Catherine Sarr’s Insider Guide to Chicago

Catherine Sarr, the founder of luxury jewelry brand ALMASIKA, talks falling head over heels for Chicago. She shares with us the best rooftop terraces, laid-back jazz scenes and where to find some sweet souvenirs in the Windy City.

Softness. Curves. Timelessness. That's the beauty and tagline of ALMASIKA, a luxury jewelry brand that is inspired by the curves and lines of the body. Through each and every design details of universal symbols, art and culture can be found.

Parisian-born founder, Catherine Sarr, draws on Chicago's inspiration when researching and designing new lines and how the city has well and truly stolen her heart. Here, she shares romantic dinner spots, boujee breakfast locations and where she's heading to unwind.

Art communities and Chicago essentials: in conversation with Catherine Sarr

The best day to arrive in Chicago is…

Tuesday. That way you won't miss Tuesdays on the Terrace at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The weekly laid-back jazz concert is the ideal way to immerse yourself in Chicago's famous artist community.

Where should we wake up?

There's no better place to wake up in Chicago than The Hoxton. Whether you're more of a breakfast poolside kind of person or kick-start the day with a morning yoga class, there's an option for everyone.

Describe Chicago's style…

Chicago oozes a care-free, easygoing vibe. Geographically the city is nestled between New York and LA, yet somehow manages to steal the best qualities from both coasts. It's casual with an urban edge, in many ways the individual style you'll find feels a lot like London.

Where is your studio and what does it look like?

The studio is located in Lincoln Park, a beautiful, tree-lined neighborhood on the northside of Chicago. I'm lucky to be surrounded by art, books and sculptures in my studio. Books specifically are an important part of my creative process, there's a lot of research that goes into the meaning of a shape, story or a form that inspiries any piece. The studio space allows me to have access to all of these resources.

How does your surrounding impact or inspire your designs?

Chicago is very special! It's a city I fell in love with at first sight and has since been an inspiration to my creative process. The architecture of the city is fascinating, home to the Aqua and Vista towers designed by Jeanne Gang - the waves and curves are truly mesmerising.

The vibrant art community and the unparalleled civic engagements are a representation of how to build a company as part of a community. I am grateful to be involved in the contemporary art family, art is seen as a vector of social change. ALMASIKA celebrates the symbols, stories and forms that unite people across cultures and generations. I couldn't have found a better home than Chicago.

Define ALMASIKA's aesthetic:

ALMASIKA represents sculptural shapes, curves and soft lines that each echo the lines of the body - that's the signature of all our designs. We understated the silhouette that can take you into the evening. It's very much a representation of the Parisian style I grew up with, I strive for people to be attracted to the lines, subtlety and the design.

Share your favourite stores in Chicago…

Ikram and Space 519. I love the curated appeal of these stores. Every piece has been personally selected by the owners, both have unique sensibilities, the story they tell through their selections is singular to them and this city.

What should we bring back as a souvenir?

Garrett's is always a tasty souvenir to bring back to just about anyone (especially popcorn lovers). It's a crowd pleaser and very Chicago, something you can't find anywhere else.

Where should we head for breakfast?

Head to Lula's Cafe in Logan Square. Located in an institution, Lula's Cafe combines the best parts of the neighborhood, friendly faces and local regulars, with the appeal of a thoughtful farm-to-table menu.

How about lunch with friends?

The Lunchroom. Set inside the concept store, Space 519, it has an impressive vegetarian friendly menu that emphasizes locally sourced ingredients.

And for somewhere more romantic?

Virtue in Hyde Park makes for a great date night. It combines the comfort of southern food with an attractive wine selection - perfect for getting the conversation flowing. After dinner you'll want to stroll a couple blocks east to find the Obama Kissing Rock. It may not sound like the most romantic place but it's where President Barack Obama first kissed Michelle.

What if we want dinner with a view?

Without question it has to be the rooftop at Chicago Athletic Association to Cindy's. You'll get the best view of Millennium Park and some moreish cocktails to accompany your dinner.

Somewhere for an after dinner drink?

For an after work drink make a beeline for Lazy Bird. Open till late in the basement of The Hoxton, it's part-cocktail bar and part-music lounge.

The best place to dance in Chicago is…

My home! There's always music blaring in my house so I'm always dancing.

Share a secret spot only locals know about…

Most people don't know that there's a handful of places in Chicago that you can shore dive. North Ave. Beach is a must-visit, it's the only beach in the city that you can dive from.

Where can we go in Chicago to feel inspired?

Chicago is a place where you get the best of both worlds: the city and the beach, so whenever I need some inspiration I head to the lake. Take a trip to one of the sand beaches along Chicago's shoreline and you'll feel like you've taken a beach vacation for the afternoon.

How about somewhere to relax?

I head to BIÂN to relax, it's a sanctuary for me. The private member's club is centered around holistic health and social wellbeing, a place where I can enjoy everything from sound meditation to acupuncture. You can spend the whole day there, starting off with a healthy breakfast, meeting up with friends for lunch, enjoying an exercise class and finishing the night with cocktails in the most relaxing setting.

Finally, what should we pack in our SUITCASE?

Admittedly, I'm a heavy packer because I believe you can never have enough options. I'd suggest a silk blouse to help navigate the city's different styles. A silk blouse has the power to take you seamlessly from the city's more affluent Gold Coast to the more casual Pilsen neighborhood. Depending on the time of the year, a mid-season jacket is a must-pack due to the unpredictable weather. Chicago is a great city for a ramble so I'd suggest a pair of trainers, that way you won't miss out on all the adventure the city has to offer.

My essential is a playsuit from the sustainable fashion brand, Jeune Otte. It's ideal for exploring and works well with an ALMASIKA necklace to take you from day to night. Top tip: pack some Babyganics mandarin hand sanitizing wipes - made for kids but great for adults too.

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