Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Saks Fifth Avenue is giving Italian lessons.
In conjunction with the opening of the Italian Metamorphosis exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum here, Saks will showcase fashions by Italian designers in a special catalog, store windows, ads and in-store posters. The Italian Trade Commission, the major sponsor of the event, tapped Saks for its ongoing commitment to Italian fashion, culture and art, according to Gaspare Asaro, deputy trade commissioner for the ITC.
“It made a lot of sense to work with Saks to show consumers the ties between Italian culture and Italian fashion,” Asaro said. “It’s educational. We want people to know why Italian fashion is different and how it emerged.”
Scheduled to run from Oct. 7 through Jan. 22 of next year, the exhibit traces the development of Italian fashion, culture and art from 1943 through 1968. About 250,000 visitors are expected to view the exhibit, which is one of the largest to be held at the Guggenheim on Fifth Avenue, according to a museum spokeswoman.
To promote the store’s alliance with the ITC and the exhibit, Saks will send a 20-page catalog to 200,000 customers nationwide by Oct. 15. In addition, the firm will place two ads in the New York Times. Total expenses for the project have hit $250,000, according to Sheri Wilson-Gray, senior vice president of marketing for Saks.
Shot in the Guggenheim by photographer Michael O’Brien, the catalog features fashion by Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino, Max Mara and other Italian designers, as well as Saks’ private label merino wool fashions. The catalog includes women’s wear, men’s wear, accessories and footwear, as well descriptions and photographs of the exhibit. Shots of the exhibit were superimposed since the exhibit was en route from Italy, Wilson-Gray said.
During the week of Oct. 12, apparel by Italian designers will be featured in 18 windows at Saks’ flagship here. Posters identifying Italian-made merchandise will be displayed throughout 30 Saks stores from Oct. 13 to Oct. 17.
The company considered creating a special “Moda Made in Italy” hangtag to place on Italian garments, but Wilson-Gray said it would be too difficult to isolate all Italian-made goods in the store.
“Saks carries a plethora of Italian merchandise,” said company president Rose Marie Bravo. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight that in conjunction with a community exhibition.”
In the future, Saks might consider similar proposals from similar agencies, but Bravo said that would depend on the nature of the program. The Guggenheim had not authorized such a fashion event since Giorgio Armani held a fashion show there in 1992. Unlike Armani, who had to pay somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000 to become a corporate member in order to use the museum, Saks detoured around fees because of its alliance with the ITC.
While the museum is not soliciting Seventh Avenue, it is open to new ventures. “When opportunities arise, it depends on the circumstances,” the museum spokeswoman said. “But it’s not as though we’re turning retailers away.”