Filene's Basement bargains

June 24, 1993|By New York Times News Service

Bargain-hunter alert: Filene's Basement is coming to Manhattan. The Boston-based chain of discount fashion stores started work last week on a 33,000-square-foot store with two selling floors, at 2222 Broadway, on the corner of 79th Street. Nov. 5 is the planned opening date.

Finding a location on the Upper West Side near Zabar's, Conran's and Barnes & Noble was a key factor in the plan, said Samuel J. Gerson, the chairman and chief executive of Filene's Basement. "This is the heart and soul of fashion retailing," he said. "We've wanted to be a part of this for a long time. People here know name-brand and designer labels inside out."

Originally the bargain basement of Filene's department store in Boston, Filene's Basement is now a separate company with 52 outlets in the Northeast and Midwest.

Branches are also planned for Philadelphia and Washington this year.

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Max Mara, one of the largest women's fashion houses in Italy, with $1 billion in sales last year, has decided the time is right to make a major assault on the United States. The company said it is planning to open at least 15 boutiques here.

Although Max Mara has been sold in major stores across the country since 1986 and has had a shop in San Francisco since 1988, the name has not achieved the recognition of Benetton or Escada. That situation should start to change once four-page ads featuring the model Carla Bruni appear in the September issues of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, W and Vanity Fair.

The first new store will be at 813 Madison Ave. in New York, and a March opening is planned.

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