by Remy Pearce
It's difficult to maintain friendships strong enough to overcome time and geography. When you add starting a business into the equation, it seems nearly impossible. But after being in business for close to a year, best friends Kelly Whitesell and Elizabeth Del Castillo, owners of Eskell, have found a way to make it work. After meeting in high school in Gary, Indiana, the pair studied fashion at Indiana University before pursuing separate careers—Elizabeth doing fabric sourcing for the Spiegel catalog and Kelly continuing her studies at FIT and working with designers Miguelina and Jane Mayle. With their solid technical training and complimentary tastes, the two girls joined forces once again to create their own line, Eskell, and furthered their collaboration by opening their first boutique in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago in September 2005.
Eskell's Manson dress, Desert dress, and Beach Romper
The backbone of the store is the namesake line, which focuses on fun and casual dresses with an eye for detail, such as their pale-pink silk gauze Desert Dress with belt loops and Kelly's hand-drawn designs screen-printed on the neckline and pockets. In addition to their own line, Eskell carries other cool labels such as Ivana Helsinki, Judi Rosen, L.A.-based Desanka (their animal print shorts are irresistibly cute), In God We Trust, H Fredriksson, and the French line specializing in cute geometric print dresses American Retro. Bags by S.K. Hyde and jewelry by Sogoli round out the accessories department and interspersed among the new collections is a fantastic selection of mostly '70s and '80s vintage clothes, shoes, and bags.
If all of this sounds too good to resist and Chicago travel plans just aren't in the cards, Eskell's website provides remarkably user-friendly online sales of their own collections and select items from the store.
How two best friends turned a pet project into one of Chicago's best independent boutiques.