Scribe Azoris monk-strap shoe in chocolate crocodile ($5,995)
Look from the Fall/Winter 2011 collection
Look from the Fall/Winter 2011 collection
Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler at the Bally Hosts Bally Love installation and pop-up shop in the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District last December.
Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz have experienced nothing less than a whirlwind since signing on as co-creative directors of Bally in April 2010, but they readily agree that one undeniable highlight came courtesy of a few stolen moments in the Miami sunshine.
“It was the first time in Miami for both of us and was absolutely fabulous,” Herz says. “Of course, we were there only about four days, and between the parties and the appointments in galleries, our time sitting in the sun was very brief. But all we could think was that back in Europe, it was very much winter.” Herz and Fidler trekked to Miami last December for Bally Love, an art installation and Design District pop-up shop that focused on the opticinspired paintings of artist Philippe Decrauzat, accented, of course, by equally graphic accessories.
“That was the first real global event for us,” Fidler notes. “By the time we came on board, Bally had already signed on for the project, and of course we fully endorsed it and agreed on the collaboration, because it was a perfect opportunity for us to help Bally become credible and relevant. It was a brilliant pop-up store that was very well-received.”
Indeed, it’s the success of that venture—more than the lure of the South Beach sun—that finds the pair eager to return to the art fair in early December, this time designing a capsule collection around a painting by Swiss artist Olaf Breuning. “Olaf created a work especially for Basel, and we took inspiration from that piece for a small collection of shoes, bags and accessories,” Herz explains. “His work is very colorful, with a slight sense of humor, so it will add a nice twist to the product.”
Imbuing the ultraclassic Bally ideal with a twist of fashion-forward edge is key to the pair’s intentions for the label, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary since the moment Carl Franz Bally opened a Swiss leather-goods house in 1851. “We knew from the outset that we were going to ultimately take the brand’s DNA and mix it with ours to create a new spirit of Bally,” says Fidler, who with Herz had achieved a similar goal with their previous gig as creative directors of the UK-based label Aquascutum. “The pressure we really put on ourselves was one of balance—to respect that there was a substantial business there that we didn’t want to compromise, but that we wished to bring to the brand a new energy and spirit that could help it grow.”
The anniversary collection likewise strives for that balance. “When you’re celebrating anniversaries that are quite important, you don’t want it to be heavy,” Herz notes. “Of course you want an emphasis on craftsmen and quality and workmanship, but we also wanted there to be a lightness, to introduce color and something a bit more fresh.”
The jumping-off point for both the men’s and women’s anniversary collections is the classic brogue, that traditional oxford accented with perforations (or “brogueing”) that originated in Scotland and Ireland. The perforations historically were meant to be more practical than decorative, as they allowed the wearer’s shoes to drain after crossing wet bogs. Herz and Fidler, who split the design duties (Herz handles the women’s side of the label, while Fidler oversees the men’s), dove into Bally’s exceedingly impressive archives—more than 30,000 designs and a museum at their Schönenwerd, Switzerland, headquarters—to research the brand’s history with the brogue before deciding how to reinterpret it for a fashion audience today.
The result: streamlined oxfords and demi-boots for men with brogue detailing and superlight micro rubber soles, while the women’s collection includes oxford pumps with oversize fringe detailing and ankle boots toned in the season’s key color-blocking trend. Bally’s also makes sneakers, which Fidler calls “the modern side of the shoe spectrum: very chic, very easy, and it’s quickly become one of the best-selling parts of the footwear.” Earlier this summer the duo launched a new collection aimed specifically at women: The Urban collection features the iconic red and white Bally stripe, a nod to the colors of the Swiss flag. The collection is based on the company’s unisex Trainspotting collection, referring to Switzerland’s almost manic ability to run its trains on time, and has likewise met with talked-about success.
By all accounts, Herz and Fidler are achieving exactly what they’ve set out to do, and what Bally has given them free rein to accomplish: to dial up the hip quotient on the label and propel it into the zeitgeist as a brand with buzz. On the night we speak, the pair calls in from Tokyo, where a Bally boutique has just opened in the decidedly upscale Ginza district. “It’s amazing to see people embrace the products and understand what we’re doing,” Herz says. “It’s a wonderful recognition of our desire to appeal to the more fashionable side. No one wants to be a brand of lost generations, of solely appealing to your parents or grandparents. You want to make yourself relevant to the next generation as well.”
All of which is to say the whirlwind shows no signs of slowing—but then again, it’s all the more reason to look forward to a few moments under the Miami sun. “Last year was a bit daunting, but then most of last year was, because everything was new,” Fidler says. “This year it’s going to be amazing, because we’re riding the crest of the wave.”