By  on December 2, 2009

In numbers, there’s strength and hope for better business.

The Italian Trade Commission, the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District and more than 30 Italian luxury purveyors along New York’s Madison Avenue have banded together for Made in Italy. Running Dec. 10 to 22, the initiative will involve advertising and special events, charity tie-ins, discounts, gifts-with-purchase and other incentives to encourage shopping, similar in spirit to Fashion’s Night Out in September, which was international in scope.

“Business is still tough,” said Aniello Musella, Italian Trade Commissioner for the U.S., adding he is encouraged by some signs of recovery.

Italian luxury firms are working to overcome the challenges of the economy and the unfavorable exchange rate. About twice as many Italian firms are participating in Made in Italy compared with an event staged on Madison Avenue five years ago. Back then, however, the avenue was not as pockmarked with vacancies or so hungry for shoppers as it is now. “They have been controlling costs on the production side, and spending more aggressively in marketing,” among other tactics, Musella said.

The Italian firms in the U.S., Musella said, are “ready to make sacrifices to stay in the American market, in terms of profit. Some have been very aggressive, others have not.”

Musella was blunt about how the economy has hurt the rate of Italian fashion exports. “It’s gloomy,” he said. Italian apparel, accessories, shoes and leather goods exported to the U.S. in the first nine months of this year reached about $3 billion, compared with $4.6 billion in the same period last year. Italian fashion exports totaled $5.5 billion in 2008.

After the European Union, the U.S. is where Italian luxury firms generally expand. “For some Italian brands, the United States represents 70 percent of their exports,” Musella said.

Made in Italy kicks off with a VIP party Dec. 10 at the Morgan Library & Museum on Madison at 36th Street, as well as free sparkling wine at Giorgio Armani on Madison between 65th and 66th Streets, an unveiling of Frette’s limited edition collection with Town & Country editor in chief Pamela Fiori, on Madison between 67th and 68th Streets, and a cocktail party at Bric’s, on Madison between 54th and 55th Streets, to support the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research.

Made in Italy advertising starts this week, and a Web site, lifeinistyle.com, will have a map showing the shops and a calendar of events. Hearst Magazines created and produced the print advertising campaign, which was photographed in Rome.

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