It looks like the fashion world can’t get enough of collaborations, which in recent years have become a strong marketing tool for both established and up-and-coming names.
Taking the concept to a new level, footwear brand Ilio Smeraldo, part of shoe specialist group Gia Borghini, is launching its spring 2022 collection via 18 partnerships with international personalities, each of whom designed a small number of shoe styles.
It marks a departure from the one-off capsules other brands have been doing, as the partnership is integral to the company’s entire offering.
“Our goal was to establish a hub to give voice to each and every woman, because they are all unique, and as such extraordinary synergies can blossom,” said Barbara Borghini, the group’s founder. “In addition to sending a message of sisterhood, our aim was to highlight a plurality of women and their voices.”
Entirely crafted in Tuscany, the collection telegraphs the creative ethos of each personality. They were given total creative freedom and asked only to stick to a predetermined color palette, to which some collaborators added their personal colorful touches.
“It was not my goal to necessarily deliver a cohesive collection; I wanted first and foremost that each woman could express her creativity,” said Borghini.
The roster of partners is made up of 17 women and one man. They were either close to Borghini or someone the entrepreneur had always wanted to link with.
They include stylists Elizabeth Sulcer, a longtime friend of the Gia Borghini Group, Kate Young; Rebecca Corbin-Murray; Justine Lee and Florrie Thomas; French Chinese chef and author of best-selling cookbooks Mimi Thorisson; model, photographer and philanthropist Laura Bailey; model Grece Ghanem; fashion director Jiyoung Kim; art collector Lorena Vergani; digital talents Cher Bai, Claire Rose Cliteur, Ai Kamoshita, Giulia de Lellis, Ilenia Toma and Géraldine Boublil; The Frankie Shop’s founder Gaelle Drevet, as well as male model and designer Simon Nygard.
The full collection offers a mix of styles, from Sulcer’s combat boots celebrating female strength or Young’s comfort clogs, to sensual heels such as Corbin’s mules and Lee’s mid-heeled strappy sandals and Bailey’s ‘80s disco-inspired platform sandals. The result is a shoe rack-building lineup in which fashion-y styles are flanked by timeless options and sports shoes.
The intuition payed off as the ongoing sales campaign is thriving, according to Borghini.
“Working on these types of creative collaborations around the world allows me to meet and partner with so many beautiful, talented, strong and creative women like Barbara and her team at Ilio Smeraldo, and that really inspires me as an artist,” Sulcer said.
Retailing at between 250 and 350 euros, the shoes have been sold direct-to-consumer on the brand’s e-commerce for some time, although interest from retailers pushed Borghini to open up the wholesale channel and grow the start-up firm’s business potential.
In the wake of its women empowerment’s message, 10 percent of proceeds from each shoe sold online is donated to the Fondazione Fiorenzo Fratini, a Florence-based NGO supporting young girls and boys in need of help and psychological counseling.
Young touted the brand’s values of “family and women’s empowerment” while Bailey said Ilio Smeraldo’s ethics align with her own and praised the foundation’s efforts in “improving the emotional and economic lives of the most vulnerable women and girls.”
“We wanted to celebrate women and share a positive message but also act proactively. Words needs to be followed by actions,” Borghini offered.
The entrepreneur said new co-designers may be added for each of the two collections a year the brand plans to deliver going forward.