He didn't name what he considers to be his direct competitors, but it's as if he did. To explain why Belstaff is so special, creative director Martin Cooper said it was the only luxury brand, along with Burberry, that originated from outerwear. Not from purses or shoes, not from saddles and trunks. To put it in an elegant way, Belstaff and Burberry are different from Prada, Ferragamo, Hermès and Louis Vuitton. The combination with Burberry is not casual: Cooper, before being called by Belstaff CEO Harry Slatkin, worked for 16 years with Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director (excuse me, chief creative officer). A period the designer described as the "general audition" for his commitment to Belstaff.
There were great expectations for the London presentation of Cooper's first collection that represents the new course for Belstaff, a brand name created in 1924 Britain but that has a very Italian recent past. «Italy will still have a key role in the Belstaff style because we will continue working with businesses and workshops around Tuscany that for years now have been producing for the brand name», said Slatkin, Belstaff CEO since June 9, 2011 when, along with Labelux (of which he is the reference shareholder) and Tommy Hilfiger, he sealed the purchase putting an end to the long and sometimes difficult negotiation with the Malenotti family that controlled Belstaff through Clothing Company. A cash and debt transaction worth some 160 million dollars (120 million euro) for an estimated turnover in 2010 of 80 million euro. «The first objective was to present a collection that spoke for itself giving the idea of the repositioning towards the high scale market that keeps in mind the Belstaff heritage», Slatkin says. «Martin started from two icon jackets the Roadmaster and the Trialmaster and made them more sophisticated and precious working on proportions and choosing materials like python and crocodile or cashmere and fur for the padding and details, especially in the women's pieces».
Details that apparently were very much appreciated by Anna Wintour, among the first to come forward last Sunday in the spaces of Lindsay Hall, a few blocks from Westminster, to see the Belstaff collection designed by Martin Cooper. With a fur coat that covered her up to her feet, ignoring the protests from animal activists that follow her everywhere, it appears that the director of Vogue America urged the next Belstaff presentation to take place in New York.
Instead it appears that choice will fall on Milan: «Shortly we will inaugurate a new showroom and by the end of the year the store in via Borgogna, which is already very central (very close to piazza San Babila), will move to an even more central location, in the heart of the via Montenapoleone fashion district», Harry Slatkin said. «Mono-brand stores are a priority: right after the summer we will open in London, in New Bond Street, a 2,500 meter store, while for New York we chose Madison Avenue. Munich and other cities will follow, as soon as we find the locations that have to be only prime ones. The concept for the stores is entrusted to William Sofield, who, for example, designed the Gucci store during the Tom Ford era». The reference to the US designer who in these days presented in London his third women's "solo" collection is not casual: Domenico De Sole, Gucci CEO when Ford was creative director, sits on the Labelux board.