I watched my mom make clothes for the guys in the neighborhood and I could see the confidence it gave to them. I saw the way they acted when they dressed well,” says Milton Latrell, 38, about the transformative power of a great outfit.
More than a decade ago, along with childhood friend Christopher Brackenridge, 39, he founded Agriculture, a shop nestled in a once bustling stretch of 43rd Street in Bronzeville. “Right here there used to be a series of black-owned businesses up and down the street,” says Latrell, who grew up in one of the neighborhood projects—and like Brackenridge, learned how to sew at home. Inspired by Bronzeville’s golden age in the 1920s, they try to evoke the style from the era with “classic and timeless” pieces: “There were real clean gentlemen who layered well and piled up on accessories like scarves, hats, and pocket squares. And they were creative—everybody had a sense of style. Even the milkman wore bow ties, suspenders, long socks, and capri shorts.”
Latrell affirms this aesthetic is “coming back tremendously” nowadays—and he strives to offer a wide array of quality products for the dapper chaps out there. “We don’t make everything in the store, but we sell everything,” he says. Besides bespoke suits made of wool, silk, or cashmere (starting at $750), they also produce button-down shirts (starting at $120), ties (starting at $35), pocket squares ($20), Italian leather shoes (starting at $350), and even a fragrance. Mulberry Silk ($55) gives off citrus, fresh jasmine, patchouli, and vanilla notes, with a floral, spicy heart. “It is fresh yet masculine,” Latrell says. “Like the fabric it is named after, it is meant to be worn every season. We launched it two months ago and already sold over 150 bottles.”
Agriculture also carries other brands, such as footwear by Mezlan and Bacco Bucci and sturdy cardigans made of twined rope imported from Turkey ($90). For those in need of some guidance, Latrell prides himself in offering personalized service, in which he caters to his clients’ unique needs: “We listen to what each person really wants and try to adapt our selection to their lifestyle—not the other way ’round.” Besides custom tailoring, he and Brackenridge also do personal in-store styling sessions ($50) and wardrobe assessments ($185). “The main reason so many people support us is because we style them according to who they are,” Latrell says. Celebrating 11 years in the business and cultivating famous customers like actor Mel Jackson and NBA players Luol Deng and Andrew Harrison, the Bronzeville natives really seem to be reaping what they sew. v