Time to rediscover this timeless luxe brandBy Ria Francisco-Prieto
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I read that Carl Franz Bally was originally a milliner who set out to find good shoes for his wife. After a trip to Paris, he brought home a pair of slippers that fascinated him. He eventually used his experience running his father’s elastic and silk manufacturing business to develop new shoe-making techniques, and quickly gained a reputation for making elegant handmade shoes.
This was quite a surprise to me since I had thought Bally was a men’s brand that eventually went into women’s fashion. It was obviously the other way around.
In 1851, Carl Franz Bally, with his brother, founded Bally & Co. in Schonenwald. There he employed German shoemakers who worked in the basement of his house.
When his brother Fritz left the business, Carl Franz founded C.F. Bally. The year 1854 was a big one for Bally. It was the year its opened its first factory, which eventually began producing a hundred shoes a day.
The first Bally boutiques were also opened in the Swiss cities of Zurich, Basel and Berin.
In 1868, Bally innovation achieved its peak when the company opened an elastic ribbon factory and a water channel to provide water-driven turbine power, which gave birth to the first MacKay Sole sewing machine. The mechanization of the entire production brought Bally to the top of the European shoe industry in 1870.
The company quickly expanded and Bally shoes become more comfortable, elegant, sought-after, with a strong Parisian influence. Today, Bally is one of the most enduring luxury brands in footwear, synonymous with quality and elegance.
In 2010, it celebrated its 160th year of operation. And in March of the same year, Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz were appointed creative directors of Bally. They made their debut with Bally’s Autumn Winter 2011 collection.
Graeme is from North Shields, England, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fashion Design from Northumbria University in Newcastle. He was part of Ralph Lauren’s creative team in New York; he returned to London in 2003 to head the menswear line at Aquascutum. This was where he met Michael Herz, who was at that time head designer of the womenswear division.
Herz attended Westminister College of Art and completed his Master’s degree at Royal College of Art, London. He first assisted Marc Jacobs on the Iceberg women’s collection for three seasons, then moved to Paris to work under Alber Elbaz for Guy Laroche. In 2003, he moved back to London to head the womenswear collection for Aquascutum. That was the beginning of his design partnership with Graeme.
I have to admit I hadn’t entered a Bally store in years, but I was in Singapore to check out their wares. My perception changed the minute I entered the store and saw the merchandise.
Everything looked so exquisite, classic and elegant, but also modern, with sleek contemporary lines. I did not know where to start looking, since I just wanted to see everything and touch everything.
I decided to start with the men’s collection. The craftsmanship was evident in every Bally item, the finish was impeccable. The use of fabrics was innovative. This collection was inspired by a man imbued with the spirit of a life lived outdoors—masculine yet very stylish. Exactly how I wish men dressed everyday.
Sexy women’s line
Bally’s women’s collection, meanwhile, was sexy. Yes, even if it was the Fall/Winter collection. Sexy doesn’t always mean baring something. Bally’s notes said the collection was inspired by “the romance and mystery of the midnight train to Moscow paired with the brand’s signature sumptuous leather, rich furs, winter wools and soft silks in a palette of moody hues that evokes a highly enigmatic feel.”
The collection made me wish we had winter in the Philippines. The shoes and bags excited me equally. I tried on the Bally-rinas, which were comfortable and stylish, and with heels. I found the bags easy to use, and I just loved how the leather felt.
The store also had some amazing snakeskin pieces. As I left the store, I knew I was officially a Bally convert. The next day I bought two pairs of heels.
Even rappers such as Doug E., Slick Rick and Jay-Z have mentioned this luxurious brand in their song lyrics. I think it’s about time we rediscovered this brand. My husband has. Just this weekend, he came home with a pair of Bally shoes.