‘Nonetheless’ makes green look effortless

By Sophia Coleman

Now cyclists can look classy and eco-conscious while commuting to work, thanks to the expansion of a sustainable clothing brand entirely manufactured in Chicago.

Nonetheless Garments, founded in 2009 by designer Jonathan Shaun, will be replacing his previous storefront, Connect, 1330 N. Milwaukee Ave., in mid-March. The zero-waste clothing line is currently composed of menswear pieces such as weatherproof pants and jackets made from recycled materials. The store itself has many repurposed elements, including antique barn doors and a halo-like sculpture made of scrap pieces of wood that serves to separate Shaun’s studio from the showroom.

“The mantra of Nonetheless Garments is ‘less-is-more,’” Shaun said. “My design philosophy is starting with a problem and finding a solution.”

He has always had a connection to nature and highly functional clothing. He began designing in 1994 in Colorado, where he had a small snowboarding clothing line. He sold the company in 1999 and stopped designing for 10 years because of what he calls his “love/hate relationship with the design industry.”

In 2008, Shaun opened Connect, a store dedicated to selling eco-conscious apparel brands, including Nonetheless, which he founded one year later. Although he had connections in Canada, San Francisco, New York and China, Shaun said he was bent on designing and manufacturing in Chicago.

“You can use all the environmentally safe fabrics you want, or the most environmentally sound factories in China, but the product still has to come over on a boat,” he said.

Michael Alexander, an executive producer for a sustainable fashion show called “Vert Couture,” is familiar with Nonetheless and said that from his eco-perspective, the company has a great selection of interesting menswear.

“I know what brands get it and what brands don’t,” Alexander said. “I would say from a macro perspective that sustainable fashion is here to stay because there is a tremendous amount of waste with the current method of producing [fashion].”

Alexander said Nonetheless is on the right track of becoming one of the top brands at the head of the green movement in the city, and that Chicago as a whole has the potential to be a worldwide leader for sustainable fashion. He said eco-conscious fashion is more than just a trend, especially with youth who demand more sustainability in their products and services.

Shaun explained his design ethos as centered on the triple bottom line mantra, “People, Planet, Profit.” People come first, he said, because Nonetheless’ main objective is to design locally made, durable and aesthetically pleasing garments.

His designs are sewn together at a family-owned factory on the West Side.  Price points are a bit higher — because everything is made locally—customers should expect to pay $98-$260 for most items.

“Sustainability and being ‘green’ was the new black about five years ago,” said Todd Wroblewski, merchandiser for Nontheless. “Nowadays, most companies that do it are looking at the whole picture.”

Shaun, a self-proclaimed “textile geek,” said every product is made to go seamlessly from commuting to client meetings and then to dinner. He gave the example of the gusset crotch in many of the pants that is ideal for bike commuters because the design allows the wearer to move freely.

One of the company’s most popular items, the Narra Wool Bender Pant, is made from a wool and polyester blend fabric that recycles eight to 10 plastic bottles with each garment.

He said he never creates an entire collection or a “story” for each season. Rather, he creates pieces to fill voids within the industry. Currently, most of his products are menswear, but he said he is looking to create a women’s line in the future.

“Everything is locally made; you can go from being on your bike to the bar without looking crummy,” said Trent Halbach, a new employee of Nonetheless. “I also just found out you could recycle your jackets. ”

Another method Shaun is looking to implement is the Afterward Program, which would allow customers who are wearing his clothes to exchange them at a discounted price in the event that if customers want to update their wardrobe.

“My company is based on providing solutions to individuals needing purpose-driven design over any form with modular design aesthetics,” Shaun said. “I thrive on solutions, not the problems related to what I call the ‘F word’: fashion.”