By  on December 7, 2004

NEW YORK — Dennis Basso will be moving into the Windy City next fall.

The fur designer has signed a 15-year lease for a new store in downtown Chicago that is slated to open in the “One Magnificent Mile” building in September.

“Historically, Chicago is a very cold city, and it’s a fashion-conscious city,” Basso said. “All the major stores are there, and in terms of the Dennis Basso label, it was a prudent step to go in that direction.”

Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci will be some of Basso’s neighbors in the new digs at 980 North Michigan Avenue, between Oak and Walton Streets. The 4,400-square-foot space was previously occupied by Ralph Lauren. Graff, Anne Fontaine, Movado and Ghurka are some of the companies that have opened stores in Chicago in recent months.

The Chicago store will be the third in the U.S. for Basso, who opened his first at the Little Nell Resort in Aspen, Colo., two years ago, and followed up with a New York unit on Madison Avenue last year. Modeled after the New York store, the Chicago one will have a “luxurious residential” decor with bleached sycamore tables, mohair sofas with silk piping and other warm touches. Basso’s sable coats, shearling pieces and accessories will be offered in the store. Customized coats, which generally take a week to be made, will also be sold in the new location.

First-year projected retail volume is $7 million for the store, which has an annual rent of $500,000, Basso said. The fact that the brand has a healthy business with Saks Fifth Avenue in Chicago has encouraged Basso about the potential of his own store, he said.

Basso is toying with the idea of producing ready-to-wear, but no formal plans have been made. For the time being, he will continue to focus on his outerwear and accessories, most of which are made in New York.

With plans to open one or two stores a year, the furrier is scouting locations in Beverly Hills, Washington and Houston, and possibly London and Paris.

Janet Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Naomi Campbell, Star Jones, Cookie Johnson (Magic Johnson’s wife) and other high-profile fans have helped raise awareness about Basso’s furs.“The celebrity factor has given our brand a stamp of approval, and you know the designs aren’t bad either — we try,” he said with a laugh.

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