“I was inspired by the Adriatic Coast,” said Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Meier of his luxurious collection, a mix of hand-painted, printed, and woven pieces in a palette of bright, sand, and aquatic colors.
The influence of those inviting Adriatic waters can be felt throughout. Perforated gold discs are scattered like water droplets on a suede pumpkin purse. Python is hand-painted in watercolor splashes of scarlet, lemon, and purple for a bag with the look of a Victorian guinea purse (cinched with a silver ring). Meier created a similar splash effect in the cotton and jersey prints used for a capacious beach bag, a bikini, and a puckered one-piece swimsuit with a forties flavor. And, in the most lavish variation of all, a lamé brocade looks as though it has been sprinkled with water or iridescent oils.
For spring, Meier applied the company’s trademark weaving technique to strips of hand-painted leather, for a subtle ombré effect that shows up in a simple low-heeled mule and a purse with the easy feel of a straw bag picked up on an island holiday. Also simply chic is a high-heeled fifties stiletto in bone, sky, or biscuit alligator. Elsewhere the organic modernist forms of Jean Arp’s mid-century sculpture inspired a round-toe pump, overlaid with a fine cotton-tulle mesh.
While working in Venice on the new Bottega Veneta crystal tableware collection, Meier unearthed a treasure trove of antique handblown glass beads. These were used to trim the bars of (limited-edition) high-heeled sandals, picking up the citrus and sky-blue or scarlet and gold tones of the brocades. Bottega’s new jewelry, meanwhile, has a harder edge, as chunky bangles are woven with strips of leather or sterling silver. The designer also created a terry-cloth mule and a sheared-mink “toweling” robe—just the thing for those poolside movie-star moments.
Standard slingbacks, conventional pumps, and basic boots are not Bruno Frisoni’s style. His bold, head-turning designs reflect the designer’s knack for drawing inspiration from unexpected places.
Japanese artist Takashi Murukami’s film Dolls, with its images of a heroine tied by rope to her lover, gave Frisoni the idea for the chic sandals whose straps have been replaced by twisted and plaited grosgrain ribbons. The work of Art Deco–era artist and illustrator Erte gave rise to the graphic silver cutouts on fabulous flat black leather boots. And what of the selection of striking after-dark shoes, sculpted with bands of gold that clasp the sides of the foot or cup the heel? They were inspired by cowboy spurs, which Frisoni calls “jewelry for the feet.” His medley of sandals, titled Ring My Belle, continues the bijoux theme with large silver rings hooked through straps to stunning effect.
Frisoni delights in the unusual, but that doesn’t mean his shoes are awkward or difficult to wear. His square-toe pumps in pea green, black patent, or a pink “atomic” print (a pattern of abstract Japanese blossoms) are proof of that. Whether sweet and neat with crisp knots at the toe or fantasy and fun with a pom-pom on the heel, they’re eye candy that satisfies.
Karl Lagerfeld's Spring ready-to-wear collection showcased his talent for making lust-worthy modern versions of Coco’s classics. The accessories, meanwhile, demonstrate his knack for bestowing Chanel-chic status on the everyday.
How about a bag in the form of a Rubik’s Cube, crafted from mini squares of leather in many colors? Or a small plastic clutch that mimics a videotape case? There are flat disc-shaped bags, made to look like old vinyl records, and super-soft calfskin numbers that close with a double C–stamped billiard ball. All these fun ideas are also shrunk down to charm proportions and attached to long, jangling necklaces—best worn, as Lagerfeld showed them on the runway, in multiples. More serious collectibles include the house’s signature quilted bags, this season in white and scarlet snake, their chain handles made thicker and woven with leather.
In fact, the shoe collection is a reminder of how soberly elegant Lagerfeld can be. There are polite pumps with long satin laces that cross and tie, like toe shoes, around the ankle, and there are sandals that have a new thick tube heel, ornamented with crisply turned bows and decadently lined in quilted satin. The designer couldn’t resist one last pun, which came by way of a Tennis Court pump, rendered with scaled-down tennis ball and green-net heel. For real sportswear, however, there’s the ever expanding sport line, which includes Chanel-stamped flip-flops, towels, duffel bags, and even a basketball—the perfect gear for posing in the locker room.
For Spring 2004, John Galliano took Marlene Dietrich as his muse and served up a helter-skelter runway vision for Christian Dior. Back in the accessories showroom, however, he translated those kaleidoscopic concepts into an accessible and very appealing reality.
The “D-Trick” story, with its hyped-up forties references, is played out on skewer-slim spectator heels, the most exotic of which come in silver python and perforated white leather. The same details echo in fabulous bags rendered in black and white leather, Prince of Wales check, and sugar-pink satin. They come with a selection of interchangeable multipurpose shoulder straps; one doubles as a pearl necklace, while others may serve nicely as lavish fox stoles. Other great bags include the Dior Deco, with vintage-feeling “aged” bronze, gold, and silver leather details, and the Dior Ballet, which, with its pink crisscross lacing and froufrou pouch, resembles a miniature corset and tutu.
Should you wish to wear your Dior in a rather more loud-and-proud way, there’s a series of bubble gum–bright, logo-emblazoned rucksacks and beach bags…with matching stiletto mules, naturally. Don’t miss the Dior ski visors for the slopes or the bronze-framed raga shades for the beach. And for all-out drama anytime, anywhere, it’s got to be the dazzling crystal-encrusted Lucite jewelry, aptly named Diorlywood.
“My shoes are like faces,” mused Christian Louboutin. “Some are beautiful from the front; others are more interesting in profile.” Seen from either vantage point, Louboutin’s Spring collection is a feast of sophisticated design.
Shoe fetishists will not be disappointed by his latest idea: using Lucite heels and transparent PVC straps so that any embellishment, such as a row of sweet satin bows, appears to be magically attached to the foot. “I love the idea of having little details that seem to be glued to the body,” the designer said. He also skillfully dispatched off the season’s major trends. For lingerie looks, there are spiderweb-fine lace slingbacks in ivory and black. For a touch of sparkle, see the wafer-flat beaded thongs. As for the ladylike fifties theme, look no further than the Mini Princess: a kitten-heeled chartreuse satin slipper with a teeny crystal buckle. The colors are equally of-this-moment: nudes, pinks (from powder to cherry), lime, and sunflower yellow, all zapped with bits of bronze, silver, and gold.
Louboutin’s bags, now in their second season, express both sides of the designer’s dual personality. He enjoyed putting a punchy, bright cartoon strip, titled “The Dysfunctional Family,” on baguettes, but, to achieve that quintessential elegance, he turned out elongated clutch bags in navy pinstripes, white python, and “mirror effect” silver—perfect for touching up one’s lip gloss.
Dolce & Gabbana’s red-hot collection brilliantly captured the season’s vibrant mix message. Leave it to Stefano and Domenico to run with the print-on-print theme, the glamour of bling-bling crystal Vegas gowns (that was Beyoncé front and center at their show, after all), and the spirit of Cher and Marilyn…and to push everything to the limit.
To satisfy what Gabbana called their “mad obsession with prints,” the designers worked with the great Italian textile company Ratti, raiding its archives for a slew of vintage designs, which they then mixed up with riotous abandon. Like so many madcap schemes for Palm Beach powder rooms of the Jacqueline Susann era, the prints wrap both the heels and the linings of Dolce & Gabbana’s wedge sandals. They are used for elaborately topstitched sun hats, knee- and thigh-high stiletto boots, and suede-fringed shoulder bags that highlight the collection’s Cher–channeling–Native America motif. They even crop up in the frames of the Pucci-esque goggle-eyed sunglasses.
Excess is in the air. “All is precious” Gabbana said of the materials, which include eel, snake, and crocodile and are embellished with "Swarovski-crystal trim and rivets everywhere." And, like the color palette—yellow, apple green, turquoise, violet, pink—everything is taken to the max. High-heeled sandals are higher still with a stacked platform sole, while a strong chain-link theme runs from the python loops of the sandal straps to the finest strands of silver and gold that wrap the wedge-heeled shapes. Talk about bling!