MILAN – Mario Bandiera, founder and chairman of the Bologna, Italy-based BVM, parent company of Les Copains, died in Bologna on Monday evening, at age 87.
Bandiera started his entrepreneurial activity in the Fifties, producing knitwear for the German market. He launched Les Copains in 1958, a collection developed around fine cashmere knitwear. He drew his inspiration for the brand’s name from a French radio program popular at the time called “Salut les Copains.”
The brand is currently designed by his wife, creative director Stefania Bandiera.
In 1986, he was appointed Cavaliere del Lavoro, or “Knight of Labour,” one of the highest honors bestowed by the president of the Italian Republic.
Over the years, Les Copains has worked with designers such as Antonio Marras, Antonio Berardi, Albino d’Amato, Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Graeme Black, and BVM produced Giambattista Valli’s namesake line for years.
“I’m proud of having worked next to Mario for a company which marked the history of Made in Italy,” said Dell’Acqua. “I will always remember this entrepreneurial and creative mind with love and gratitude. I learned so much from him about the world of knitwear,” said the designer who in fact developed a special expertise in knitwear, going on to work for Malo and then with his own brand N°21.
Marras defined Bandiera as “a man from a different era, a real gentleman. A man of few words, of bold decisions, of great insight and rare discretion. He has been a great protagonist of the golden age of Italian fashion, when creating and innovating was the ultimate goal. He gave designers huge opportunities to grow and build their own career. We will miss him.”
Berardi said that “Mr. Bandiera will always be remembered as a pillar of Italian knitwear and prêt-à-porter. He was a man who was adored by all those he worked with, and I will remember my time working with him with the fondest of memories.”
To mark its 60th anniversary, in September Les Copains revisited its storied designs for its show, engaging students of Istituto Marangoni for the project “It’s My Dream,” a capsule collection of 12 outfits, selected from among the best looks from the young designers, which were presented in a dedicated corner at the Sala delle Cariatidi, the beautiful salon in a neoclassical style at the Royal Palace. Stefania Bandiera presented 21 looks framed by a nautical theme, and done entirely in white and gold. Bandiera showcased the brand’s knitwear heritage with soft tailoring, lace, textured cardigans and easy sweaters, displaying a discreet and approachable style.