MILAN — Renato Balestra, known for his couture gowns, signature painterly embroidery, blend of different fabrics and transparencies, and even a distinctive color — Balestra blue — is seeing his brand’s heritage revisited by his family to update it for the times.
“I prefer to say we are reloading the brand, rather than revamping it, because we have specific targets and goals we are aiming at,” said the designer’s granddaughter, Sofia Bertolli Balestra. During an exclusive interview with WWD here, she is clearly fully charged, bubbling with ideas and energy.
Steering Balestra’s research, development and brand identity, Bertolli Balestra has been building the brand’s impressive archive, which includes over 40,000 sketches and drawings, hundreds of gowns, videos and newspaper articles, and declared of historical interest by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities.
The brand will present its first ready-to-wear collection as part of the new course at a presentation during Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 24.
Renamed simply Balestra — in sync with other storied brands focusing on the surname of the founder — the label will have a new logo in a new font. However, it will link with the couturier, as it revisits the hand-drawn version designed by Renato Balestra in 1971 and appears in his signature color.
“We waited for the right moment to present the project, and I believe now there is more attention to the product, after the pandemic slowed everything down,” contended Bertolli Balestra.
She emphasized the all-female leadership team as the brand remains privately owned by the family, with the founder’s daughters Fabiana — Sofia’s mother — and Federica Balestra at the head of the fashion house, touting as well as its made in Italy production and craftsmanship.
Bertolli Balestra has been developing a new conceptual website and visual identity to reflect this new beginning with a contemporary aesthetic. “We are changing, exploring and evolving new languages for a wider community,” she said. “We want to engage with and inspire a new generation, reinventing our signature optimism and glamour with an authentic contemporary twist. Balestra is creativity through generations.”
The brand is designed by a team and the plan is to continue to create couture looks.
Renato Balestra, who is now 97, opened his first atelier in Rome in 1959, where the company is still based, after an apprenticeship with Jole Veneziani and working for the likes of Emilio Schubert, Maria Antonelli and Sorelle Fontana.
Born into a family of architects and engineers, he stood out for his artistic spirit and was defined as the “painter of fashion.”
His strong passion for cinema led him to design costumes for Ava Gardner in “The Barefoot Contessa” and “The Sun Also Rises;” for Gina Lollobrigida in “Beautiful but Dangerous;” for Sophia Loren in “Lucky to Be a Woman,” and for Candice Bergen in “The Adventurers,” among others, becoming a favorite of movie stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Claudia Cardinale and Carroll Baker, to name a few.
In 1970, he included men’s looks in a women’s fashion show — a pioneer in creating unisex collections on coed catwalks, underscored his granddaughter.