NEW YORK — Dennis Basso couldn’t have asked for better weather for last week’s opening of his Chicago store — temperatures in the Twenties, blustery and flurries.
Even the space’s interior has a snowy feel with its white Venetian plaster walls, a white terrazzo floor and white upholstery furniture. But there was plenty of body heat for Wednesday’s opening-night Vogue-sponsored party, which drew a crowd of 400 including the evening’s honorary chair, Evelyn Lauder; Chicago insider and co-host Nancy Crown, and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. Several of Basso’s New York customers — Marjorie Raein, Michelle Herbert, Jamee Creel and Trish Quick — jetted in for champagne and caviar.
Basso’s 4,400-square-foot store at 850 North Michigan Avenue, not far from Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, rests on what was Ralph Lauren’s first Chicago store. Aside from being in an area that attracts well-heeled shoppers, Basso said he liked that no other fur designer has a freestanding store in the area’s Magnificent Mile.
“In between New York and Los Angeles, Chicago is a city that’s looking for fashion trends,” Basso said. “It’s also a weather-driven city.”
This marks Basso’s third store in the U.S., with Aspen and New York’s Madison Avenue being the other two locations. Architect John Lindel, who also designed the Upper East Side location here, went with a more contemporary feeling for Chicago by creating a double-height entryway, using brushed-nickel display fixtures and providing a mezzanine with a private selling area, offices and a shipping area.
The Chicago store should drum up $8 million in retail sales, Basso said. So far, embroidered shearling coats with sable retailing from $18,000 to $27,000, a knitted sable ruffled evening wrap at $24,000 and a sheared mink long topcoat at $16,500 are among the bestsellers. Five percent of all purchases made in the Chicago store through Nov. 28 will be donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Las Vegas and Los Angeles are two other cities where Basso is considering opening freestanding stores within the next year or two.