Sep 11, 2012
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Britain's venerable Belstaff makes New York debut

Sep 11, 2012

NEW YORK, Sept 10, 2012 (AFP) - British heritage brand Belstaff, embarking on a renaissance 88 years after its founding, made its New York fashion week debut Monday with a women's wear collection inspired by vintage travel luggage.

Favored in an earlier time by the likes of film star Steve McQueen and Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, Belstaff is enjoying a new lease on life thanks to Martin Cooper, who signed on as creative director last year.

Belstaff SS 2013 / Photo: Pixel Formula

"The collection is based on the romanticism of travel," he told AFP, recalling how the design studio began collecting vintage travel cases that were then stripped of their leather and vellum.

"We are repositioning Belstaff to be a luxury lifestyle brand," added Cooper, who was previously at Burberry for 16 years, "and today is really our first official introduction into lifestyle luxury."

Down the runway came fluid silk dresses, shirt dresses light as air and three-quarter-length jackets in discreet and elegant shades of eggshell and cafe mocha.

Given the brand's rich history -- storied 1930s aviatrix Amelia Earhart wore Belstaff, as did Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in period films like "The Aviator" and "The Strange Case of Benjamin Button" -- leather was omnipresent.

It appeared not only as detailing, but also in tailored skirts paired with Belstaff's signature Trailmaster four-pocket belted jacket.

Leather has appeared in many shows at New York fashion week, which concludes Thursday, and Cooper said there should be nothing unusual about its popularity for a spring-summer collection.

"They're paper-thin (in texture) and they are perforated, so they're almost like mesh," he said. "The air just gets through. They are very, very beautiful and they are super light."

Founded in Staffordshire, in the north of England, in 1924, and favored in its heyday by aristocrats, Belstaff was acquired in 2011 by the Swiss group Labelux, whose stable includes Jimmy Choo, Derek Lam, Bally and Zagliani.

Monday's show coincided with the opening of the first Belstaff boutique in New York, on Madison Avenue, to be followed in the coming weeks by shops in Milan, Munich and, later on, a massive flagship store in London.

Chief executive Harry Slatkin was visibly pleased with the collection, while US designer Tommy Hilfiger, a member of his board of directors, made a point of attending the show as a front-row guest.

"We have an amazing team," Slatkin said. "It's worked very hard to relaunch the company, and there's more to come."by Brigitte Dusseau

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