Mary Katrantzou’s romance with Bulgari began with a bang. The Italian jewelry company loaned its high jewelry for the fashion show the Greek-born, London-based designer staged at Athens’s Temple of Poseidon in October of 2019. The ancient monument, the couture gowns, the Aegean Sea spread out below—it was a spectacular occasion purpose-built to give back. The ticketed event raised funds for the Elpida Association, a children’s cancer charity.
It was no one night stand, either. Together Bulgari and Katrantzou have created a new group of handbags inspired by the jeweler’s most famous icon: the Serpenti. “We felt there was a strong synergy and mutual appreciation, so when they invited me to collaborate on accessories it felt like a natural continuation,” Katrantzou says. What’s remarkable is just how tactile the pieces are considering that all the development took place under COVID lockdowns—i.e. entirely remotely between Bulgari’s Roman headquarters and Katrantzou’s temporary home base in Athens.
Katrantzou’s affection for bijoux has been obvious since her earliest days on the London runways. For her fall 2010 collection she collaged photographic images of all manner of gems. Her spring 2014 evening numbers were dripping in Maison Lesage embroidery, and her fall 2018 showstopper was a richly jeweled Renaissance portrait jacket. As she began work on this collaboration, “the first important thing was to understand what Serpenti meant to me,” Katrantzou says. “It’s a symbol that dates back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology, but its strongest symbolism to me is its power to transform—the way it sheds its skin to allow for growth. These ideas of evolution, rebirth, transformation—especially in the times we are in—felt very relevant. I wanted to look at Serpenti and see how we can amplify it as a symbol.”