MILAN — Borbonese marks its 50th anniversary this year with the launch of the Tango bag, a collection of costume jewelry that bows during the brand's spring runway show here today and a coffee table book on the history of the company published this fall by Mondadori Electa.
"Our goal with the book is to show how the brand has evolved in a concrete, tangible way," said Claude Arpels, chairman of the Redwall Group, which has controlled Borbonese since 1992 but has upped its commitment to the brand since Arpels joined Redwall in 2002.
While compiling the book, the company created an in-house museum, finding archival pieces that had been boxed away for decades.
"The archive and the book helped us understand the soul of the brand," said Arpels who, together with Alessandro Dell'Acqua, tapped creative director in 2000, has been going back to the roots of the company to create high-end products while maintaining Borbonese's artisan craftsmanship.
Redwall Group also controls the Dell'Acqua business and works on licenses with Giorgio Armani, Moschino and Romeo Gigli.
While Dell'Acqua has been contributing an edgy touch to the ready-to-wear division, which was launched in February 2001 and has since caught the eye of celebrities such as Hilary Swank, Halle Berry and Paris Hilton, Borbonese's accessories remain its core business. Handbags account for 55 percent of sales, while footwear, a new license with Veneto-based Baldan, accounts for 15 percent of sales. Arpels expects sales of $36 million in 2005, up from $30 million last year.
The new costume jewelry venture is also a return to the brand's origins. Borbonese started out in Turin, Italy, under the ownership of Umberto Minestrone and Edoardo Calcagno, supplying necklaces, bracelets and other accoutrements to Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Fendi, Galitzine and Ungaro.
"Even more so than other accessories, costume jewelry reflects the times we live in," said Cristina Cortesi, who joined the company this March as chief executive officer.
For spring, the firm will revisit its iconic romantic motifs.
"There used to be lots of butterflies, as Borbonese played with their wings, which look like two Bs," said Cortesi.
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