This past Thursday, the highly anticipated Spanish retailer Zara hit Michigan Avenue in a flurry of champagne, cementing its status as an envoy of chic, accessible, moderately priced clothing for men, women and children. The three-story venue is the first heart-of-Chicago outpost of the international favorite; until now, the only Zara in the Chicago area was in Skokie.
Crafted to give customers a more accessible shopping experience, Zara’s interior is certainly easy on the eyes. Granite tiles sparkle with the soft, flattering light from decorative floating orbs, while plentiful mirrors and even benches leave shoppers focused on their hunt for the perfect addition to their wardrobes, and less on their back pain. Decorated in a monochromatic palette of gray, black and white, the store is at once grand and demure, and like pricier upscale boutiques allows its clothes to take center stage.
Women’s basics like tissue-thin turtlenecks and chunky knits mingle with trend-driven pieces like feathery vests and strong-shouldered jackets, all of which share a high-quality feel. Accessories are cut from the same cloth: a soft (real) leather chain purse in deep gray, colorful silky scarves and a bag, painstakingly embroidered with tiny gold sequins, are among current findings. Perfectly worn shoes abound in the store, in near perfect extrapolations of their runway predecessors including thigh-high boots, brown croc riding boots, snakeskin-patterned pumps and an array of ballet flats. A lineup of Chanel-inspired boxy tweed suit jackets in royal blues and degrees of black complement other renditions of timeless classics like shift dresses and shearling coats.
Like similar Michigan Avenue retailers, Zara adheres to the ethos of a quick turnover; new styles come in twice weekly and are only stocked in limited quantities. That means the plight that afflicts affordable fashion (namely the mojo-robbing ubiquity that can accompany a low price tag) will be tempered by the constant influx of new styles.
Zara may have taken a while to come to Chicago, but its Michigan Avenue operation isn’t all it has in store for the Windy City; the company plans to launch another Zara on State Street before the end of the year. (Emily Torem)
Zara, 700 North Michigan Avenue, zara.com