West Loop Boutique Notre Subverts Retail Norms with Its Overhauled Flagship

By Stephen Ostrowski | May 15, 2019 | Style & Beauty

After an extensive renovation, West Loop style destination Notre unveils a new store that prizes access as much as aesthetics.

With a smartly configured “stramp,” the lofty, brick-clad foyer is a memorable first statement. (Photo by Christopher Leh/courtesy of Notre)

Fashion, whose arbiters of cool are constantly rewriting the playbook, doesn’t always beget inclusivity. But for West Loop retailer Notre, it’s a core value realized with its newly overhauled flagship space: “[It came from a] personal passion from a lot of people in our company to create a better shopping experience and have a community space here,” explains Michael Jaworowski, one of three original founders of the company that he co-owns with Jose Villanueva and brothers Andrew and Charles Nordstrom.

Stocked with slick tomes, Notre’s librarylike publications room invites guests to linger. (Photo by Christopher Leh/courtesy of Notre)

That meant more than doubling the footprint of the existing store from 1,800 to 4,500 square feet, and enlisting Chicago- and New Orleans-based firm Norman Kelley to reimagine the retailer’s next chapter, whose brick-and-mortar journey started in 2014 in Andersonville before moving to the West Loop. The project’s goal? “Domesticity,” sums up partner Thomas Kelley. “[Notre] had an interest in one of our first meetings to make the store feel like a home.” Shoppers experience that immediately, entering a soaring vestibule—intended to double as a space for talks, workshops and other programming—anchored by a gently ascending stairway-ramp (aka “stramp”) clad in Chicago common brick. Observes Kelley, “That Notre was willing to give over almost 1,000 square feet of merchandising area to a stramp is testament to a way of approaching retail that lends itself more to a public park than it does the selling of goods.”

Unconventional accents like carabiner clothing racks turn the traditional shopping experience on its ear. (Photo by Christopher Leh/courtesy of Notre)

That ethos deepens as the foyer flows into a series of art- and furniture-accoutered rooms (reminiscent, says Kelley, of “a 19th-century domestic interior”), a deliberate departure from Notre’s prior aesthetic. “In our previous stores,” notes Jaworowski, “you could walk in and see the whole store. I love the feeling of people being like, ‘Wow, another room.’ That was something I really wanted to push: that feeling of being comfortable, and of discovery.” And there’s plenty to uncover here: shelves of footwear carrying kicks from Adidas to Maison Margiela, a “high fashion” room for runway staples like Thom Browne and Craig Green, an exposed brick alcove for Cav Empt and other streetwear faves, and a hallway-apothecary leading to a reading room where shoppers can idle over glossies on Philippe Starck-designed Emeco stools. Located at the back of the store, it’s an unexpected bow tying together the space’s communal aim. “‘Notre’ means ‘ours’ in French,” points out Jaworowski, adding, “We want this [to] not just be ours, but to be the whole city’s, and even something that we can connect to outside of Chicago.” 118 N. Peoria St. #1N, 312.600.9757

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