CHICAGO — Hermès has stepped up its presence here, more than doubling in size at a new retail location at Oak and Rush Streets.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The 7,000-square-foot store opened last week with a party for about 400 guests who sipped Champagne in $250 Saint Louis crystal flutes amid singers and stilt-walkers.

“It’s been a terrific market for us, and over the last five years the business here has been growing significantly,” Robert Chavez, president and chief executive officer of Hermès USA, said of the Chicago area. “We knew our lease was coming up, and we wanted a new location that would make a statement.”

The store was designed by Rena Dumas Architecture Intérieure, the Paris firm founded by the late Rena Dumas, who was responsible for the design of Hermès stores around the world. It provides for roomy display of women’s clothing (Chicago is one of Hermès’ strongest ready-to-wear markets), fragrances, equestrian gear (think saddles and riding pants), leather goods, baby booties, men’s ties and accessories ranging from jewelry to the brand’s iconic Kelly and Birkin handbags.

There’s an $8,100 camel-hair knee-length coat, $3,050 leather skirt and the Constance shoulder bag, which starts at $4,350 for the mini version. The store also carries special items such as crocodile suitcases starting at $68,000 and will offer made-to-measure men’s suits starting at $4,300 later this year.

The corner space features six oversize windows with a modern spiral staircase leading the its second level women’s salon. The flooring is a mosaic motif combining white and gray tiling with a red accent.

Hermès first opened an understated store in an Oak Street town house in 1989. The fashion house renovated the 3,000-square-foot space in 2001 but could not keep up with demand, Chavez said.

Business grew each year, compelling the luxury brand to spend two years looking for a larger space, Chavez said. When Barneys New York moved from its 45,000-square-foot store at Oak and Rush streets last year to a 90,000-square-foot unit across the street, Hermès zeroed in on the most prominent aspect of Barneys’ old store — the prime street-level retail space that wraps around the corner of Oak and Rush streets.

Although he did not disclose sales projections, Chavez expects volume in certain categories, such as women’s shoes, to double. In the old store, women’s shoes consisted of six shelves, but now there is a seated shoe department. The brand’s signature scarf collection also will grow by about 40 to 50 percent and will include an exclusive $375 Paddock scarf designed especially for the Chicago unit.

In the last year, Hermès opened its first men’s store on Madison Avenue, unveiled a second location in Las Vegas and launched a seasonal store in East Hampton, N.Y.

Chavez said the volatile economy has played little role in the brand’s overall planning, which remains focused on the long term.

“We’ve stuck to our strategic plan and all of it has paid off,” said Chavez, who foresees consistent growth in the U.S. market.

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