We chat to Sara Ferrero, CEO of Italian luxury leather goods label Valextra, about the brand’s latest collaboration with Chinese influencer Mr Bags, about the inspiration behind the Nologomylogo bespoke bags, and about her Valextra handbag favourites
1 Where did the idea of Nologomylogo bespoke bags come from?
In the last couple of years fashion has been heavily inspired by graphics, typography and logo-mania fashion of the 90s.
Valextra has been a no-logo brand by choice since 1937. It loves graphics and patterns and it puts at its centre a celebration of the individual as opposed to a celebration of the brand. In this context, Nologomylogo was created to involve customers in the creative process and to create bespoke pieces for them. A team of graphic designers develops a unique monogram using the initials of the customer, and his or her favourite colours and size of the graphics for a pattern all over the bag. Once the graphics are approved Valextra produces the one-of-a-kind bag within three months.
2 Valextra is well known for its architectural aesthetics. Who is your favourite architect and why?
I don’t have one favourite architect or designer, but there are some values and aesthetics that I am particularly attracted to. Depending on the project, we try to collaborate with the designer who fits best with the type of narrative we are working on.
Our collaborations are always based on strong mutual respect combined with a common vision of aesthetics and values. The world of architects and designers is a very creative and generous one, and has been participating in the evolution and success of Valextra for more than 80 years.
3 Which handbag design from Valextra SS19 collection is your favourite and why?
My two favourite bags are Iside Mini and Passepartout Large. Iside Mini is a great classic bag, elegant, feminine and powerful at the same time. Passepartout Large is my hero bag; I travel a great deal and I am always carrying far more than I probably should.
4 How did the collaboration with Chinese key opinion leader Mr Bags come about?Mr Bags started writing about Valextra in 2016, even before Valextra opened its first shop in China, in Shanghai. He was one of the first key opinion leaders to give us visibility with Chinese handbag lovers. When we entered the Chinese market we were surprised by the existing awareness of Valextra’s products. Many of our customers mentioned that they had come to know us from Mr Bags on WeChat. Since then we collaborated on several launches of special editions.
5 The puffer bag jacket is a very interesting idea, how did it come about?Valextra is always looking to combine functionality with strong contemporary aesthetics and to improve the usability of bags while renewing their looks, depending on the occasion. The puffer jacket was thought up as an add-on to protect bags from rain during the winter and at the same time to offer a great styling item that would transform a classic, beautiful bag into a fun accessory.
6 Among Valextra’s four official social media channels, two are Chinese (Weibo and WeChat). Have you been to China? If so, tell us your impressions.
Chinese are very savvy customers and they look for authenticity, uniqueness and superior quality of materials and craftsmanship. They are open to exploring nice brands and curious to know more about the brand and the product. This is why Valextra has immediately tried to engage in social media channels in China. They offer a two-way dialogue to tell customers more about us and to listen to their feedback. I go to China every two months; it is such a big country and developing at such speed.
7 If you could only pack five items in your suitcase when you travel, what would they be?
My Junya Watanabe jeans, a pair of Valextra sneakers, a James Perse white T-shirt, my black Joseph jacket and a Burberry trench. Obviously, I would have my Valextra carry-on bag.
8 What are your top London and Milan recommendations for places to visit (eateries, sights, bars and shops)?
In Milan: for lunch, La Latteria; for an aperitivo, and great encounters especially during Il Salone del Mobile, Bar Basso (ask for a negroni sbagliato cocktail). For sights, Pinacoteca di Brera, Fondazione Prada, Hangar Bicocca and Triennale. For a special night, La Scala. For architectural secrets just look at all the doors of the houses in the town centre, they are perfect designs from the 50s and 60s. Finally, for great design shops, Nilufar in Via della Spiga and Nilufar Depot in Via Vincenzo Lancetti or Dimore Studio in Via Solferino.
In London: for dinner, the Coal Office restaurant, a creative collaboration at Kings Cross between renowned chef Assaf Granit and my dear friend Tom Dixon; for theatre, the Old Vic; for the best Chinese duck in town and gorgeous views as well, Min Jiang on 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel, facing Kensington Park; for art, the Serpentine Galleries and the Tate Modern; for markets, the flower market in Columbia Road on Sunday mornings, and the vintage market on Saturdays at Portobello Road; for antique jewellery, Grays in Davies Street near Bond Street tube station.
9 Where is your next vacation spot?
I have been invited by His Highness the Maharaja of Jaipur for New Year celebrations. I will be going with my husband and my two children.
10 What is your New Year vision for 2019? What’s next for Valextra?
Valextra is a wonderful brand with an incredible product. My big quest is to increase awareness of it by offering new and exciting products and engaging stories. For 2019, we have a lot of new collaborations and product launches; a re-launch of a renowned women’s handbag from the past, a new collection for men, a new trolley case and new sneakers. We also have three new store openings ‒ in Beijing, Hawaii and Osaka. Also, our 2019 Milan Project has been created for us by another amazing award-winning architect. I hope everyone will love it, so stay tuned.
Valextra, 129 Mount Street, London W1K 3NX, +44 (0)20 7495 7299