520 North Michigan Avenue
Architect of Record: Antunovich Associates
Italian retailer Benetton chose Chicago as the site of its first stateside flagship by architect Piero Lissoni. The new concept was executed by Antunovich Associates, who have had a hot run with other retail outlets, like Suit Supply and Armani. Benetton is better known for its provocative, eye-catching advertisements than sleek, luxurious design. This new incarnation could upend that.
Lightbox grates in powder-coated white hover over the entrance and windows. Inside the store, a minimal aesthetic—polished steel, various shades of gray, fixtures with clean lines, cubic shelving—provides an attractive backdrop to the colorful clothing and accessories. In a fun nod to their knitwear, the cash-wrap desk has been yarn-bombed, sheathed in a knitted cozy of sorts, while a splash of color can be found in the Donald Judd-like floating box shelves displaying eyewear.
The best part of the store is absolutely the most muted: the matte gray resin floor. Imported from Italy, the seamless surface lends surprising warmth and provides a welcome alternative to terrazzo or wall-to-wall carpet. Just down the street at 900 North Michigan Avenue, Gucci’s well-worn gray carpet looks more shabby than chic. Maybe that luxury brand could take a tip from the new Benetton.