The words “upscale” and “outlet” don’t often go hand in hand, but they do at the newly opened Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Those looking for both a deal and a taste of Michigan Avenue luxury can find it at this fully enclosed outlet mall located minutes from Chicago O’Hare International Airport, the second-busiest airport in America and a hub for layovers.
In fact, shoppers with a plane to catch can visit the mall’s guest services to check in for a flight, print a boarding pass, valet luggage, schedule a shuttle to the terminal and even arrange for shipping shopping finds home.
So why should you visit? Outlet malls tend to be on the outskirts — a trip to one is usually a daylong trek with no promise of finding anything special to buy (although you’ll undoubtedly find loads of cheap, so-so goods). Fashion Outlets of Chicago changes all of that. It’s about 25 minutes from downtown Chicago in Rosemont, so you can pop in for a couple of hours and leave. Downtown shuttles run from The Shops at North Bridge on Michigan Avenue daily, departing at 9:45 a.m. and returning at 2:45 p.m. You can also take the El, although you’ll have to hoof it about 10 minutes from the Blue Line stop to the mall or take the free Pace bus that runs every 15 minutes during peak times.
But the real reason we love this new spot is because of its eclectic mash-up of more than 130 luxury and traditional outlet stores all found under one roof. You’ll see Prada, Gucci and Halston Heritage next to Gap, Forever 21 and the Nike Factory Store. Plus, several high-end shops have outlets here and nowhere else in the Midwest, including Tory Burch, AllSaints, L’Occitane and Dutchess Kate Middleton’s favorite, L.K. Bennett. Even the department stores anchoring the mall are luxe, including Barneys New York Warehouse, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off 5th and Last Call by Neiman Marcus.
The food’s not bad, either. Yes, there’s a traditional food court with options such as Auntie Anne’s and Little Tokyo (we suggest heading to Freshii for made-to-order tossed salads and gourmet rice bowls), but there are also two great sit-down restaurants: Prasino, a farm-to-table contemporary American eatery, and Villagio, which serves up classic Italian-American fare. Prasino is part of a chain of sustainably minded restaurants, one of which is located in Chicago’s hip Wicker Park neighborhood. For $29.99 (plus a service fee), enjoy brunch (at either location) and a round-trip shuttle from the Wicker Park Prasino to the mall.
And if your traveling companions aren’t up for shopping, entice them to the mall with the promise of bright, brilliant contemporary art installations. The Arts Initiative is a new collective of artists specifically formed to create art for Fashion Outlets of Chicago — and it’s remarkable. The first installation features work from 10 artists. It fills the large open spaces of the mall with colorful pieces that dazzle. Even the most ardent shopping mall cynic will find these installations impressive. The best part is that discounted Prada goods are just around the corner.
Photos Courtesy of Fashion Outlets of Chicago