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For the new Serpentis, Katrantzou continued a through line of storytelling, which is typically seen in her eponymous label through mixed prints and bold designs. For the Roman luxury house, however, she embraced the idea of metamorphosis and transformation—at a time when so many around the world grapple with new narratives brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. To start, Katrantzou traveled to the brand’s headquarters in Rome and atelier in Florence for design insight. It was there that she gained the first bit of inspiration, found in 1960s Serpenti watches.
To learn more how Katrantzou worked with Bvlgari to elevate their common larger-than-life spirit through new accessory styles, Whitewall spoke with the designer.
WHITEWALL: How does your collaboration with BVLGARI embody your eponymous label's spirit?
MARY KATRANTZOU: My work has always been about storytelling through a distinct visual language. For my collaboration with Bvlgari, I wanted to represent Serpenti as a symbol of transformation, healing and rebirth. The idea of metamorphosis is so relevant to this moment in time, as we all go through our own transformation. I wanted to create a narrative of optimism that highlights the symbolic nature of Serpenti that dates back to Ancient Greek and Roman mythology. We started by taking inspiration from the 1960s Serpenti watches that are so iconic to Bvlgari, and created three new styles that represent the idea of metamorphosis and highlight different elements of Serpenti: the snakehead, its body, and its skin.
WW: What was the creative process like behind making "Serpenti Through the Eyes of Mary Katrantzou”?
MK: When I was invited to interpret Serpenti through my own eyes, I had the opportunity to visit Bvlgari’s historical archive in Rome and then to meet Mireia Lopex Montoya, the Managing Director of Accessories, who gave me a tour of their atelier and workshop in Florence. It was such an important step in my creative process, and I gained incredible insight into their history and design codes. This trip sparked my imagination and I instantly knew that I wanted to create a minaudiere in the shape of Serpenti, a Bvlgari first!
We were able to stay true to the original Serpenti watch—from the enamel work, down to the opening mechanism of the minaudiere by pressing the snake's tongue. It was such an unorthodox design process because after our first visit we went into lockdown. Bvlgari really made me feel part of the family and even though I wasn't able to visit, we were still able to develop the collection with exacting detail. It was a dream to work with the Bvlgari teams and to refine each piece to feel like a true object of art, in the hands of its wearer.
WW: What do Mary Katrantzou and Bvlgari have in common?
MK: Working with Bvlgari felt natural and was incredibly rewarding creatively. Looking through their archives and decoding their heritage and symbolism, I discovered we share a very similar vision. The founder of Bvlgari, Sotirios Voulgaris, had Greek origins and I was able to trace our common cultural heritage in the symbolism of their design codes. Working with Bvlgari, I felt we share a common appreciation of craftsmanship and fine materials, a focus on timeless elegance and a larger-than-life spirit. When coming together for this collaboration, I wanted to highlight the Serpenti icon, by creating a connection to its nature, symbolic of rebirth and transformation. The significance of narrative and visual storytelling in Bvlgari’s universe is so integral to their history and it is what inspired me the most in our collaboration.
WW: Your eponymous label is known for its prints, textures, and designs. What did you want to take to Bvlgari from your label for this partnership?
MK: My work has always been about filtering beauty through design and I try with each collection to build a vocabulary that can become a means for self-expression. Using color freely and boldly as a wellness tool is important to me and I tried to apply my sense of colour and pattern to our collection. For our Serpenti Metamorphosis bag, we created a unique artwork that represents the idea of metamorphosis by showcasing the Serpenti as it gradually transforms into a spiral of butterflies.
It gave context to the idea of transformation and allowed us to bring the couture craftsmanship through embroidery that I explore in my own collections, to the world of accessories. The print was hand embellished by Atelier Montex in Paris and then placed onto our bag with incredible attention to detail. The same pattern was also part of our silk scarves collection, representing one more stage of transformation, as the butterflies transform into flowers in bloom. I believe true luxury is about pieces that tell a story, and this artwork communicated the idea of metamorphosis more than any other piece of the collection.
WW: You’re based in London. What is living and working in the city right now amid COVID-19? Where are you gaining inspiration?
MK: After spending the first global lockdown in my London home, I have now been spending my time in Athens, working remotely. It’s lovely being back home after so many years and appreciating the beauty of this country that is a constant source of inspiration.