28 UP

Byline: Lisa Bertagnoli

In the mid-20th century (doesn’t that sound like a long time ago?) women with a passion for fashion — and the means to indulge that passion — did so at Marshall Field’s 28 Shop. A private elevator whisked them up to the sixth floor, where creations from their favorite designers would be waiting for them in a hushed, elegant setting.
As of Oct. 5, the 28 Shop will once again open its doors to Chicago women. The shop’s renovation is part of a multi-year, multimillion-dollar renovation of Field’s State Street flagship store. Departments renovated and expanded to date include a men’s floor, the Marketplace restaurants on the seventh floor, and a 16,000-square-foot women’s shoe department.
The 28 Shop remodel was the next step in this renovation, even if the economy doesn’t exactly scream that it’s time for a new couture salon, according to Andrea Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Field’s.
“We stand for fashion leadership and service, as we are committed to always enhancing our stores,” she said. Field’s finished a $130 million redo of the entire State store back in 1992.
The old 28 shop was the brainchild of Hughston McBain, president of Field’s, and opened in 1941. The name came from the address of the private entrance to the shop, 28 East Washington Street.
The room, designed by “Gone With The Wind” set designer Joseph Platt, was the epitome of luxury, complete with chaise lounges and tapestries. It held 14 pairs of salons, each with a unique style. The largest pair of salons held bridal fashions.
Back then, customers were required to make an appointment to shop. Upon arriving at the store, the private elevator would take the customer to the sixth floor, its location prior to the most recent store renovation. The customer would spend the entire day at the shop with a sales associate; lunch would be brought in so as not to interrupt the shopping process.
Field’s hopes to restore some of that exclusive, luxurious feeling with the new 28 Shop. The shop was designed by Jamie Becker, director of visual marketing for Field’s, and Thomas O’Brien, owner of New York’s Aero Studios. Their goal in redesigning the room was to give it “a classic feeling with a modern twist,” Becker said.
To that end, vestiges of the first design remain. The chandelier hanging over the center of the room is from the old 28 Shop, and vintage photos of the original hang on the walls. The layout also remains the same; a center rotunda with the merchandise areas radiating from it, wagon-wheel style.
Modern twists are much more in abundance. Field’s took over its formal bridal salon to add 4,000 square feet to the space, bringing the total selling space to 14,000 square feet. The 14 dressing rooms have also gotten larger, measuring 88 square feet instead of 50.
Field’s held a design contest to determine the look of the dressing rooms; 28 artists and designers from across the country participated in creating the “ultimate room for fashionable indulgence,” according to Schwartz. The winning design, chosen unanimously by a panel that included Becker and O’Brien as well as the photographer Victor Skrebneski, will be announced at an Oct. 5 opening party.
As in the former shop, the coloring and lighting is complementary to both the merchandise and the customers. With a look Becker called “very, very cool, but not cold,” the walls sport a fresco texture and are painted in soft lavender, green and yellow.
The furniture, all designed by Thomas O’Brien, is covered in pastel greens and blues, and Becker promises that the many chairs and sofas will provide ample resting opportunities for shopped-out husbands and children.
The space is more brightly lit than it was, with more directional lighting hitting the perimeters of the salon, Schwartz said. “There are no shadows,” she said. In keeping with the luxurious feeling, crystal-and-wire chandeliers from Paris help light the space.
Realistic mannequins have replaced more abstract ones, and in a nod to modern tastes, several new designers have been added to the 28 Shop lineup.
Celine, Yohji Yamamoto, Sophia Swire, Jachopa Jocopetti and Samsonite join Ungaro’s Parallel line, John Galliano, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Missoni, Sonia Rykiel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, and Narcisco Rodriguez. The 28 Shop at Field’s Water Tower place will feature new designers as well: Hugo Boss, Gianfranco Ferre Jeans and Katharina Beer, as well as Swire and Jocopetti.
Other lines include Donna Karan Collection and Signature, Moschino Cheap & Chic, D&G, Shin Choi, Giorgio Armani le Collezioni, Escada, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta. The Rive Gauche boutique, 860 square feet and stocked with ready-to-wear and accessories, is exclusive in the Midwest, Schwartz said.
As in the past, 28 Shop clientele are the most fashion-conscious of Field’s shoppers, Schwartz said.
“They are sophisticated, well traveled and have a high taste level. We cater to them by giving them the finest designer market,” she said. As exclusive as these clients are, for the meantime they’ll have to get used to one difference, and that’s taking the elevator or escalator to the 28 Shop with the rest of Field’s customers. The jury is out, added Schwartz, on whether the private elevator will be reinstalled.