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Zara Opens On Michigan Avenue

By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 30, 2009 5:40PM

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Dozens of wide-eyed shoppers pranced into the new Zara store on Michigan Avenue during the Spanish retailer’s first hour of its grand opening this morning, with several people opting to go into the office late, or not at all, in an effort to slowly absorb all 35,000 square feet of the largest Zara store in the U.S. (Hello, H&M? Hi there. Your competition has finally arrived.)

Zara first arrived in the Chicago market last fall with a store in Old Orchard mall, but with the opening of the Michigan Avenue location shoppers no longer have to hoof it out to Skokie for fashionable, accessible apparel. Cheap and chic, but with a decidedly more sophisticated (read: adult) approach than some of its competitors, Zara inspires a cult-like following among savvy shoppers and here’s why: lightning-fast product turnaround. Many of the high-collar military coats, cropped wool jackets, tailored skirts, and velvet blazers have a life cycle of only two weeks. Items are produced in limited numbers—the store receives new shipments twice a week, reportedly every Tuesday and Friday—which means everyone on the El won’t be wearing the same scooped-neck sweater or newsboy cap.

A build-out of the former Talbots’ space within the eight-story Chicago Place building, Zara is accessible from Michigan Avenue and occupies three floors—street level, mezzanine, and the second floor. Zara is the third fast-fashion chain, including Hennes & Maurtiz (H&M) and Forever 21, to set up shop on the Magnificent Mile.

With the recent opening of Best Buy in the John Hancock Center, the new Victoria Secret store (in the old Pottery Barn location), and the pending arrival of Swarovski, some industry watchers have said Michigan Avenue is more mall-like than magnificent, leading Women’s Wear Daily to dedicate an entire page of its October 20th issue to an article titled “Michigan Avenue Gets Mall Flavor.”

Pondering the fading luster of the once-tony Magnificent Mile didn’t seem to be a top priority for shoppers carefully perusing the stacks of folded sweaters, European-style denim, and chic scarves at the new Zara flagship store.

“I saw a lot of fake fur/feathers, studded clothing, little dresses, poncho-like sweaters, and black, black, black,” enthused a Yelper writing about the store’s opening party on Thursday evening.

Zara is planning to open a second downtown store, at 108 N. State Street, in late November or December, although if it were up to us, we’d mix things up a bit by opening a Uniqlo— kind of like the Japanese version of the Gap, minus the dad-like khaki trousers.