Taking a heritage brand and making it look fresh, appealing and modern is the holy grail for many designers, so there was great anticipation among the fashion fraternity for the launch of this season’s new Bally collection. Since Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler’s surprise departure from British label Aquascutum in March 2010, the industry has been waiting to see what magic these two talented designers might work on one of Switzerland’s most respected luxury brands. As with traditional names such as Burberry and Balenciaga, which have benefited from a fashion-forward edge in recent years without sacrificing their kudos, something is most definitely afoot at Bally.
Dolly Jones, editor of Vogue.com, agrees. ‘Satchels, canvas bags, folios and wallets have the same alluring simplicity that sent the fashion crowd mad for the latest Céline offerings – but these also have an organic quality that makes them unique.’ Calgary Avansino, executive fashion editor of British Vogue, is also a fan. ‘It’s cute,’ she says of the spring/summer collection. ‘There were some shoes in the show from 1938 – an original pair – which I’d have bought if they’d let me.’
Focusing on the archives and acknowledging the brand’s heritage has been key for Fidler and Herz. ‘The first thing we did was go through the archives; we were just amazed by the 13,000 pairs of shoes in it,’ Herz said at the menswear presentation in Milan. ‘We extracted from that a series of men’s brogues, which we wanted to interpret in a modern and relevant way.’ They have certainly achieved this in the new advertising campaign at least, which features male model of the moment Ollie Edwards posing pensively on a chair – completely naked apart from a pair of very dashing Bally brogues.
‘I love how they’ve managed to make the brand seem seductive, without losing its elegant sense of timelessness,’ says Paris-based fashion stylist Sophie de la Fou. ‘It’s modern but not futuristic, which is actually what’s appealing. I’m very excited to see how the label will develop.’
The aim, as Herz explains, is to modernise Bally without turning into a ‘fashion brand’. ‘We want to wear it, we want our contemporaries to wear it, and through that process it will become fashionable.’ The duo spent just five weeks working on the collection – an astoundingly tight deadline for such a well-thought-out, beautifully edited selection of luxury leather goods and gorgeous clothes. ‘It’s very small, but it’s focused and powerful,’ says Fidler.
The men’s brogues come in deliciously dark brown and classic black, as well as tones of cream mixed with navy for a relaxed, tennis-shoe look. A cream-and-navy bag with tan leather straps is a standout piece, as is a soft, black leather pochette bag, with special pockets for the owner’s water bottle, iPhone or BlackBerry, fountain pen, passport and wallet. ‘We have bags in crocodile skin, which are beautiful, along with some amazing shoes in a micro-weave leather, taken from the 1920s archive, mixed with a solid, rainproof leather,’ says Fidler.
There are also plenty of crisp, white sports shirts, a white waffle-fabric vest and a sleek, narrow-shouldered, black leather jacket. Meanwhile, the womenswear collection is all about natural beauty: equally modern, pared-down pieces, imbued with that restrained yet luxurious feel that is both currently fashionable and immensely wearable. A long, backless, cherry-red gown evokes sheer elegance, while black-and-white fitted coats are ideal for modern-day Audrey Hepburns. A belted, collarless coat-dress in white, with deep chocolate-brown leather panels, is truly covetable. This new, slick styling is strongly Italian in terms of aesthetic, but with all the sumptuous minimalism for which contemporary Swiss design has become known.
A pair of black, block-heeled dancing shoes are the particular favourite of Jackie Frank, a writer at Australian Marie Claire. ‘That was the Bally shoe my fashion editor and I were fighting over,’ she says of the ladylike, modern design. The collection is not all clean-cut appeal, though: chunky black wedges with a mesh front look incredibly sexy, while green strappy sandals with an azure wedge are pure party girl. Looks like it’s time for all of us to put on our dancing shoes.