Open For Business: AllSaints Spitalfields

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The new AllSaints Spitalfields store on Michigan Avenue may be mistaken for an art gallery, vintage clothing factory, or even a modeling agency. The front of the store boasts 800 vintage Singer sewing machines, harkening back to the roots of the fashion industry. Ruggedly good-looking, stylish men and women greet customers at the entrance. And the entire store is so thoroughly decorated and atmospheric that you just don’t know where to look.

Since it started in the UK in the mid-nineties, AllSaints global expansion has led to ten U.S. standalone stores, a U.S.-specific website, and fourteen concessions in Bloomingdale’s nationwide.

The Chicago flagship store is a continuation of this expansion, and expansion is just the right word for the 11,000-square-foot space. A large glass atrium at the entrance looks as if the Michigan Avenue spot has turned into an industrial European train station. After gazing up at the sewing machines, the interior has a multitude of cinematic spotlights filling the ceilings, and the entire store has a rough, worn-in, distressed feel. Sewing-machine-like hardware and structures grace the floor and many of the whitewashed brick walls, which rise up forty-two feet before hitting the ceiling. The majority of the store’s fixtures are salvaged, and any that aren’t are handmade in the UK. There is a huge projection screen stretching across the entire store. Read the rest of this entry »

Open for Business: Oliver Peoples Boutique

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You might call this news a feast for the eyes: designer eyewear boutique Oliver Peoples opens its newest boutique, in Chicago’s Gold Coast, on July 9.

“Chicago has always been a target city for us to open an Oliver Peoples Boutique,” says David Schulte, CEO. “The city’s rich design, art and architectural heritage, in addition to the sophisticated people who live there, are a perfect match with our brand.” The new store even features a limited-edition frame sold exclusively at the Chicago location—a unisex style with eighteen-carat gold lenses and custom stamping and packaging.

The new Chicago location has similar design to Oliver Peoples boutiques across the nation, but with a couple of hints at Chicago’s culture. Its ash wood and concrete floors give a nod to the brand’s aesthetic: simplistic, sartorial and sexy. The store’s general manager, Chad Lissak, says the store “creates a unique retail experience that is more reminiscent of a contemporary gallery than a typical frame shop.” Lissak has been a part of everything involving the new store, from finding the location to putting the last frame on the shelf.

The boutique experience (as opposed to buying Oliver Peoples at a distributor location) offers the customer a more tailored experience. “Our eyewear stylists are extremely knowledgeable and can offer custom fittings to help you select the perfect frame taking into consideration all of the elements. We have on-site opticians for any and all prescription needs,” Lissak says. (Sarah Alo)

Oliver Peoples, 941 North Rush

Open for Business: Scoop NYC Gold Coast

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Scoop NYC is taking things slowly—its second store in Chicago, just opened in the Gold Coast, comes about four years after the company entered Chicago with its Bucktown location at 1702 North Milwaukee.

So what’s different about the new store?  The 4,800-square-foot Gold Coast store reflects an updated version of Scoop, says Heidi Hoelzer, the buyer director and divisional merchandise manager. “We will open the store with our best product and brands and, after spending more time with the Gold Coast Scoop customer, we will edit as necessary. I think we will see more tourists in our Gold Coast store than we do in Bucktown, with a higher demand for designer items,” says Hoelzer.

For this reason, the Gold Coast Scoop store will add Roberto Cavalli and Missoni to its designers roster, which includes Helmut Lang, Alice & Olivia, Free City, Burberry, Camilla Skovgaard, Anya Hindmarch, Zac Posen, Dsquared, Billy Reid and Simon Spurr. “From the best shirt, denim, blazer, cocktail dress, or beach cover-up to a strappy sandal, we have it all under one roof for men and women,” Hoelzer says.

Under that roof are two stories of men’s and women’s merchandise, with women’s clothing, accessories and shoes on the first floor and a glass staircase leading to menswear on the second. A 375-square-foot terrace provides event space, and Scoop expects to host a book signing event for the authors of “Who What Wear,” as well as trunk shows and charity events. (Sarah Alo)

Scoop NYC, 1011 North Rush, (312)649-9880

Top of the Shops: British retailer “pops up” as a teaser for its Michigan Avenue debut

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The British are coming, indeed! With over 300 stores in the UK and more than 100 international locations, the British women’s retail clothing giant Topshop (along with its other half for men, Topman) is moving into Chicago on Michigan Avenue in September. In honor of its impending arrival, Space519, one of the retailers in the 900 North Michigan shops, is hosting a two-month-long Topman pop-up shop inside its store.

Space519 opened the Topman pop-up store (or as they call it, shop-in-shop) at the beginning of June, and it will stay there through the end of July. “We’re launching this to get everyone excited,” says Jim Wetzel, co-owner of Space519. The store will receive new styles of Topman every week that are exclusive to the States. Right now, Wetzel says, the style is more focused and conservative, “but it gets funkier as the summer goes on.”

Just like at Space519, which sells ready-to-wear, books, furniture, apothecary and more, Topman merchandise will vary greatly at its temporary home. The first round of styles has a 1970s dandy British flair and includes vintage Timex watches, a navy suit, floral button-down shirts, camouflage jackets and ties, classic pocket squares and cardigans, and even a pair of mid-thigh-length swim trunks with a California and Hawaii surfer dude vintage postage-stamps print.

“Since the collection is so vast, we can really bring a lot in,” Wetzel says. “We have everything from swim trunks to suits.” Wetzel says he is particularly fond of the suits Topman offers, which cost only around $250. But, his personal favorite in Topman’s stock is their shoes, which he says are “especially cool.” He also says the floral button downs feel really British and fresh—a little bit dandy and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Read the rest of this entry »

Biker Chic: Chrome puts the party into shopping at its new Chicago store

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By Sarah Alo

Paul Wilson, the store manager of the San Francisco store, says there’s no “cool guy” vibe at Chrome, which just opened its third location, in Chicago’s Wicker Park. Most of the staff and many of the customers have tattoos and piercings, but they are just as welcoming to a soccer mom as they are to an inked biker.

“Chicago is an urban city whose culture we identify with as a brand—tough and no-nonsense on the outside, but friendly and welcoming on the inside,” Meghan Litchfield, the head of retail at Chrome, says. “Also, we have a huge fan base in Chicago—we received hundreds of letters and Facebook posts from Chicago fans asking us to open up shop there,” she says.

Chrome has been growing exponentially in the past few years. Though it’s still a small business (twelve people at the San Francisco home office and fifteen in the California factory), the company had half that amount only three years ago.

Litchfield lists three main goals upon opening a Chrome store: support their local dealers, become part of the community and throw raging parties, which they plan to do every third Thursday of the month. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for a Makeover: In search of that old magic at Macy’s Water Tower Place

*The Nationals, News and Dish 1 Comment »

By Brian Hieggelke

That I don’t regularly write about store renovations for the Chicago outlets of multibillion-dollar out-of-town corporations should come as little surprise, but this one is personal: back in the summer of 1980, I worked in the Marshall Field’s store at Water Tower Place, commuting each day by train from my home in Joliet.

Times are always heady when you’re eighteen, but those were special. The mating of disco and punk rock spawned new wave and hip-hop, fashion was becoming a mainstream obsession, thanks to the innovation of designer jeans—nothing came between Brooke Shields and her Calvins, and the mighty Vanderbilt fortune became synonymous with an embroidered little swan on denim—and the recent movie hit, “American Gigolo,” which made Giorgio Armani a household name. Water Tower Place was a fresh phenomenon, just five years old or so, half familiar—a shopping mall in that medium’s heyday—and half exotic—it was vertical, and located in the big city not the suburbs, with  over-the-top stores like Fiorucci that exuded exotic decadence. Suburban kids like me felt cool cruising its escalators and eating giant sandwiches at the Levy brothers’ D.B. Kaplan’s Delicatessen. A couple of years later, a teenage Andrew McCarthy would bang the MILF Jacqueline Bisset in its glass elevator in an iconic scene from the otherwise forgettable film “Class.” Somehow, the whole thing—the music, the culture, the fashion—seemed to come together at Water Tower Place. Especially if you were eighteen. Read the rest of this entry »

From Drab to Fab: The Ann Taylor Renaissance

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By Rhianna Jones

Ann Taylor is redefining itself. In order to get the word out that this long-esteablished staple for the well-dressed working woman is undergoing a discernible rejuvenation, Laura Pellegrini, the label’s VP Senior Designer, recently visited Chicago to preview its latest collection for select members of media and the city’s fashion circuit.

The cool atmosphere in a private room in Sunda restaurant perfectly complemented the modern sensibility emanating from the clothes on display. In addition to the various media, designers and fashion aficionados, several company representatives—dressed head to toe in Ann—made the rounds, perpetuating the sophistication and wearability of the brand. Read the rest of this entry »

Open for Business: Nike + Saint Alfred

*New Boutiques, *The Nationals, -Mens Shoes, -Menswear, -Streetwear, -Women's Shoes, -Womenswear, Bucktown No Comments »

It’s Friday night and the sounds flowing off the DJ’s decks easily drown out the traffic outside the doors on Milwaukee Avenue. But the noise doesn’t seem to faze the boisterous crowd of sneaker heads, hipsters, bloggers and beauty queens gathered within, checking out the new wares and, of course, each other. Just like another shoe-release shindig for the St. Alfred’s regulars, perhaps, but we’re a long way from Niketown,  tiger. This is Nike+St. Alfred’s coming-out party.

The global shoe giant and the Chicago sneaker mecca have teamed up in a promising retail collaboration that’s taken over the Hejfina space next door to Saint Alfred’s storefront on Milwaukee Avenue, starting this Thursday, and lasting through this summer’s World Cup, at the least. The pop-up shop offers selective Nike sportswear, most notably its licensed soccer gear from competing countries, Saint Alfred x Nike Co-Lab pieces and exclusive artist collaborations. Read the rest of this entry »

Open for Business: Zara

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ZarainteriorThis past Thursday, the highly anticipated Spanish retailer Zara hit Michigan Avenue in a flurry of champagne, cementing its status as an envoy of chic, accessible, moderately priced clothing for men, women and children. The three-story venue is the first heart-of-Chicago outpost of the international favorite; until now, the only Zara in the Chicago area was in Skokie.

Crafted to give customers a more accessible shopping experience, Zara’s interior is certainly easy on the eyes. Granite tiles sparkle with the soft, flattering light from decorative floating orbs, while plentiful mirrors and even benches leave shoppers focused on their hunt for the perfect addition to their wardrobes, and less on their back pain. Decorated in a monochromatic palette of gray, black and white, the store is at once grand and demure, and like pricier upscale boutiques allows its clothes to take center stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Open for Business: DLR Clothing & Accessories

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DLR Clothing - Oct09 - 00097For stylish low-priced clothing, Chicago women might shop at H&M or Forever 21 downtown. But discriminating value shoppers have a new option: DLR Clothing & Accessories in Lincoln Square. Owner Sandy Veder stocks his boutique with fashionable merchandise that he buys wholesale. “Inventory is held at the actual manufacturer, which is different from most retailers,” he says. With no distributor or large stockroom, the markup is low.

DLR’s reasonably priced brands include Pink Martini, Ark & Co, and Alythea. “We sell Lush—you’ll find it at Nordstrom’s, but ours is thirty percent cheaper,” Veder says. “We have Renee C. at thirty percent cheaper than Saks, and we get it three weeks before they do. Shop anywhere around and you’ll see that a jacket/coat costs $250, but we have it for $129.95.”

Another advantage is the limited quantity offered of each distinctive fashion. Read the rest of this entry »