Luxury shoe brand, Bionda Castana is the epitome of feminine cool with a grown up chic feel. This perfect combination is largely due to the cultural background of its founders, Jennifer Portman and Natalia Barbieri, who are both Italian, born and raised in London. We profiled Natalia two years ago in our Style Insider feature where she revealed her equisite style and beautiful shoes shot in The Biscuit Building in East London. Since then women such as Keira Knightley, Jessica Alba, Katy Perry, Miranda Kerr, Eva Mendes, Jessica Biel and Olivia Palermo are just a few who have fallen in love with Bionda Castana shoes. This month we caught up with Natalia again in the sumptuous setting of Belgraves a Thompson Hotel in Belgravia. After stopping by blo by real hair and Donna Ida on Elizabeth Street, we headed to the trendy hot spot to talk about fashion, her favourite things and find out what was next for Bionda Castana.
DONNA IDA: How did you get started?
Natalia Barbieri: 'I knew my life would take a creative path around 2000 when I was thinking about how I visualised my future and what made me essentially happy. I had to be in a creative field and it had to revolve around shoes. My family didn't deem this a serious idea - hence the move into finance - but when I had saved enough money I started researching and travelling to put together a sample collection. I wanted to build something, so working alongside Jennifer Portman my business partner whom I met at University, this is when Bionda Castana was born. Granted we built it on a shoestring but you don’t get the opportunity to actually make something that often so when I could, I took the risk. The business was born in 2008 with a very small amount of capital. For our first season we showed a very small capsule collection for Spring Summer 2008 at the WSA show in Las Vegas. We are now stocked in some of the most influential stores in the world including Net-a-Porter, Shopbop, Level Dubai, Restir Tokyo...to name but a few.'
DONNA IDA: What inspires you?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Once the season has come to a close, we literally start again on a blank canvas. We are inspired by the day-to-day, our friends, films, our travels, cultures - anything and everything but it is predominantly our gut feeling. In each collection there is a style for everyone, be it more conservative or more eccentric.'
DONNA IDA: What is your business mantra?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Be patient and have a clear vision.'
DONNA IDA: If you weren’t a designer what would you do?
Natalia Barbieri: 'I would somehow be involved in nutrition and health full-time (I kind of am already but on a small scale!)'
DONNA IDA: Who is your Denim Icon?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Farrah Fawcett. She made fitted and flared jeans the style du jour for 1970s girls.'
DONNA IDA: Where in the world are girls best dressed? What kind of style do you admire?
Natalia Barbieri: 'There is something about Parisian chic. The way they coordinate their look, never leave home without sunglasses even in the rain and I love that they don’t wear much make up.'
DONNA IDA: Which style of jeans are your favourite?
DONNA IDA: Describe your style highs and lows?
Natalia Barbieri: 'I have had many a style low…namely teaming everything in my wardrobe with a rather large Gucci belt I was obsessed with in my late teens. A style high would be my new Meadham Kirchoff checkered skirt with lace trim that I can’t seem to surgically remove.'
DONNA IDA: What’s your favourite restaurant?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Casa Lucia, Milan is my absolute favourite. Fresh pasta heaven.'
DONNA IDA: Where’s your ultimate holiday destination?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Anywhere with a hammock, a Norma Kamali bikini and a good book.'
DONNA IDA: What's your go-to pair of shoes?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Our ‘Lana’ geometric pump single sole pump in all the colours of the rainbow.'
DONNA IDA: Where is your favourite place to unwind?
Natalia Barbieri: 'It has to be my mother’s hometown Frias, Burgos in Spain.'
DONNA IDA: What’s on your iPod at the moment?
Natalia Barbieri: 'The new Coldplay Album. The lyrics of ‘O” get me every time.'
DONNA IDA: What advice would you give to a younger you?
Natalia Barbieri: 'Stay true to yourself.'
DONNA IDA: What's next?
Natalia Barbieri: 'To open stores globally and to expand the brand into other soft accessories.'