Neiman Marcus Award
There’s a terrific series of scenes in the film The Best of Youth set in and around the Uffizi in the days after the great Arno flood. It was 1966, and students poured into Florence to volunteer—The Best of Youth shows them working to salvage the Uffizi’s stores of rare books and art. Florence was devastated, but the people rallied round. And not just the people of Florence—given the city’s status back then as the hub of Italy’s fashion scene, editors and retailers from around the globe chimed in with their own forms of support. One key booster was Stanley Marcus, founder of the luxury department store Neiman Marcus.
Marcus was the Dallas chairman of the American Committee of Italian Flood Relief. Inspired by the committee’s work, Marcus made the decision, unprecedented in the 29-year history of his Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, to give all the 1967 prizes to designers from Italy. Mr. Valentino, who had made his international debut showing at the Pitti Palace in Florence in 1962, was one of the five Neiman Marcus honorees. Another—unnamed, but all-important to the Italian fashion trade—was “The Artisans of Florence,” those indispensable craftsman in the fields of leather-work, embroidery, knitting and dressmaking.
Needless to say, Florence recovered from the flood. The artisans resumed their labors, and with their help, Valentino and other key Italian fashion brands became renowned throughout the world. The 1967 Neiman Marcus Awards marked the moment when the significance of Italian fashion became internationally recognized. Fearing the loss of a new generation of voices led by Mr. Valentino, the American fashion community, which was all-important in those post-war boom years, took official note of the talent at hand. The students in Florence had salvaged what they could of Italy’s past; Stanley Marcus invested in the future. It was a sound investment: Four years ago, Maison Valentino returned to Florence, this time showing its Fall/Winter 2012/2013 menswear collection as the special guest at Pitti Uomo—the blue chip fashion trade event that takes its name from the palace where Maison Valentino got its start.