The Ingenious Way Saks Fifth Avenue Became the Preview Destination for the Met Gala

'Heavenly Bodies,' the museum's latest costume exhibition

In collaboration with Vogue, the department store is echoing its longtime neighbor, Patrick's Cathedral. Romer Pedron for Saks Fifth Avenue

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest costume exhibition, “Heavenly Bodies,” explores Christianity’s influence on fashion—and Saks Fifth Avenue is celebrating the installation. In collaboration with Vogue, the department store is echoing its longtime neighbor, Patrick’s Cathedral, by decking out six of its store windows with glimmering, haunting ecclesiastical scenes.

According to Vogue international editor at large Hamish Bowles, the windows are intended to “draw on the spiritually uplifting aesthetics and powerful use of color seen in historic religious art and stained glass windows.”

“[We wanted to] create contemporary environments that showcase a curated collection of iconic pieces from designers’ archives,” he added.

In one window display, a mannequin donning a Dior dress with a gilded web pattern lifts her face upward. The figure is bathed in gold beams via clever lighting design.

Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director Roopal Patel said it took months to design the displays, which include ensembles from designers like Valentino, Versace and Chanel. “Every decision, from the window displays to props to archival pieces, must illustrate the fusion between fashion and the devotional practices of Catholicism, respectfully,” said Patel.

The displays will be a harbinger of the biggest night in fashion and will only be on view at Saks until May 14, said Patel. The glass of each window display features an inscription of where to check out the full clothing exhibition.

As creative and painstaking as it was to bring the window displays to fruition, does the enterprising partnership have any bite in terms of marketing?

“[In] making this connection with the Met Gala, Saks is subtly suggesting that their luxury fashion products are also works of art,” said Wharton Business School professor Dr. Barbara Kahn, who specializes in branding. She pointed out the sanctity high fashion labels hold in the world, which overlaps with the spiritual tenor of the new exhibition.

Other luxury fashion brands have also recently connected with the relationship between fashion and art. Kahn highlighted the Gucci Garden in Florence, which she called the “museum of Gucci,” as well as Louis Vuitton’s gallery-style remodeling of its Chicago flagship store.

“So this link between fine art and fashion is very consistent with the legacy of luxury,” she concluded.

On top of the Saks brand benefitting from the close association to the Met Gala, the department store is also using its prime location to convert passing pedestrians to museum visitors—and potentially, shoppers.