CHICAGO — Cartier is letting the sun shine in at its remodeled and expanded Michigan Avenue store here.

The new look replaced a dark, vault-like atmosphere with a brighter, more modern decor. Cartier celebrated the renovation in grand style Wednesday, throwing an intimate party with co-hosts Debra Messing and Brooke Shields.

The store, with its larger windows looking out onto the Magnificent Mile, now has light oak wood floors, glass displays trimmed with bronze and enough space for separate shopping areas, including a watch salon, bridal area and showcases for high-end custom pieces, such as a $4.5 million necklace of sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

“It’s more welcoming and inviting for customers,” Frédéric de Narp, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America, said of the concept store, noting that Cartier expects to remodel about five stores a year with a similar look.

While the airy, almost 3,000-square-foot store and its sparkling jewels were the main event, party goers couldn’t help but pay attention to Shields, in a Prada dress and sandals, and Messing, in a black one-shoulder dress and ivory wedges by Chloé.

Shields, who also wore a $1.3 million Cartier sapphire and diamond necklace and a $1.2 million Cartier sapphire and diamond ring, said her relationship with the jeweler began as a girl when her father played a Good Samaritan.

Walking by the Cartier store in New York, Shields’ father noticed the store was closed, but its door unlocked. “He said, ‘We’ve got to do the right thing,'” Shields recalled. Her father then alerted Cartier.

Messing, meanwhile, credited Cartier for its philanthropy. The French jeweler supported The Children’s Service Board of Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital with a donation, plus 10 percent of all purchases made at the event and at the store through Wednesday.

“You feel good celebrating that,” Messing said.

This story first appeared in the June 26, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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