Mary Katrantzou Collaborates With Bulgari On A Trophy Handbag Collection

Now this is what you call wearable art...

Natalia Vodianova wearing a butterfly-encrusted dress and bag

by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

One accessory that lost its way during lockdown was the handbag. Because with nowhere to go except the park and the supermarket, the one you most often carried was either a tote or a backpack, something practical that could easily accommodate your face mask, hand sanitiser and groceries without getting bent out of shape. But with restrictions easing, and June 21 on the horizon, the handbag is primed to make a glorious comeback this summer. And the fact that it’s also the star of the new collaboration between Mary Katrantzou, the Athens-born designer who shows at London Fashion Week, and Bulgari, is just one sign that things are finally going its way.

In the heritage jeweller’s latest chapter of ‘Serpenti Through The Eyes Of’, where it asks a creative to create a capsule collection inspired by its iconic snake symbol, the Serpenti, Katrantzou has designed three handbags, each of which would be the ultimate conversation-starter when you finally reunite with friends.

Natalia Vodianova wearing a black dress and red handbag
The campaign's star, Natalia Vodianova, model and founder of the Naked Heart Foundation ©Bulgari

The entire collaboration, which is available to buy from tomorrow, took place, in a theme that will go down in history as very 2020-21, over Zoom. But Katrantzou, who luckily managed to visit the brand’s historical archives, based in Rome, before the onset of the pandemic, insists that it didn’t detract from the creative process one bit. ‘We had a lot of calls, a lot of back and forth, sending the embroideries, the prototypes of bags, the different finishes, and we were very lucky that everything was managed in such a precise manner. I didn’t feel like we were compromising on the design or the craftsmanship at all.’

Katrantzou’s relationship with the jeweller started in 2019, when she was preparing to stage her first couture show at the Temple of Poseidon. Bulgari loaned archival pieces dating back to the ‘60s and the results, paired with jaw-droppingly intricate gowns and a backdrop of towering columns, was a magical moment for both parties. ‘It became a love letter to Greece, for both of us,’ says Katrantzou. ‘The founder of Bulgari has Greek origins and was a Greek silversmith before moving to Rome. It all felt very personal and we developed a mutual appreciation for each other.’

Natalia Vodianova wearing a butterfly-encrusted dress and a pink handbag
The campaign's star, Natalia Vodianova, model and founder of the Naked Heart Foundation ©Bulgari

The Serpenti itself, and the symbolism of transformation and rebirth, was the starting point for Katrantzou. ‘The whole theme of the collection became about the metamorphosis that originates in Serpenti,’ she says, and its form looms large, quite literally, on the collection. On one style, the Serpenti becomes the handle itself, stretching its body into curved S that can be removed to make way for a shoulder strap. One another, the minaudière, the snake head itself provides the bag’s shape and structure. It was inspired by the enamelware of a 1968 Serpenti watch, and the way its wearer opened it by pressing on the snake’s tongue. The final bag is embroidered with a kaleidoscope of laser-cut butterflies by Paris’s Montex Atelier, and each takes more than 40 hours of work. These are objects of art, certainly, but Katrantzou also wanted them to feel functional, adding detachable handles and wrist straps to make them as wearable as possible. ‘You want the bag you carry to feel like an expression of yourself and a conversation piece, but at the same time it has to serve the function of being what it’s meant for,’ she says.

And finally, where does she plan on wearing hers when the moment comes? ‘I hope I get the chance to wear them everywhere!’


SHOP: Mary Katrantzou X Bvlgari Handbags

Mary Katrantzou x Bvlgari, Metamorphosis Handle Bag, £2,3301 of 3

Mary Katrantzou x Bvlgari, Metamorphosis Handle Bag, £2,330

Mary Katrantzou x Bvlgari, Metamorphosis Minaudiu00e8re, £3,9902 of 3

Mary Katrantzou x Bvlgari, Metamorphosis Minaudière, £3,990

Mary Katrantzou x Bvlgari, Metamorphosis Top-Handle, £8,1503 of 3

Mary Katrantzou x Bvlgari, Metamorphosis Top-Handle, £8,150

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