It's not hard to guess the famous fashion lineage of 33-year-old Francesca Versace, upon hearing her surname. The niece of Donatella Versace, Francesca has grown up surrounded by designers, so it comes as no surprise that she too has inherited the creative gene and flair for design that her family is so well-known for. Francesca launched her handbag brand f.e.v. (her initials) in January of this year during Paris Fashion Week, and the pieces have just landed in-store exclusively at Boutique 1 this week. We caught up with the designer to chat about the collection, and how it's the perfect fit for the jet set women of the Middle East.
Harper's Bazaar Arabia: How would you describe your collection?
Francesca Versace: f.e.v autumn/winter 16 is a luxurious collection of handbags made in Italy from the finest leathers and skins available. Comprising mainly of smaller bags that travel easily, this collection includes practical cross bodies, sleek clutches that double as iPad cases, chic bum bags, and a newly-defined, stylish backpack.
HBA: Describe the kind of woman you see wearing one of your pieces…
FV: My products are aimed at the ‘gypset' women – those who live a nomadic, free-spirited lifestyle, constantly moving across the globe whether for work or play. f.e.v. is still very much a brand for the people, with practical, stylish products that are as useful as they are beautiful. The bags are for someone who loves to be fashionable with a down-to-earth ease.
HBA: You just launched in January of this year - how long has your own label been in the making for?
FV: My collection is the result of a long journey overall. I spent my childhood surrounded by my family, inspiring art, fascinating people and, for sure, fashion. In London I pursued a degree in fashion design at Central Saint Martins. The discipline I learned combined with my natural free-spiritedness resulted in my own label.
HBA: How has coming from a fashion family influenced your career choice?
FV: My parents never obliged me to go into fashion, it was such a natural path for me that it just happened. I love creating and expressing myself.
HBA: What did you learn from Donatella about starting your own label? Did she give you any words of wisdom or advice?
FV: Yes, she said “follow your guts and do what you love to do, this industry is hard, but you can do it!” - and here I am!
HBA: Why did you choose handbags?
FV: I love the total look from clothes to shoes to bags…but at the moment I am having more fun with bags. Plus, I’m a big vintage bags collector!
Clockwise from top left: Multi Elaphe box bag, Dhs4,375; Mix patchwork zip clutch, Dhs2,300; Multi Elaphe box bag, Dhs4,585; and Mix patchwork zip clutch, Dhs2,300, all f.e.v. at Boutique 1
HBA: What is your most treasured handbag that you own?
FV: A perfume round holder that I bought in a flea market in Uruguay.
HBA: Where do you look for inspiration when you design?
FV: I’ve been inspired by the trips around the world with my friends. Every single trip has given me a series of experiences, sensations and perceptions that I'm now channeling into my bags: from Piazza del Duomo to the dhow masts of Kenya, Central Saint Martins and Saint Barth’s white sands, the scent of basil, rosemary and saffron, a portrait of Calabria, or a snapshot in Shoreditch. Plus, I also use my personal experiences as a mother to influence my creations.
HBA: What was your design philosophy with this collection?
FV: In two words: functionality and luxury-contemporary. Each bag is created to be highly functional, collectible and always light in order to be not just stylish but also comfortable and practical.
HBA: Why did you choose Boutique 1 as your Middle Eastern stockist?
FV: I was looking for a retailer who reflected f.e.v.'s essence and Boutique 1, which is renowned for exclusivity, luxury, and its pioneering spirit, is the best place to be.
HBA: What materials do you use in your bags?
FV: f.e.v. bags are entirely produced in Tuscany, as exclusive Made in Italy products, and feature exotic skins, butter-soft leathers and intricate beading. A central feature in the collection is the water snake (Elaphe) which is sourced from breeding farms and treated according to Washington regulations about the conservation of animals.
HBA: How many collections will you release a year?
FV: Between two and four.
HBA: What can we expect to see next?
FV: My second collection will be resort S/S17 and will be a continuation from autumn/winter with the addition of some new shapes and unexpected bright colours. For this collection, I continued to draw inspiration from my rich Italian heritage.
f.e.v. handbags are now availble in-store and online at Boutique 1