By Lucas Pantoja
Amidst the buzz of the Valextra Extra Milano presentation, which brought together a dream team of local designers including unconventional-insider brand SUNNEI, ex-MARNI affiliate Carolina Castiglioni’s PLAN C, natural textiles innovator Arthur Arbesser, California-native JJ Martin’s La DoubleJ, and Daniel Craig’s James Bond designer — Massimo Alba, we at TFP managed to get ahold of Valextra’s CEO Sara Ferrero for an interview. We met with Ferrero the day of the presentation to gather more insight into the Valextra Extra Milano project and discovered how her personal relationships with designers developed into the many charming bags presented for the Valextra fall 2020 collection.
LP: When you first started at Valextra, what about the brand attracted you?
It was the purity and the modernity of a brand, which had been untouched. Valextra has been around for more than 80 years and still it’s been kept so clean and pure. I typically see brands going up and down, having a moment of glory and then disappearing. But Valextra has always remained in the scenario and has never ruined or compromised itself.
Valextra has been around for more than 80 years and still it’s been kept so clean and pure.Sara Ferrero, Valextra CEO
This is really a value that I thought was important and one I could use to build with. Also, the ability of having such an archive full of so many incredible pieces that still serve with a contemporary and modern approach; I thought there was really a new story which could be told for the future of the brand. I knew I had a project already and I could see it in my mind — there was so much that was unexploited here. I realized that I have only to be the narrator because most of the work has already been done.
LP:Which bag or bags do you prefer to use in your own life?
I’m a little bit of an obsessive person that needs to take everything from my life around with me, so I always have bigger bags: where my laptop can be brought with me. I use the Passepartout model a lot. Lately I’ve been combining a bigger bag in which I can easily bring all of the things that I need with a smaller bag to help me find things more easily.
I realized that the older I grow, the more I don’t find anything when using bigger bags. I also try to choose differently sometimes and I change it up — being at Valextra I try to experiment with every bag that we have in our collection.
LP: Of the many fine designers you are collaborating with this season, they are all based in Milan as is Valextra. How did some of these interactions come about? Were you actively pursuing a collaboration with these brands or did some of them come about more naturally than others?
All these people are personal friends of mine. They come to my birthday, we have dinner with each other, and some people I’ve gone on vacation with. The sense of honesty that accompanies this project is of a genuine friendship. It’s not only a collaboration with Valextra, but we’re all among each other and in a way we are all a big family. The team which we knew a little bit less was SUNNEI. They’re the youngest of us but we really love their work and the approach they have: their way of communicating is so sharp.
But the great thing that came out of the Valextra Extra Milano collaboration is not only the project we did but the mechanism which we managed to create. We went to all the shows; everyone came out to support each other, we’re all sharing ideas and sharing suppliers. It goes far deeper than just the bags or the installation. That is what makes me the proudest and I think there is a fundamental message about this.
While collaborations have been churned out left and right by the majority of the fashion industry, Valextra’s Extra Milano sits comforting, as an embrace of community.Sara Ferrero, Valextra CEO
LP: Do you shop from any of the designers here for your personal wardrobe?
This is genuine but I wear more or less everything. I wear a lot of sweaters from Massimo Alba, I’m a complete fan, and if you start wearing the sweaters you’ll find they’re so cozy you’ll want to go to bed in them because you won’t want to take them off. I recently purchased a new leather jacket from PLAN C — I’m in love with it. I love all the proportions and disproportions of her work as well as this sense of empowerment in the colors she uses. I have skirts and dresses from J.J. [Martin] and tonight I’ll be wearing a sweater and a skirt of Arthur’s. But today [for the presentation] I’m not wearing anything from any of the designers here because I don’t want to choose favorites.
Like with kids, I don’t want to give a sign that I love one more than the other because in truth I love them all equally. After so many years in fashion, to be able to use and wear the works of my friends, and to have a little bit of them on me feels much more powerful than simply wearing clothes. There’s a kind of a hug that gives when wearing the works of your friends.
LP: You’re surely a busy woman, but when you need a break from fashion and this business, what do you turn to?
I have my break every evening when I go home to two little kids — one of them is 6 years old and the other one 11 years old. I absolutely make sure that whenever I’m there, I switch off. Also, every weekend I try to go skiing, this weekend is an exception but I hope to go again as soon as I can.
While collaborations have been churned out left and right by the majority of the fashion industry, Valextra’s Extra Milano sits comforting, as an embrace of community and a celebration of Milan’s talented creatives. Only 10 pieces per bag will be available, exclusively at Valextra’s stores and each collaboration will release in a wave with: La DoubleJ in May, SUNNEI in June, Valextra’s own collection in July, PLAN C in September, Arthur Arbesser in October and Massimo Alba closing out in November.
More articles by Lucas Pantoja.
I’m just a guy from Virginia who enjoys writing about clothes. Currently studying creative direction at The Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy.