CHICAGO — “I think it came off beautifully,” said Jil Sander, gazing around the chic, spare spaces of her first freestanding store in the U.S., on Oak Street here. “We wanted something super classic, but at the same time very contemporary. I like it a lot.”
Designed by New York architect Michael Gabellini, the 3,000-square-foot boutique is a scaled-down version of Sander’s Paris store, and it probably will be the only freestanding store in the U.S.
“I don’t think so,” said Sander, when asked whether other stores are likely. “I have a lot of respect for retailers, but I don’t want to be one.”
Sander has seven stores in Europe. In the U.S., besides the Chicago store, she recently signed major deals for in-store boutiques with Louis of Boston and Neiman Marcus and an expanded space at Bergdorf Goodman. In New York, Sander will have a 1,500-square-foot boutique inside the Linda Dresner designer store at 484 Park Ave. Dresner has taken over a former shoe shop adjacent to her store for the addition.
The Chicago store is owned by Joan Weinstein, who feted Sander with a reception at the store, as well as at a private dinner afterward at her apartment. Photographer Victor Skrebneski dropped in long enough to call the store “beautiful” and “striking” and describe his latest project, a coffee-table book on couture that’s due out next year.
Sander was late to her own party, having taken the opportunity — just like many other first-time tourists to Chicago — to make a beeline for the sky deck of the Sears Tower, the country’s tallest building.
Weinstein also owns the multiline boutique Ultimo, as well as the nearby Giorgio Armani and Sonia Rykiel stores, all of which are on Oak Street. Like those shops, the Sander store began as an in-store boutique at Ultimo. Asked who the next freestanding candidate might be, Weinstein said, “The only one with that potential right now is Zoran. We’ll see down the road.”
Weinstein, who declined to make a first-year volume projection for the Sander store, said that what sells in Chicago are “special things.”
“I don’t buy classics,” she said. “Of course, unless you know the line you wouldn’t be able to tell that, because even her special things are simple.”
Sander added that so far, there hasn’t been much difference between what sells in Paris and what sells here.
“My customers all share a certain vision, no matter where they live,” she said.
Next up for Sander is to expand her American cosmetics business and a men’s collection.
“I’ve always been interested in men’s fashion,” she said. “Designing it isn’t the problem; I know what I want to do. It will have the same lifestyle story as my women’s collection. It’s the business part that is time-consuming.”