By  on February 25, 2010

CHICAGO — Is Marc Jacobs International recession proof?

According to president Robert Duffy, here to open a 3,000-square-foot sparkling, chandeliered Marc Jacobs Collection store Wednesday, the growing brand just posted its two best years — 2008 and 2009 — with 2010 off to an even better start.

“We have weathered this very well,” said Duffy at the store one block west of Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. “It’s weird.”

Duffy, who didn’t give specifics other than to say the brand’s profitable, said Marc Jacobs has been well served by recent growth into Brazil, China and Southeast Asia, given those economies have not been as affected by the recession.

Also, Marc Jacobs has enjoyed strong sales of its two women’s fragrances, Daisy and Lola, has seen the men’s collection gain ground, and has been layering in lower-priced items over the years, he said.

“There wasn’t anyone walking into the stores who couldn’t buy anything,” Duffy noted.

That’s clearly the case at Chicago’s Marc Jacobs Collection store, where prices range from $11 for a pair of flip-flops to a $26,000 pair of diamond earrings exclusive to the Windy City store. Shoppers at the location, which houses women’s, men’s and children’s apparel and accessories, also may encounter a $68 knapsack, a $395 black satin handbag with velvet ribbon and $6,000 coats.

Providing merchandise at a variety of price points paid off for the brand, which was not left scrambling to alter prices when the recession hit, Duffy said.

In turn, Jacobs has continued its ongoing expansion, planning to unveil a handful of new stores this year as well as introducing two concepts — Marc Jacobs’ first bookstore on New York’s Bleecker Street, set to open this spring, and a Marc by Marc Jacobs store and cafe in the Brera district of Milan, slated to open this April.

In Chicago, the new Collection store is positioned at the corner of Rush and Walton streets in the new luxury 60-story Elysian hotel and condo development. Duffy said he had been scouting for potential Collection store space off Michigan Avenue and off Oak Street for more than five years, before finding this bright corner location, which now possesses 20-foot ceilings and custom chandeliers with hand-blown purple and golden colored pendants crystals.

The jewel tones in the chandelier are echoed in the custom glass tiles that cover the store’s back wall. Sycamore shelving and marble-and-glass displays with nickel details — both signatures of the Marc Jacobs Collection stores — are featured throughout the space, which was designed by Stephan Jaklitsch Architects.

Duffy was so taken by the finished product that he believes the future Hong Kong flagship will share many similarities to the Chicago store. He did not release expected sales figures for the Chicago store.

Interestingly, areas hard hit by the troubled economy, such as Las Vegas and Miami’s neighboring Bal Harbour, are home to Collection stores that recorded their best years last year, Duffy said, whereas the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco Collection locations did not perform as well.

With more international growth on the docket this year, Duffy views further domestic expansion as the next order of business, with an eye out for space in Washington and Philadelphia, as well as further sites in Florida. “We have a customer out there and I feel it’s time,” Duffy said, adding the recession provides opportunity for top-notch space at lower rents.

Later this year, the brand plans to open Marc by Marc Jacobs boutiques in Macau, Singapore, Mexico City and Bangkok, as well as Marc Jacobs Collection stores in Macau, on Canton Road in Hong Kong and in Tokyo in the Aoyama shopping district.

To celebrate the Chicago store opening, Duffy plans to host a 200-person sit down dinner tonightand the brand is supporting the Friday opening of the William Eggleston exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Eggleston appeared in the Marc Jacobs fall 2009 men’s ad campaign.

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