I’ve known Alicia Gutierrez forever and I love this girl. She isn’t easy to describe because she’s basically the cool chick basic chicks want to be. The difference is she’s not trying - and she’s actually cool. I’ve never once seen Alicia act fake and while she’s genuinely nice, she has no problem being real, even if it means hurting a few feelings. This is probably why I like her so much and why I call her “Chicago’s Ambassador Of Cool.”
While I was in Chicago, I couldn’t pass up the chance to head down to the new Soho House to hang out with Alicia and talk with her about her job as the “Under 27 Membership Manager” for the club.
Bossy. for sure.
Alicia has always had a cool job or creative project going. Even while in college, she was working for Virgil Abloh and Don C through RSVP Gallery. I like that she avoids the typical corporate work environment. She says, “I’m drawn to environments where I can be myself, have fun, and not get shit for having hand tattoos.”
“I’ve worked for big companies, and have worked on some really cool projects, but at the end of the day I want to have full autonomy. Some companies I’ve worked for want creatives, but they want ‘safe’ creatives. I’m not one of those.”
For sure, Alicia is ahead of the curve. Before most people even knew a Soho House was opening in Chicago, Alicia was already Managing Memberships. She assists in overseeing all of Soho House’s membership, as well as curating events for creatives in Chicago. “It’s a very eccentric job; one day I’m hosting a dinner for creatives to meet each other, the next I’m running a meditation gong wash or throwing a party with Theophilus London & Alex Chapman.”
Being familiar with the LA and New York Soho houses when I was a bit younger, the concept just never seemed that appealing. The idea of an exclusive club you had to pay to be a part of just seemed kind of boring to me. But I also never cared to look behind the few experiences I’ve had. She explained: “The point of Soho House is to assemble a community of creatives that have something in common: namely a creative soul. Chicago is full of creatives, but up until this point there was no place for them to meet and hang out.”
Tons of space and tons of options makes the lounge bar the focal point of the club for most members.
Now after spending some time there, the concept really starts to makes sense. When I explain to Alicia my change of heart and the idea that being a little older, it’s not that I’m concerned with being in the cool crowd, but I do appreciate a place not everyone can go. She said, “If I didn’t think Soho House was cool, I wouldn’t work for the company. Nick Jones, our Founder & CEO created a place where you can network, socialize and also do really cool, things like roasting a pig, or learning how to Vogue, or build a website.”
In my mind, the Chicago Soho House is the benchmark for what Soho House could be. Each branch has it’s own pros, cons, and vibe, but in my mind, the set up and amenities in Chicago are hard to beat. “The building itself is incredible, it’s a houses a gym with a boxing ring, a beautiful Club Bar & Tavern restaurant, multiple event spaces, rooftop pool, hotel, and my favorite - a 30 person theater. It’s literally built like a house. You could spend all day there and not be bored.”
Rooftop pool with one of the best views in one of the greatest cities in the world.
Looking up, I notice the chandeliers are fucking rad, which led to us discussing how much detail went into the design and d'ecor of the space. There’s so much attention to detail in the building it’s actually a little overwhelming to think about how it all came together.
What straight man has ever said a chandelier is fucking rad?
“There’s all sorts of amazing details in the building, from our original watertower repurposed as a mural plank-by-plank in our lobby, to the amazing gym built with Horween Leather, the last remaining tannery in Chicago.”
Soho House has rooms filled with art and shelves full of random details all coming together to create a unique and visually stunning environment.
After hanging out upstairs and in the front lobby bar, we decide to eat at Pizza East, which is Alicia’s favorite place to eat in the building.
“Being from Chicago, I roll my eyes every time a new pizza place opens up, but I love Pizza East. It’s a modern take on a pizzeria, and I love that. Plus, if you’re not a pizza person there are so many other anti pasta options. And the dessert: TO. DIE. FOR.”
Of course we order 2 of Alicia’s favorite Soho House drinks.
“I love the Soho Mule because I love anything with ginger. We fresh press our ginger so it tastes incredible.”
Apps and Zerts!
Not traditional Chicago style, nor New York, classic Italian, and thank gawd not LA style - the pizza at Pizza East is its own thing, done right.
When our pizza showed up looking damn tasty, the conversation moved back to membership and how they decide what kind of members they want:
“Keep in mind that we aren’t a country club, we are geared toward creative industries. We want like-minded individuals to come together, work together, and most importantly: have fun together. Once an application is submitted, a Committee reviews it. No one is ever rejected - they are placed on a waitlist.”
From looking like a hillbilly in at a country club, being the fancy city boy out in backwoods, or being the only American on a boat in the Central America, I’ve spent a good portion of my life not fitting in. And while there is part of me that’s always enjoyed not conforming to the environments, this idea of actually fitting in somewhere is becoming more appealing. This thought drew me back to Alicia not always fitting in but always standing out as cool.
Alicia has always had a style of her own and whether it’s mixing a Sabbath T with an Italian Handbag or Converse with fur, she always looks like a bad ass.
“My style hasn’t changed very much since my angsty teen years of listening to Black Flag and watching La Haine on repeat. I would say my style icons are Patti Smith, The Ramones, and Anna Karina (actress and Jean Luc Godard’s muse).”
While I know 100% of this is all true, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t tease her about her love for the high-end as well. Her rebuttal had me dying:
“Okay, I’m obsessed with accessories at the moment, so I’m going to say Dior and Balenciaga (currently) are killing it. I don’t want to sound like a basic bitch, so I won’t ramble about all these fashion houses that everyone knows are consistently great. My new favorite obsession is a Ralph Lauren distressed leather jacket with star epaulettes - I can’t wait to see how it’ll look in ten years (if I don’t lose it).”
This led to the question of how someone evolves to become stylish. The sum of this conversation came to the conclusion we really don’t know, but we both seem to appreciate anyone who appreciates that what’s popular isn’t always cool - and that there’s a difference between what’s trendy and actual style.
“I’m obsessed with the Italian concept of sprezzatura, which loosely translates to’ perfect conduct or performance of something without apparent effort.’ The most stylish people don’t try.”
“Stylish people. They don’t look on Instagram and see what other people are wearing and change who they are every few months, they simply exist and do their own thing without caring if it’s cool or if it’s going to be featured on Style.com or Hypebeast.”
I think I just fell in love. Again.
And the last tidbit she left me with about her favorite area in Chicago:
“My favorite neighborhood in the city is Logan Square. I’ve seen that neighborhood change a lot, but it’s where I live and have spent some great years in. Not to mention, there are great restaurants, bars, and lots of Mexicans - and I need to live around Mexicans.”