By  on September 7, 1994

NEW YORK -- Italian sportswear giant Max Mara forged into the fray of designer retailing on upper Madison Avenue as it opened an American flagship Tuesday.

The boutique, covering the first two floors of the six-story building at 813 Madison Ave. at East 68th Street, has 3,800 square feet of sales space.

The shop should generate $4 million its first year, said Luigi Maramotti, vice chairman of the Max Mara Fashion Group, which includes six manufacturing companies and a distribution firm.

With annual consolidated sales of more than $700 million, Max Mara is Italy's largest women's apparel maker, he said.

Maramotti was in town for the store's opening-week festivities, which include cocktails, supper and a special screening of "L'Amore," a Roberto Rossellini film, on Thursday.

The first floor of the new boutique features the weekend collection, coats and accessories. On the second floor are Max Mara, the framework of the company, representing about 40 percent of inventory; Sportmax, and Pianoforte, a dressier line. The I Blues collection of basics will be on both floors.

Retail prices range from $600 to $1,200 for coats, $350 to $500 for jackets, $500 to $850 for suits, $150 to $300 for pants, $125 to $280 for skirts, $150 to $300 for blouses, $175 to $400 for knitwear and $100 to $500 for scarves and handbags. Fur-trimmed coats run as high as $2,300.

The store uses the basement and third floor for storage, office and tailoring space.

Max Mara is distributed in New York at Bloomingdale's, Charivari and Saks Fifth Avenue, and Maramotti said the presence of its own store should enhance sales at the other venues.

The 43-year-old company, based in Reggio Emilia, near Milan, has more than 500 stores in 80 countries. About 180 are owned by the company, and the rest are licensed, franchised or run through joint ventures, Maramotti said. Max Mara has been in retailing since the mid-Sixties.

Max Mara has other North American boutiques in San Francisco, Palm Beach, Toronto and Mexico City.

Maramotti said the challenge in coming to a large market like New York was to build a knowledge of the U.S. market.

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