By  on March 9, 1994

NEW YORK -- After testing Sahza, a new bridge collection, in 14 Saks Fifth Avenue doors last fall, GFT USA Corp. expanded the line to 17 Saks doors and 29 specialty stores for spring. Now, for fall, it is rolling it out to about 150 specialty store and major retail doors.

Sahza was created as a designer collection at bridge prices, said Marilyn Kawakami, fashion and merchandising director of GFT Donna SpA, based in Turin, and Gaetano Sallorenzo, who as executive vice president of GFT USA's women's import division oversees Cidat (Valentino), Ungaro Inc., Sahza and private label.

Sahza's name is an important element in what Kawakami and Sallorenzo see as the collection's success: global appeal.

"We didn't want to have an Italian name so everyone would think of this as an Italian collection," said Sallorenzo. "Sahza has a bit of a European feeling but there's no cultural significance."

The collection is meant to be a way to "broaden GFT's portfolio" to include more merchandise at non-designer price points, said Kawakami. She described the line as a hybrid of American and European influences, pointing to the way, for example, American manufacturers can turn orders quickly, ship merchandise in groups and merchandise collections in shop concepts.

The European influences are in the fabrics and broad assortment of colors available for each group in the collection. Kawakami, who was once president of Anne Klein II, was a major force behind the launching of that collection.

Sahza was test-launched in Europe and Asia two seasons prior to its fall 1993 test here. It was developed as part of a new umbrella at GFT called Autentico Femminile, which will eventually incorporate two other lines: a modern fashion group with a focus on novelty, with the working label of Siyou, and a modern classifications group with the working name of Essence. Both collections are being tested now in Europe and may be shown here in the fall. Sahza was created to be the trend segment of the umbrella and will show new trends through the use of innovative fabrics and shapes. Six groups will be shipped annually.

"Everything we do is for a global market, although we take into account the local trends in each of our markets," said Kawakami. "But you know, our roots and background are all high-end, which speaks very much of the Eighties. The bridge concept is very Nineties."

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