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Interview: Etienne Aigner's Creative Director Daniela Bardazzi

Inspiration, process and what it means to modernize a heritage brand

by David Graver in Style on 30 July 2014

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In 1959, Etienne Aigner opened his first showroom in NYC. From Munich, Germany to Paris' fashion elite, he had already established a name as one of the finest in accessory design—a hobby he initially embarked upon while making a living as a bookbinder. His eponymous label Etienne Aigner thrives today as for more than a heritage brand, but also an innovative label with exquisite clothing and accessories, all of which are high-quality yet reasonably priced. Classic shapes come to life with new vision and vibrant materials. From handbags and belts to jewelry and shoes, the entire range of offerings provide valuable, unique options for personal style. And that's all thanks to their present day Creative Director, Daniela Bardazzi. We discussed origins, inspirations and what's to come from Bardazzi and the very exciting brand, Etienne Aigner.

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How did you get involved with the brand?

I'm a big vintage fan, so Aigner was a brand I was familiar with through my seasonal inspiration hunts. When they approached me, I was living in Florence. One of my favorite things about that city is the "well-tended way" of the women there. The older women who dress in their loafers, pressed trousers and top it off with a tailored piece—it is their everyday, go-to-the-market look. I’d come back to NYC and I felt like Brooklyn was producing off shoots of mini Florentine women. It stayed with me, this feeling that between mass market and high luxury there is this new space for this cultural class of women.

How do you keep true to the identity of a heritage brand, while modernizing with each season?

Etienne was an incredibly industrious man who believed in great design and utility. Keeping that foundation, remembering his love of all things polished, but marrying it to the way a modern women wants to live is how I filter.

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I never know what will speak to me—it can be art, architecture or something about a typeface, but it all speaks back to my current perceptions of where women are standing and where they want to go.
Can you tell us a little bit about your design inspirations?

My work is my livelihood, so designing is truly a selfish endeavor for this collection. I have a full life: a job, a family and an amazing circle of cool, inspiring women around me. I design for all of us. When I begin a season I usually start by going through my images—I am an image hoarder! Whatever down time I find, my greatest joy is falling into a Tumblr abyss. I never know what will speak to me—it can be art, architecture or something about a typeface, but it all speaks back to my current perceptions of where women are standing and where they want to go.

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And from there, how does your process continue?

I throw anything and everything onto a wall, sketch, play with swatches, then once I feel I have combed the earth, I peel away and dilute the message. But honestly, it can also be the total opposite. For spring ‘15 I was just fixated on an Andrew Wyeth painting, "Distant Thunder." It was only that and everything sort of just flowed from there—but maybe it was just my desperate longing for a deep sleep in some tall grasses that helped crystallize the vision.

What are your wishes for the future of the brand?

I hope we speak to the tribe we are aiming for. I hope we make weekday mornings a little easier. I hope she falls in love with us because she realizes that we support and understand the fact that she actually wants to be the purveyor of her own brand.

Images courtesy of Etienne Aigner

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