After 150 years of producing sophisticated footwear and leather accessories, the Swiss firm Bally is suddenly a new contender in the luxury-clothing market, going toe to fashionable toe with the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
"We don't want to be in-your-face fashion," says Bally's creative director, Scott Fellows. "We just want to make beautiful things for everyday use."
Fellows has formally studied fashion design (and also happens to have an MBA from Harvard), and his designs for Bally are finely crafted but also casual and comfortable. They combine sleek, strong silhouettes with meticulous detail: a bright-red edge on a black calfskin belt; a sleek white leather bag, but with a red-and-white-striped equestrian surcingle strap; the classic men's brogue brought up to date with a slightly bolder medallion toe design.
"The company has a Swiss tradition," Fellows says. "And there's a strong sense of graphic design—bold, bright colors and clear, sharp contrasts that give a strong, orderly, rational sensibility. Not overly ornate or fussy—just a feeling of being well-crafted, durable, and sound."
The elegant line of daywear for men and women emphasizes leather and knits, with buttery nappa leather blazers, featherweight merino or cashmere pullovers and double-zip cardigans, and slim-fitted, lower-rise trousers. Outerwear includes trimmer, shorter, more pared-down versions of classic designs—a weather-treated cotton trench coat, for instance, or a pliant leather version with snap closures. The Havana Tangier loafer—a wonderful take on an archival Bally design—has a flexible heel cup so it can serve as either a casual slip-on or a dress shoe.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect, though, is Bally's bold new sense of color. Although accessories and clothing in alabaster, chocolate, cognac, and saddle predominate, there is a whole new range in saffron yellow, sky blue, flame red, and cactus green for both men and women.
"We're not directional or trendy," Fellows explains, "so the clothes don't have those fashiony elements that date them in a season or two. When you make clothes and accessories that are well-crafted, you want them to be used for a long time and still retain a contemporary feel. That means the design must be based on utility and function, not on gimmicks." Bally's luggage—including a weekend bag that looks like an incredibly sleek duffel—has accessible cell- phone pockets and compartments for laptops and other business necessities.
Architect Craig Bassam's design for the new Bally flagship—a 3,200-square-foot store that recently opened in Berlin—reflects the company's aesthetic approach. The oiled oak floors, walls, and ceilings were crafted by Swiss cabinetmakers and hand-joined in a subtle grid pattern. "It's in the Swiss tradition of strong, solid, well-crafted work," says Fellows. "There's a rational clarity to the design. Things should be beautiful, but they should work well and have an appropriateness to them too." It seems the perfect place for art and commerce to meet.
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