern suburbs of Chicago provide the perfect balance of aesthetic inspiration: You can start in Winnetka at the area’s most chic women’s fashion destination, Neapolitan Collection, and end the day among the flora at the Chicago Botanic Gardens further north in Glencoe.

When I’m in Chicago, I’m coming from Streeterville, so for us it’s a really beautiful drive — you get to see the lakefront all along Lake Shore Drive, with bike and walking paths and wonderful parks. (If you're coming from other parts of the city it's easily accessed from the highway, but if opportunity warrants, take the drive along the waterfront.)

Neapolitan Collection
Mannequins at Neapolitan
Purses at Neapolitan

Neapolitan Collection.

Winnetka is a rather affluent area, so once you get there you can drive around to view the beautiful homes and manicured lawns, if you’re into that kind of thing. Then, on to Neapolitan. The stuff you’ll find there is a little bit more runway than what you’d see at your average ready-to-wear shop. They carry contemporary brands like Rosie Assoulin and Erdem, but also special pieces from the classic couture houses like Valentino and Dior.

But don’t expect things you’d see anywhere. They might carry a brand like Louis Vuitton, but it's not going to be the ubiquitous monogrammed bag. This store celebrates innovation, customization, and craft — I’d say Neapolitan disrupts trends rather than just keeping up with them. They also host trunk shows with established and emerging brands, showcasing smaller collections that you might not otherwise get to see in the Chicago area. Even if you aren't going there to spend money, it’s a great place to see fabulous fashion and get inspired to reinvigorate your own look.

A Tudor House in Winnetka
A green juice at True Juice
From top: A Tudor house in Winnetka; the Greena Colada at True Juice.

Down the street, there’s a shop called Athene that provides a nice counterpoint to Neapolitan Collection — it’s a little more downtown, edgy, and casual; they carry brands like R13 Denim and Rick Owens, plus some lesser-known names. Conveniently there’s a juice bar, True Juice, right in between the two, so that's an easy way to refresh yourself with something a little more affordable than designer couture. (I recommend the Greena Colada!)

For more eye candy and another dose of plant power, definitely make time for the Chicago Botanical Gardens, which is free for entry but $25 to park. It's a beautiful, sprawling property. There are so many winding paths and curated gardens to explore, and a spectacular indoor greenhouse space that holds various temporary exhibitions; when I visited a few weeks ago, the theme was Brazilian flora.

Athene’s storefront
Athene Shop in Winnetka
Athene in Winnetka.

I love a trip to the botanic gardens for many reasons. One, I live in New York City and crave contact with the natural world. Second, I think plant morphology is mind-blowing, and I love discovering new varietals. As a student of art, design, botany, and herbal medicine, I think nature is the most supreme designer and chemist, and discovering unique plant species and their ethnobotanical value is a true gift.

At Linné, we champion species diversity and regularly utilize native plants. Although we do use common herbs like lavender and rosemary (three different chemotypes, in fact), we also love introducing our community to plants like kakadu plum and sacha inchi. These plants have evolved to contain unique concentrations of compounds not seen in other plants, and their use supports local economies and ecology. It’s been awhile since I visited the Amazon jungle, so it’s really exciting to be able to visit local gardens and see plants originating from all over the world. After a day of shopping, it’s also a particularly welcome way to reconnect and appreciate nature-made beauty.

I’m not sure that the Botanic Gardens would approve, but I’d recommend bringing a bottle of wine to pop open at a picnic table while you’re there (you may like to decant it into something more discreet). A walk through the gardens at sunset with a roadie sounds like a great idea to me! —as told to Cory Baldwin

Chicago Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens

The Chicago Botanic Gardens.


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