The designer said he wanted to give the Serpenti a contemporary feel. “I kept thinking about London when designing it and the feminine irreverence of its residents that inspires my own designs.”
He said he changed the bag’s proportions and tweaked a number of details, including the size and weight of the chain, which he made heavier and longer for “London attitude.” He moved the ceramic snakehead clasp lower at the front and straightened the bags’ edges and turned the lid into a flap that was inspired by a Bulgari jewelry piece. The studs — a Kirkwood signature — have faceted sides that are made to resemble jewels.
“I get really nerdy about how things are made, and really delved into the process,” said Kirkwood. He was struck by how “quiet and serene” the Bulgari handbag factory in Florence, Italy was compared to his footwear ones in the Veneto, which vibrate with banging, noise and drills.
Kirkwood said he appreciates the tension between the “youthful, London” feel of the bag and the heritage and precision details and craftsmanship. “Each stud is placed on the bags by hand,” he said.
The collection, known as Serpenti Through the Eyes of Nicholas Kirkwood, comprises a shoulder bag in five color ways inspired by the gemstones that Kirkwood saw at the Bulgari high-jewelry atelier in Rome during one of his visits.
There’s also a compact rucksack, a wallet on a fine chain that can be worn on the shoulder, and a pouchette with a detachable hand strap. All of them have been decorated with a studded chevron pattern.
The chevron is a Kirkwood signature, as are the studs, which appear on the heels of some of his shoe designs. The color palette has been inspired by gemstones and includes black and white, pink, sapphire and gold.
The collaboration marks the first time Bulgari has worked with an outside accessories designer. Kirkwood said he met the Bulgari team at an LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton event (both companies are owned by the French luxury giant) and the opportunity was one he could not pass up.
Bulgari’s leather goods and accessories managing director Mireia Lopez Montoya described Kirkwood as a talent who shares with Bulgari “the same values and approach to creativity, such as unexpected materials, architectural inspiration and daring use of color.
“It was exciting to discover so many things in common between Bulgari, with its more than 130 years of history, and a young talent like Nicholas,” she said.
The bags will also be sold through some Bulgari stores, at the Nicholas Kirkwood store at 5 Mount Street in London, and on the designer’s web site.
Asked whether he’d consider launching his own handbag collection, Kirkwood said he’s thinking about moving into a variety of new categories. “At some point I’d like to expand — into jewelry and sunglasses as well. Handbags is maybe a too obvious next step, and the market is so saturated right now,” he said.