“We love our past, but we look to the future,” said Graeme Fidler at the Bally fall-winter 2013-2014 presentation in Milan on 13 January 2013. The past to which he was referring was a momentous event that took place 60 years ago, when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to step onto the summit of Everest. Norgay was wearing a pair of Bally Reindeer Himalaya boots. One of the highlights of this collection is a replica of those boots, made using the same suppliers for the hooks and laces. Bally’s technology then, with their newly-developed rubber sole, helped provide better insulation. Today, the brand has gone even further, with a lightweight, injection-moulded sole that has the same Bally grip tread, but that is even lighter and warmer than the original.
The collection by Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz had a lot more. Many of the pieces in the Everest collection were underscored by a mountaineering theme, with a recurrent yellow colour recalling that of the storm cotton in equipment used by the Everest mountaineers. Coats in the collection feature suede, cashmere and leather, all made to be inherently warm, practical and light. Details are referenced from the Everest archive boots; hoods are in detachable marmot. Perhaps the most important pieces are the boots, large and light pieces with the characteristic tread, and with double-stitch Norwegian construction that means that you can stand ankle-deep in snow or even water and still stay dry. Accessories include backpacks and weekend bags whose rugged construction makes them supremely practical and durable.
Another interesting new feature is the Injection Moulded Lug Sole shoe. At first sight, these look like classic brogues, ideal for the city. But you just have to turn them over, and you find a rubber sold with the patented Bally tread with which you could climb a snowy slope without slipping. The finish of Bally’s shoes is superb, with every pair hand-coloured. After construction has been completed, each pair is stained, left to dry, and then stained again, until the desired colour has been achieved. This means that subtle gradations of tone, in the shades brown, red and petrol blue, can be achieved.
The Cervo collection presents a new series of bomber jackets, shoes and bags. Light, classic and practical, they are made in deer skin, supremely durable. The collection has references to the Alpine landscape in its colours: loden, dark flint, bark, night sky.
Today, for many people, dreams of the mountains often end once the weekend in Switzerland is over and it’s back to the boardroom in Milan. The Milano Business Collection comprises new innovative colours applied to iPad and iPhone cases, briefcases, and an original men’s business clutch, with two zips and lots of room for a tablet, credit cards and so forth. The iPad case in particular has been carefully engineered, in order to hold the detachable keyboard often used with an iPad.
The Bally Stripe capsule collection features the classic Bally red and white stripe, used in a series of deconstructed casual bags, comprising a tote, a weekender and a computer bag. They have been designed to minimize themes, while colour is based on chestnut leather.
Altogether, a powerful and effective presentation, based on real content and a remarkable heritage. The Everest boots will hit the stores in June, in time for the anniversary of that memorable day on 29 May, 1953. Hillary was from New Zealand, Tenzing Norgay was from Nepal; Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz are British, like expedition leader John Hunt. Another example of soft power: this time not just British, but Swiss as well.
Bally, meet the Scribe