Bionda Castana’s profile is on the rise, thanks to a few famous friends.
The Italian-made, U.K.-based women’s label has scored multiple red-carpet appearances lately on the feet of such stars as Keira Knightley, Olivia Palermo and Eva Mendes.
And the brand’s founders, Natalia Barbieri and Jennifer Portman, who launched a bridal collection in spring ’14, said they continue to have fun crafting their classic style.
The latest offering from the label is its resort ’15 collection, which includes metallic flatforms, bold heels featuring a mesh-and-doily design, monochrome checks and lacy, lace-up booties.
On a hazy, gray morning in New York’s Soho neighborhood, FN met with Barbieri to view the line, while Portman flew between London and Milan for work. Sitting in an oversized houndstooth coat in a showroom surrounded by shoes, with not a glossy black hair out of place, Barbieri shared a little about the brand’s new notoriety and design sensibility.
1. Several top celebrities have worn Bionda Castana on the red carpet recently. Have there been any challenges dressing the stars?
NB: It’s been pretty seamless. Once they get a taste for the brand, it’s never been an issue. The feedback I get is how comfortable they are and how they can last all night long wearing [the shoes] regardless of how high they are. They tend to go with the high ones. I guess the main challenge at first is getting in front of them, but once [we are] then it kind of flows.
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2. Who would you like to see wearing the collection?
NB: Jessica Chastain or Diane Kruger. Those two are on my list that I haven’t seen just yet.
3. Who is the Bionda Castana woman?
NB: She’s laidback, effortless and chic — not a trendsetter as such. She doesn’t follow trends. She is someone who speaks from the feet up. Similarly to how [Jennifer and I] are really simple with the way we dress. We let the shoes speak for themselves. We have something for any occasion, any time of the day, from our flatforms to our slingback flats to our mid-heels to our block heels. When we design a collection, we start from a blank canvas so inspirations come from everywhere and anywhere. We have a more vintage feel. We have evening and we’ve just launched bridal. She’s a cool chic, effortless girl.
4. How do you merge Italian sensibilities with British style?
NB: There’s nothing better than a handmade Italian shoe. That will never change for us. The shoes are very well made. The artisans in the area — you can’t find them anywhere else. The London edge comes from me and Jennifer — we’re British born. It’s something that’s subconscious for us. It can’t be defined; it’s who we are. The Italian style is known to be quite classic, so what’s classic about our shoe is the shape itself. We don’t design eccentric styles. That’s not our aesthetic. What’s Italian about it is the classic line. What’s London about it is the fun upper, the fun prints.
5. How important is fashion week for the brand?
NB: It’s necessary to make the shoes walk, to give [them] movement. We mainly work with London designers. It’s a great opportunity.