FIRST LOOK: BIONDA CASTANA FOR LK BENNETT

 BRITISH shoe label Bionda Castana’s first collaboration – with high-street brand LK Bennett – may not be accompanied by the global fanfare of an H&M designer collection, but the product itself is just as covetable. Sharing the first look at the forthcoming collection with Vogue, Bionda Castana co-founder Natalia Barbieri explained that the label’s aim was not to simply imitate its signature styles, but rather to harmonise the brand’s aesthetic with the needs of the LK Bennett customer.

“The main thing in our minds was ‘vibrancy’ and creating a capsule collection that was memorable, yet wearable,” Barbieri told us, noting that the LK Bennett archives also provided inspiration. “We looked to the Fifties and Seventies and sought to mix this feel with signature elements of LK Bennett and Bionda Castana. This meant, for example, creating a Fifties-esque mid-heel that is complemented by a modern and unexpected transparent mesh accent. LK Bennett is known for its polka-dot print and low-heeled offering, while we are known for our graphic prints, refined heels and subtle use of mesh. Once we identified these signature traits we found a natural synergy that made for an exciting collection.”

The collaboration came about when the shoe label was paired with LK Bennett CEO Robert Bensoussan – the former CEO of Jimmy Choo, and a man who therefore knows a thing or two about the shoe business – when it was awarded the Walpole Brand of Tomorrow prize for 2015. Following the design process – for which, co-founder Jennifer Portman reveals, the duo were given “carte blanche” – the pair worked closely with the “fantastic” LK Bennett production team to ensure the final manifestation of the collection was up to their standards, despite the difference in price point.

With a global following, hundreds of international stockists, and a list of celebrity fans that any major house would covet – from Dakota Fanning, January Jones and Diane Kruger, to Alexa Chung and Karlie Kloss – Bionda Castana’s first foray into accessible luxury is likely to sell out in hours, but Barbieri revealed that she’s keeping one pair aside for herself.

“I love the raspberry chequerboard Jerry high-heeled sandal,” she smiled, despite always trying her best not to play favourites among styles. “It embodies both the LK Bennett and Bionda Castana worlds by using our signatures of laces, graphic prints and the thinner stiletto.”

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