MK: “SERPENTI: through the eyes of Mary Katrantzou”, is a limited-edition accessories collection consisting of bags, minaudières and silk scarves, all revolving around the idea of Metamorphosis. Since ancient times the Serpenti holds powerful symbolism in Roman mythology. Drawn to the idea of metamorphosis, my intention was to highlight the Serpenti as a symbol of femininity, transformation and rebirth. My first instinct was to highlight all the different facets of Serpenti: the head, its body and its skin and to give each new meaning through the designs. As a starting point, I wanted to create a minaudière that was inspired by BVLGARI’s much adored Serpenti watch. Bringing the iconic Serpenti head to the forefront of the design, I wanted to use its shape to define the silhouette of the minaudière. Coming in two sizes, the mini clutch is to be worn as a piece of jewellery that opens to reveal a small vanity mirror and comes in shades of light and dark gold. The larger version has enamelled scales and is offered in black and white, crystal rose and a multi-colour harlequin edition. The form of the head and the colouration is inspired by a watch from 1968 that I was drawn to when I visited the historical BVLGARI archive in Rome. For the puffy bags we designed, my intention was to have a specially designed piece of jewellery be part of the bag. We not only created our own head clasp adding to the Bulgarian accessories existing collection, but we also designed a unique handle for the bag in the shape of SERPENTI, drawing inspiration from the Serpenti necklaces BVLGARI produced in the 1960’s. The Serpenti handle curves and dives into the bag and can be replaced by a chain to give the bag dual functionality. The bag itself comes in a variety of colours inspired by jewel tones; Ruby, Turquoise, Onyx, Pearl and Crystal Rose. All precious stones used in BVLGARI high-jewellery collections. The idea of Metamorphosis inspired the creation of the printed embellished bags, as well as the artwork on the scarves. The Serpenti starts coiled, with its scales forming a spiral, slowly breaking apart and transitioning into wing-like shapes that ultimately turn into butterflies. In the scarves the Serpenti experiences one more stage of metamorphosis as the butterflies transition into a bouquet of flowers. The embroidery is a mosaic of crystal beads, gold thread work and custom laser cut paillettes, developed by Montex in Paris, where all the Bjeweleed bags are hand embroidered over the bespoke printed leather. The silk scarves feature the metamorphosis print that is highlighted on the bags but instead of the transformation of the Serpenti into a spiral of butterflies, the Serpenti that has already transformed into being part butterfly, transforms again into a colourful bouquet of flowers in bloom.
B: How did this collaboration first come about and what is the inspiration behind it?
MK: In 2019, I was fortunate to collaborate with BVLGARI on my first couture show that took place at the Temple of Poseidon, in Sounio. The collection itself was inspired by ideas that were birthed in Greece around 450 BC, the same time the temple was built. It felt very natural to collaborate with BVLGARI because of their Roman-Greek heritage. BVLGARI was an intrinsic part of the collection with one-of-a-kind pieces from their high jewellery and incredible archive pieces dating back to the 1960s. Working together, we both felt there was a creative connection and a mutual appreciation which we both wanted to continue exploring with a collaboration on accessories. The inspiration behind this collection was to interpret Serpenti through my eyes. I wanted to highlight the importance of its symbolism, which dates back to Ancient Roman and Greek mythology. Drawn to the idea of metamorphosis, my intention was to highlight the Serpenti, as a symbol of rebirth, transformation and healing.
MK: I wanted to first think about what Serpenti meant to me; a symbol of femininity, transformation and rebirth. The snake sheds its skin to allow for further growth. This concept fascinates me and the journey of evolution became the centre point of the designs with the idea of metamorphosis. The story of metamorphosis is showcased in the embellished bags, where the serpent clasp is visually experiencing the process of transformation. The Serpenti head is central to a spiral created by the snake’s body and its skin transforms into wings of a butterfly to then fully transition into a spiral dance of butterflies, symbolic of the act of transformation and rebirth. This idea is felt throughout the collection with the transformation of the Bulgari Serpenti head from a 1960s watch to a minaudiere, a Bulgari first. I wanted to explore this motif in a completely different scale and create a direct link between the world of high jewellery and watches and that of accessories, even down to the mechanism of the minaudière which opens like the watches do from the snake's tongue. The transformation of the snake into a handle for our puffy bag is also a nod to the idea of metamorphosis.
MK: Metamorphosis refers to transformation, it is the process of rebirth and evolution - adapting to continue evolving and growing. Everyone experiences their own journey of growth and we all go through some type of metamorphosis through life, which is why the Serpenti has a lot of meaning to me. The fantastical metamorphosis of the SERPENTI into a butterfly which is embellished on our bags is one of the truest examples of metamorphosis, given the symbolic nature of the Serpenti and the four-stage life cycle of the butterfly. This idea is felt throughout the collection with the transformation of the Bulgari Serpenti head from a 1960s watch to a minaudiere by exploring this motif in a completely different scale and the translation of the snake body into a handle for our puffy bags which also focuses on the idea of metamorphosis with form and function being at the core of this transformation.
MK: My work is about filtering beauty through design and I try with each collection to build a vocabulary that can become a means for self-expression. I use color freely and boldly in my designs as a wellness tool and I believe fashion can be very empowering for its wearer. My work has always been about the importance of the word idea. It is also the reason I enjoy working with Bulgari so much because they have such an incredible archive and history with so many different and unique ideas that the creative challenge is to decode all their symbols and offer a new perspective.
MK: I was inspired by the Serpenti high-jewellery bracelets and watches BVLGARI designed in the 1960’s and the incredible movement that was achieved with all the Serpenti designs. I wanted to recreate that movement in the form of a bag handle and we designed our own Serpenti handle and clasp to add to their collection. The shape of the bag itself is inspired by the curved lines of the Serpenti body and I wanted to accentuate the femininity of the lines, working closely with the incredible leather craftsmanship of the Bulgari artisans.
MK: My mother always used to wear Bulgari jewelry when I was growing up and she would allow me to play dress up with her pieces, so I was very familiar with their aesthetic at a very young age! I didn’t realize until much later that the founder of BVLGARI, Sotirios Voulgaris, was a Greek silversmith who moved to Rome, where he founded BVLGARI. I can see in the designs his dual origins and that aesthetically is very unique. Looking at their archive and getting to decode the symbolism behind their heritage, I think we share a similar aesthetic in many ways. There is a common appreciation of harmony and balance, a focus on timeless elegance whilst being daring at the same time and of course an affinity to bold color. Working with Bulgari felt like a seamless creative marriage because we share a similar vision and appreciation for the women we design for.