George Zaharoff: Daring to dream

A store grows on Oak Street

To open a store in the city where he grew up was always a dream for designer George Zaharoff, whose career has taken a turn or two over the years. “I started showing Zaharoff clothing in Milan after graduating from DePaul in 1993. But it was a fragrance I developed that took off in one Nordstrom door that changed my direction. I set aside the clothing and focused on building a fragrance business, which quickly grew to all doors at Neiman Marcus/Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. In 2003, we relaunched the men’s tailored clothing.”

His new retail concept, executed with the help of Marty Staff and David Pergola, and in partnership with Marilyn Miglin, was “built to look heavenly, to touch the emotions,” Zaharoff explains. “How better to accomplish this than to feature, at the store entrance, archangels Gabriel and Michael, protectors of the Gates of Heaven?”

The overall look is somewhat industrial, with details taken from the Byzantine era. “I don’t like mannequins so I worked with architect Jordan Mozer on a non-mannequin display concept. The store’s artisanal fixtures, furniture and glass/lighting were all handmade in Chicago and are just as beautiful as the clothing itself. Most importantly, a great deal of love has gone into every inch of the 6,000 sq. ft. store.” In addition to inspirational sayings on one wall, every piece of Zaharoff clothing carries an affirmation label. Among the 70 reflections: “Live Life,” “You become what you believe,” “Invoke positives,” and “Dare to Dream…”

Zaharoff makes all his tailored clothing (suits, trousers, sportcoats, outerwear) domestically at the Southwick facility; suits (of mostly Italian fabrics) range from $995 to $1,800 with special made-to-measure product ranging to $3,000. His clothing (which can be seen at MRket in partnership with Southwick) is also distributed in specialty stores, select Nordstrom doors and soon online. “Our goal for fall 2013 is to continue building: the Nordstrom relationship, our Oak Street shopping experience, and the Zaharoff brand. We’re especially excited about our e-commerce launch on zaharoff.com, with greatly expanded offerings over the next 12 months.”

Says Zaharoff consultant Marty Staff, “The clothing market today is crying out for a modern silhouette with technical fabrics, interesting pocket treatments, American make and a price point of $995. George Zaharoff is doing just that, and in an outstanding way. The Oak Street store embodies that sensibility; it’s the lifestyle George lives.”

Zaharoff, for his part, is not sure he’s living the lifestyle. “These days, I’m totally focused on work. I’ve already traveled to more than 100 countries; I have my little Italian Greyhound, Piccolo, and the wonderful people I work with. So right now, it’s all about building the brand.”

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