Italian Style, To Go By Sunshine Flint

Fashion designer Antonio Berardi teams up with Peroni to create a new line of luggage….

Fashion designer Antonio Berardi, long a favourite of the stylishly body-conscious set (see Victoria Beckham striding around in his well-cut dresses and heel-less PVC boots), has a new fan in Peroni Nastro Azzurro. The Italian beer-maker and the Anglo-Italian designer have teamed up to create the ultimate in hand-crafted and authentic luggage and travel accessories. The first piece, Valigia, a luxe weekender bag made from palmellato leather, is out this Spring.

The five-year deal with Peroni gives Berardi free rein to come up with concepts and design, and also gives him global distribution possibilities. In the haute couture world, Berardi’s fashions have already expanded into the Russian market, and he has his eye on China and India. But the inspiration all comes from a very Italian place.

He has spent his career taking inspiration from his Italian heritage and spiking it with the discipline of his British education. “Britain inspires me with crisp tailoring and heavier fabrics, while the Italian part of me is a bit frou-frou and romantic,” he says. “The British side is strict, while the Italian side is baroque.” Berardi’s parents emigrated to Britain from Sicily’s Agrigento region, but were determined to hang on to their culture, food and familiar reminders of home. “We imported all Italian food and drinks,” remembers Berardi, and they travelled back to Sicily every summer to visit family. These trips are where the designer drew his inspiration from for his collaboration with Peroni and the individual luggage pieces.

Peroni is a natural partner, according to Berardi, because they are known around the world as a chic and cool Italian brand. The luggage line draws on his Italian heritage and design sensibilities, especially his childhood memories of travel in the 1960s and 70s, when the Med jet set lifestyle was glamour personified, from Sveti Stefan to Forte dei Marmi. The designs also come from his current needs as an artist and entrepreneur who travels frequently for business and pleasure. “I wanted to design something that not only I would use today, but that also brings me back to how I traveled as a kid going to Sicily,” he says. “La bella figura — how you are seen, your image, your travel outfits, your luggage — was very important.”

Sicily continues to inspire him, as seen in his recent Spring/Summer collection, which grabbed attention for its catwalk showstoppers in orange and fuschia. “It’s almost how I was told about Sicily growing up in Lincolnshire, the Sicily of myth,” he recalls. “I’m carrying that on in Fall/Winter with the elements I didn’t get out before, like the sequel of a book or a movie.” His revealing panels, feminine but structured cuts, and inventive use of fur (think embroidered with crystals) appeals to his celebrity and fashion clientele, which has grown since the days when he designed some of Posh and Becks’ wedding outfits. Berardi is grateful, but also knows the price of exclusivity. “We have to cater to them and have more dresses in the collection,” he says. “Because if one wears a dress, another won’t. They all need to be kept in clothes.”

It’s too soon to say if those same fashionistas will be loading this limited edition luggage onto the yacht for the steam down to Costa Smeralda this August. But if the quality and innovation Berardi is valued for are any indication, more than a few will be willing to pack it up.