3Q for Bionda Castana’s Natalia Barbieri

British luxury label Bionda Castana is making a play for the U.S.

Case in point: Co-founder Natalia Barbieri, who started the brand five years ago with Jennifer Portman, has set up camp in New York to target new business on this side of the Atlantic.

“It really takes being here for an extended period to facilitate all the appointments you need, especially during the busy summer months,” Barbieri explained of her decision to put down roots here for six weeks, culminating in New York Fashion Week.

Aside from building their base of retail partners, the designers also intend to launch their own e-commerce site this September.

“It is the right time for the brand to create an omnichannel experience for consumers by converging e-commerce, social media and mobile commerce,” Barbieri explained. “Since we do not have our own brick-and-mortar stores yet, our customers now have the opportunity to purchase any of our designs directly through us and to seek out exclusive colorways.”

Here, Footwear News caught up stateside with one half of the Bionda pair to chat about building the brand’s retail presence and taking on the summer in New York.

What are some of the highlights of your spring ’13 line?
You’ll see it’s a little bit more couture with touches of lace, embroidery, crocheted leather and hand-stamped leather florets sprinkled throughout the line. We wanted to give a more feminine feel for spring, as fall ’12 was quite hard with biker boots, menswear references and zip chain details. There are a variety of textures incorporated throughout, but we were careful to make sure the tones and fabrications work together in a way that makes sense. Whether it’s a floral print with PVC inset to show more of the foot, a scalloped edge detail for a feminine charm, or a more simple black-and-white chevron woven wedge, it’s all about creating what women want to wear this spring.

Do you have any runway collaborations in the works for spring ’13?
Yes! This will be our third season collaborating with Gabriele Colangelo for his Milan runway show on Sept. 20. This season, we are working on two styles for the runway: one flat and one stiletto. The silhouettes are fairly simple, so it’s all about the lines and colorways. It’s always very easy working with Gabriele. I would describe him as Celine-esque with an extra level of depth and texture — not only are the cuts incredible but his choice of fabrics is quite rich as well. We first met Gabriele in 2008 when we both won the “Who’s on Next” contest sponsored by Italian Vogue. We always kept in touch and wanted to do something together. Then three seasons ago, it just felt like the right time. Both of our brands survived [the economic downturn] and were doing well, so it was a celebration of that.

What can we expect from the launch of your new e-commerce site?
The approach to the site was to enhance the current site rather than to build from scratch, but we aim to provide a fuller, more attractive experience for the user. The homepage was designed to have more of an editorial feel, acting as an introduction to the world of Bionda Castana. It showcases the current campaign and promotes new product, along with acting as a portal to the blog, where we share interviews, inspirations and inform the reader of future collections and collaborations. The main addition to the site is an easy-to-use shop designed to be the go-to place to purchase the latest Bionda Castana collections, as well as exclusive models only available on our website. All shoes are handmade-to-order within two weeks and ship directly from the manufacturing facility in Milan.

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