4xForth: Jamie Hayes of Production Mode Chicago / by Clare Johnson


This week on our 4xForth blog series, we're featuring Jamie Hayes of Production Mode Chicago, a one-of-a-kind company that creates ethically-made, limited edition clothing for men and women. Production Mode's commitment to fair trade practices is one to be admired, as are their impeccably crafted garments.

We were fortunate to have Jamie at our summer salon where the topic of conversation centered on the idea (or quest) of "doing good" while being good to yourself. As a designer and advocate for fair trade and immigrant and labor rights, Jamie added a truly unique note to our conversation. We highly encourage our community to read and explore the mission of Production Mode, as well as the many recommendations from Jamie. Chicago music highlights:

  1. Music is a great source of joy and inspiration for me. Lucky for me, Chicago's music scene is legendary. Driving around town you can hear great music on our radio stations - I especially love Vocalo and specifically Ayana Contreras' show "Reclaimed Soul."
  2. For live music, Chicago is full of great venues. My favorite place to hear live music is Constellation. The booking is very adventurous--it's an especially great place to see and support our city's very vibrant jazz scene. Plus the bar's atmosphere is fantastic and the drinks are cheap!
  3. For buying records, I love Dusty Groove. They specialize in used vinyl and have an especially good selection of Soul, Jazz, Reggae, Latin and Brazilian music--some of my favorite genres.
  4. For dancing, my favorite place is Danny's Bar in Bucktown. Danny's is housed in an old Chicago-style shotgun apartment building. The small rooms, low ceilings, and fantastic staff create a lovely house party vibe, very much in contrast to your typical club experience. Some of my favorite deejays- Eternally Yours and DJ Rickshaw--play regularly at Danny's, and I spin there every third Thursday.
  5. I also like the Wednesday night deejay set at Bar ñ. It's another out-of-the-way bar, housed in a triangular wedge of a building on Elston. DJ Shon Dervis is accompanied by Ernie Adams on drums in a tiny room. Dancing always seems to happen spontaneously, the crowd is lovely, and the caipirinhas and mojitos are always flowing.

Chicago architecture highlights:

Chicago's architecture is another great source of inspiration and beauty.

  1. I love taking the brown line el train over the Chicago river, or driving down Lake Shore Drive with the gorgeous lake on one side, and our majestic skyline on the other. Some specific highlights are Harry Weese's river cottages, Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City, Mies Van Der Rohe's Crown Hall on the Illinois Institute of Technology Campus, and the workaday beauty of girders that support the el train system.
  2. I never tire of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Chicago river cruise - I always suggest the tour to out of town visitors and love the chance to be a tourist in my own city.
  3. Also not to be missed is CAF's fall program wherein hundreds of buildings not normally open to the public are available to tour.

Chicago art highlights:

  1. One of my favorite galleries in Chicago is Corbett vs. Dempsey. Not only do they curate innovative shows often featuring Chicago-based artists, but they also use their gallery as a platform for creative events and projects. For example, they often host solo performances by jazz musicians. I've seen some of the best and most creative performances in their intimate, art-filled space. They have even started their own record label.
  2. My favorite art institution is Hyde Park Art Center, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary. The HPAC is unique in its support of early and mid-career artists, its level of community engagement, classes, and creatively curated shows and residency programs. For example, their 75th anniversary bash included the opening of two art shows, a petting zoo, a pig roast, cupcakes, buttons, and Maurice "Ice" Culpeper deejaying a live set that got everyone dancing from 3-70. There is always something interesting, unexpected, and thought-provoking happening in this space. Out of this institution have come several art movements, most notably the Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who. A wonderful documentary by Pentimenti Productions came out last year focusing on these movements. It includes a great soundtrack by Chicago-based jazz musician Tomeka Reid.
  3. Currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art is an exhibit called "The Freedom Principle, Experiments in Art and Music, 1965-Now". It focuses on two vibrant art/music movements in Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA). Many excellent jazz performances are scheduled as part of the exhibit.

Fashion/fiber resources: 

  1. I'd be reminisce if I didn't include my favorite places for fashion/fiber inspiration. One of my favorite parts of my job as a fashion designer is sourcing. All of the leather I use in my line comes from Chicago's Horween tannery - the last tannery left in Chicago and one of the last left in the US. The tannery started in 1905 and is housed in a beautiful old brick building along the river. They are known for their supple, vegetable tanned hides, which develop a beautiful patina as the leather ages. In the past few years, the tannery has allowed smaller producers and hobbyists to purchase hides through a retail arm called Tannery Row with low minimums (1 hide).
  2. Another great resource for leather, leather working, and shoe-making supplies is I. Sachs on Roosevelt Road. It's a beautiful mess of hides, dyes, mink oils, and soling leather. A maker's paradise.
  3. Similarly, any fabric fanatic must go to Textile Discount Outlet in Pilsen. It's a magical land of deadstock/closeout fabrics and findings housed in a sprawling, dilapidated building. Need a supply of day-glow plastic bra parts? You're in luck! The whole basement may be filled with them! How about rainbow-striped elastic for making that Gallagher costume you've always dreamed of? Done. And you may just find some gorgeous lambskin or silk charmeuse at rock bottom prices. Always inspiring.
  4. Lastly, I love our city's thrift and vintage stores as a source of design inspiration. For a beautifully curated selection of 1930s and 40s clothing, I go to Dethrose Vintage in Pilsen. If I'm on a budget or looking for surprises, I go to Unique ThriftVillage Discount outlet or Salvation Army. I've even found lovely fabrics at all of these stores over the years.

Thank you for sharing, Jamie!

I tend to glean a lot of fun information from 4xForth interviews and I must say, learning that you deejay at Danny's made my day. I absolutely love the approach you took to our traditional 4xForth questions and I, for one, feel inspired to venture out and visit some of your fantastic recommendations - especially the music and dance spots. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and colorful knowledge of our beautiful city.

Be sure to follow Jamie and Production Mode on their site, Instagram and Facebook.