NEW YORK — Saks Fifth Avenue’s Oscar-winning run continues.

After Nicole Kidman in 2003 and Charlize Theron last year, Saks secured Hilary Swank as the Entertainment Industry Foundation ambassador to its annual Key to the Cure for cancer campaign.

Swank will appear in the campaign wearing a limited-edition T-shirt designed by Diane von Furstenberg, featuring an abstract red heart motif and phrases like “love is life” and “life is love,” in DVF’s own script. The T-shirt, available at Saks this fall, will retail for $35, of which $33 will be given to the cause. The campaign featuring Swank will break in fashion and lifestyle magazines in October.

Fighting cancer is a cause that’s dear to Swank. “My family has been ravaged by cancer,” she disclosed via e-mail. “My grandmother, my grandfather and my mother-in-law have all died of cancer and when given the opportunity to help in this endeavor, I immediately said yes.”

Having for the third consecutive year tapped a celebrity who just won the Academy Award for best actress, Saks is setting a standard. Last year, Theron wore a Marc Jacobs-designed T-shirt, and the year before, Kidman sported one created by Stella McCartney.

“We want something very special for this very special, important and meaningful initiative that we’re involved in, so the more high profile, the better for the event,” Fred Wilson, Saks Fifth Avenue’s chairman and chief executive officer, said.

Saks is planning to kick off the initiative with a black-tie gala at its Manhattan flagship on Oct. 26. The event will be followed by a special shopping weekend at 58 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, its 52 Off 5th outlet stores and on Oct. 28-29. Five percent of sales at Saks Fifth Avenue and will be donated to EIF’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund. Off 5th, meanwhile, will give 2 percent to the fund.

Since its founding seven years ago, Key to the Cure has raised more than $15 million. This year, Wilson hopes the campaign will break the $20 million barrier.

“The event is a good match for Saks, because we have such a predominantly female customer,” Wilson said. “It’s a way for us to connect with that part of society, doing something that is meaningful by trying to cure this terrible disease.”

This story first appeared in the June 16, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Breast cancer is Saks’ largest charitable cause. As in past years, Mercedes-Benz USA is the campaign’s national sponsor, and it has pledged to make a $1 million donation again this year. It will raise money through sales of a special, limited version of its 2006 R-Class sports touring car, available at Mercedes-Benz dealerships this fall.

The Women’s Cancer Research Fund was founded by Kelly Chapman Meyer, Anne Douglas, Quinn Ezralow, Marion Laurie and Jamie Tisch. Its honorary chairs are Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg.

Swank already knows how she would like to wear the T-shirt. “It’s a really cute everyday T-shirt that I’ll wear with jeans,” she said.

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