Chicago’s Iridium Clothing Co. Blends Art and Chemistry to Encourage Functional Streetwear

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If you’re familiar with the urban fashion scene in Chicago, you’ve likely heard of Iridium Clothing Co. The brand hosts a slew of events around the city, sometimes even unrelated to streetwear.

My first personal introduction to Iridium was at their Wicker Park location for St. Louis-based artist, Seal$, pop up shop. The energy of the shop, including their eclectic custom pieces, was enough to entice my return.

What’s most notable about Iridium is its mission to blend art and chemistry – it’s not all about the clothing. In fact, the brand was originally created by a husband and wife with academic backgrounds in STEM.

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AJ Peace, Iridium’s Global Sales Rep, was kind enough to chat with me about the brand’s family beginning, its global impact and pop-up events around the city.

Meet AJ and get to know your new favorite Chicago-based brand, Iridium.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

If someone has never been to Iridium before, how would you describe the shop?

An edgy, jaw dropping, high-energy clothing store that mixes art and fashion. Our brand is based around science so we use unique textures and pieces.  For example, neoprene uses your natural body heat to keep your temperature either warm or cool. We also have water resistant material. It’s just a really high energy brand that collaborates with art and fashion.

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I didn’t even know that Iridium focused on science! I’ve seen the periodic table piece that was obviously inspired by science, but it’s much bigger than that. 

No, the whole brand is based around science. Iridium is the 77th element on the periodic table! Iridium is the purest form of platinum and back in the day everybody wanted platinum everything – so we wanted to keep that lifestyle going. My boss graduated as a bio-chemist major and his wife was a designer so they came together. You’ll see biohazard leggings and high tech materials, textures and patterns. 

I love that! Whenever you picture someone in the science background, you never imagine that they’ll have any kind of connection to art or fashion. That’s so innovative.

Yeah! A lot of science goes into art.

Which makes sense when you think of it on a basic level, but I’d never put two and two together.

Yeah, me neither!

And it started here in Chicago, right?

Yes. Started off in a storefront in Pilsen when we had our first pop up shop in 2013. The pop up shop was so successful that we opened up an actual shop downtown in Block 37. Then came the Atlanta store.  A few years later, we opened this store [Wicker Park], our flag ship.

Is the Iridium downtown or the one in Atlanta different from the flagship?

Definitely. The one downtown is more fitting for the demographic down there – higher priced brands. We carry Supreme, Bape, Palace, Nike – all of the higher-end brands. We decided to do that to bring a different demographic into our world. It’s been pretty successful, it’s always popping over there.

The one in Atlanta is doing great because there are so many black people who love to support down there.

You guys talk a lot about being a global brand online. Where does that global part come in? You obviously have Chicago locked down, but how do you all plan to expand?

We’ve expanded since we’ve opened up, and that actually plays a big role in our success. One of the first stores that carried our brand besides here in Chicago was actually out in Japan. This brand called Msgr had a store out there and they were carrying our brand. He’s collabed with people that work for Justin Bieber, so I’ve gotten to style Waka Flocka, I’ve gotten to style FKA Twigs’s songwriter.

Iridium is global meaning we can appeal to anybody. We have things that can work in anybody’s lifestyle. Businessmen may not think that they can come in here and shop but we have things that you could wear to a business meeting. Performers – we have statement pieces that you can perform in. Women – we have women’s clothing. My grandmother actually shops here! With this brand we want to showcase that everybody and anybody can wear it. Not just the younger demographic.

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Focusing mostly on the functionality of the clothing…

Right! It looks good, but how does it feel?

I don’t like spending a lot of money, I’m cheap! So if I buy something, I need to get a few wears out of it. That’s why a lot of our coats are reversible or we have a lot of color patterns. We want you to be able to wear it in as many different environments as possible. Unless it’s a statement piece of course.

It looks good, but how does it feel?

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I know when we first launched, we had a lot of reds, blacks and whites. Those are just the standard colors for life! Now we’ve started doing some burgundy’s, some navy blues. We have a really nice periwinkle blue piece up there. We’re just trying to move along because the culture is definitely changing. Even here in Wicker Park – the demographic is changing so we’ve had to evolve. A pair of jogging pants would usually cost around $120 and now our joggers are like $65.

We want you to be able to wear it in as many different environments as possible.

That makes sense. Downtown is probably the same – you have a different demographic to serve so you switch it up.

Exactly. They’re trying to make Wicker Park a little more mainstream but the reality is still broke hipsters. So when the broke hipsters come in and see a $100 shirt, they’re like “deuces!”

Do you guys have seasonal releases?

Yeah, but honestly we try to have as many everyday pieces as possible. We’re experimenting with textures. This white piece right here is one of our most durable materials. It lasts a very long time and is super comfortable. We’re experimenting. That mesh body suit – we wouldn’t have had that awhile ago, but people are starting to ease up.

Quality over quantity.

You guys do a lot of events, get really involved in the Chicago community. How do you decide whether you want to get involved with some of the groups around here?

We just look at their past events, their following, how we can benefit from the collaboration and so forth. We’re really open. We just had a Kim Kardashian play downstairs, it was hilarious. We had a worship circle – a church rented the upstairs it was really interesting experience… but it’s mostly about supporting the culture here in Chicago while also staying consistent with the Iridium lifestyle. 

It’s clear that Iridium Clothing Co. is for the culture. This isn’t just another brand looking to style and sell clothing; Iridium is actively involved in the Chicago community by fusing both the arts and sciences.

Follow Iridium Clothing Company on Instagram for new releases and updates, and stop by the shop for the next event!

Looking to host an event at Iridium’s premiere spaces in Wicker Park and Block 37? Inquire here.

Stay tuned to SoulCulture Blog’s Instagram to see my own personal pick-ups from Iridium’s downtown location.



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