By  on November 21, 2006

Let the sun shine in.

That's what Chanel did to transform its Midwest flagship on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Workers spent five months redoing the 9,200-square-foot store, most notably opening large picture windows facing Michigan Avenue and East Lake Shore Drive that previously had been covered.

In addition, Chanel removed internal architecture, discarded enclosed accessory display cases and eliminated a private VIP ready-to-wear shopping area. The result is a bright, open space that encourages visitors to interact with the merchandise.

"It's radically new and exciting," Maureen Chiquet, who in January will become Chanel's global chief executive officer, said of the remodel. "It was time to give this boutique a face-lift. The amount of light alone makes the store more inviting."

Chiquet, who flew into Chicago Thursday for the boutique's unveiling and in-store party benefiting the Women's Board of the Joffrey Ballet, was pleased with the finished product. "It feels like a new store," she said. "The access to accessories is so much better."

Chanel also took the opportunity to expand its offering of accessories, including sunglasses, handbags and shoes, and increase the size of its rtw offering.

"Before, the store ended rather abruptly," Chiquet said, citing the private VIP salon that contained the boutique's apparel. "We have a very loyal ready-to-wear customer in Chicago and now they can see [the collection] in all its glory," she added.

Taking a cue from Chanel's use of woven tweed fabrics, architect Peter Marino used building materials developed specially for the fashion house, such as woven carbon fiber, as well as using bundles of glass fiber, which were woven into wall coverings. "[Marino] has a great way of playing on the icons of the brand," Chiquet said.

But Chanel's signature black-and-white color scheme remained unchanged.

Chicago stylist Patric Chauvez incorporated those colors when designing costumes based on Chanel pearls, the camellia flower and ribbons for ballerinas who performed on raised platforms during the event, which attracted Gerald Arpino, artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet; Helen Melchior, president of the Women's Board of the Joffrey Ballet; interior designer Nate Berkus, and Linda Johnson Rice, chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing.The Thursday event also highlighted Chanel's relationship with the ballet. The party publicized the Joffrey's upcoming production of "Apollo," the classic Russian ballet it will stage in February. The original production of "Apollo" in 1928 featured costumes by Coco Chanel, who fit ballerinas with antique pleated tunics bound with silk ties.

To support the Joffrey Ballet, Chanel donated "The Ultimate Parisian Fashion Experience" package to be auctioned at an upcoming Joffrey benefit. The package includes an invitation to attend a Chanel rtw show in Paris and a rare viewing of Coco Chanel's private apartment.

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