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Shoe designers Jennifer Portman and Natalia Barbieri are the “bionda” (blonde) and the “castana” (brunette) of the swiftly rising footwear brand Bionda Castana Milano. The London-founded label is a delightful union of British style and Italian craftsmanship, resulting in shoes that are lasting luxury, with just the right dash of fashion relevance.
For our latest edition to the High Heels Daily designer feature series Natalia Barbieri (the brunette) lets us in on a bit of what makes the fabulous brand tick. The former investment banker made a bold career move and studied under an Italian craftsman before launching the label with Portman in 2007.
What’s it like working as a design duo?
Working alongside Jennifer is just fantastic. We are both on the same wave length when it comes to all elements of the business be it designing or future plans for BC, which makes it so much easier and a great environment to work in. Zero office politics and quite frankly, there is far too much workload for just one person.
In terms of our daily seperate roles, I look after the sales and marketing side, whereas Jennifer is more hands on with Production and Quality Control. We both come together to design the collections every season.
Below: a sample of the Bionda Castana Spring 2011 Collection
How did your education and other background lead to footwear design? Did always know you were interested in fashion?
We both studied business degrees which allowed us to understand the fundamentals of setting up our own business. Knowing both how to create an amazing shoe and understanding cash flow and budgets is super important. Both myself and Jennifer have loved fashion since we were little girls so we are truly living out our dream.
You’ve mentioned that you design for “free-thinking” women. How does this perspective affect your design process?
The term free thinking best describes our customer because she is someone who doesn’t follow fashion or trends. She makes up her own mind as to what she wants to wear and how she wants to wear it.
We are effectively women designing for women and knowing what shoes we want to wear and what shoes we need in our own wardrobes – gives us our secret ingredient….we are our own customer.
Our collections are classic with an edge, polished yet tough. Each season we introduce a new shape or heel so that we come closer of achieving our goal of dressing the feet of every kind of woman.
If you could have only one pair of heels in your wardrobe, which would they be? Why?
A pair of our ROISIN studded booties from the AW10 collection in either black suede or grey leather. Stunning and real show piece that will dress up any outfit. (seen below in black suede)
Who are some other designers (shoes/heels, if applicable) whose work you admire?
Sergio Rossi is definately an icon of mine. His designs are what inspired me to start my own range of shoes and in fact, he was the first luxury shoe designer I bought a pair of shoes from. They are so beautifully crafted and timeless.
Who would you most love to see wearing your shoes?
I am totally in love with Kate Bosworth at the moment. So feminine, gracious and never makes a fashion faux pas. Beautiful.
photos: livincool.com, vogue.co.uk, becauselondon.com, zimbio.com