Chiara Boni shows new collection at historic Florentine café
“Bonsoir,” says an offstage voice in French, in the darkness. “And welcome to the Paszkowski Café for the runway show by Madame Chiara Boni,” continues the voice, bidding the audience to enjoy the latest creations by the Italian designer, whose stretch jersey outfits, both chic and easy to wear, are the signature items of her La Petite Robe label. For Pitti Uomo, Boni opted to go back to her native Florence, staging a surprise runway show at the historic Paszkowski Café.
Chiara Boni’s was the first fashion show of 2022, held for a select number of guests seated at the café’s tables in a convivial atmosphere. It was a success, and brought a sprinkle of festive glamour to menswear show Pitti Uomo, which is having to do without its leading special events due to the brutal acceleration of the Omicron variant’s spread in Italy.
As a jazzy melody echoes through the air, a spotlight illuminates the top of a staircase, from which the first model descends. Clad in a clinging suit, a clutch bag in her black-gloved hands and a ribbon around her neck, the model saunters into the café room, sashaying elegantly to the beat. Her high heels ring on the glossy mosaic floor as she crosses the room, which is panelled in dark wood to half its height, illuminated by shell-shaped chandeliers and furnished with pedestal tables, velvet sofas and period prints, witness to the dazzling past of the café, opened in 1846.
She is followed by a succession of sensual looks, featuring body-hugging, tweed-effect corset dresses, slinky, shiny sheath dresses that lengthen the silhouette, matched with long glitzy gloves, sexy tuxedos worn over satin corsets, evening gowns encrusted with pink crystals, and sequinned mermaid-style dresses that glitter in the night.
Party outfits blend unobtrusively with everyday items, like a maxi trench coat in khaki wool felt, a trouser set in ruby velvet, and a tight-fitting, asymmetric jumpsuit that leaves one arm bare, its fabric featuring a masculine herringbone print.
Plenty of accessories add to the glamour, like the long earrings tasselled with a cascade of pearls, and the black-winged headdress that hints at divinity.
Chiara Boni had not shown in Florence since 2015. The label has been showing in New York for a number of years, having focused decidedly on the US market, where it is distributed via leading department store chains, from Hawaii to Chicago. Chiara Boni generates between 75% and 80% of its revenue in the USA, and its other markets are Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
Boni is a versatile designer, notably serving as the brains behind avant-garde boutique ‘You Tarzan, Me Jane’ in Florence in the 1970s. She launched her ready-to-wear label La Petite Robe in 2007, adopting a simple, effective approach: creating clothes that are ultra-comfortable and practical, all made with the same type of stretch fabric. The edges are raw, they have no buttons nor zips, and the garments are slipped on from the feet, clinging to the body with incredible ease.
Depending on the models, sometimes Boni combines other materials with this breathable, hypo-allergenic two-way stretch jersey, which is available in various weights and can also replicate the weave of classic fabrics like tweed and wool.
“Times are uncertain, and planning a show in New York was risky, this is why I chose Florence. I wanted to create something beautiful, something that would put a twinkle in people's eyes. We need it right now,” said Boni at the end of the show. She christened her Fall/Winter 2022-23 collection ‘Atelier Paszkowski’, because “this café, which has a special place in my life, always made me think of an atelier,” she added.
“In 2020, because of the pandemic, our revenue fell by 40%. But we have been recovering strongly since early 2021, especially since May. And we are absolutely booming in the USA, where our retailers have again asked me for a summer capsule collection, the fifth in a row,” said Boni, who also operates two stores in Milan and Rome.
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