Charlotte Olympia is bringing the glamour back into travel. We meet the luxury shoes and accessories designer as she launches her capsule luggage collection with Globe-Trotter
Shoemaker. Mother of three. Film noir devotee. Multifarious talent, Charlotte Olympia Dellal is a wearer of many hats – a description that seems fitting for a woman who has made her name as one of the fashion world’s most creative and exciting accessories designers. The daughter of Brazilian model Andréa de Magalhães Vieira, Dellal was exposed to fashion from an early age, frequently accompanying her mother to shows in the ’70s and ’80s. Being backstage on those occasions, she recalls how she was enraptured by “the buzz, the energy, the idea of creating something and then it unfolding in front of you – it really resonated with me”.
Dellal studied at London College of Fashion and afterwards applied for a course at Cordwainers when a tutor pointed out that she was focusing an undue amount of attention on the creation of hats, shoes and bags to match her designs – “I guess she thought my focus was on accessories, to me I was just designing a complete look.” But a seed was clearly planted; at Cordwainers Dellal made her first shoe “and fell in love with it”, sparking a passion and the beginning of a global brand.
“It was an enthrallment with glamour that got me into fashion,” the designer tells me. “I love old Hollywood movies – I used to watch them with my mum growing up. I was captivated by these beautiful women on screen and how they accessorised from head to toe. That’s what initially got me hooked: it was the art of dressing up.”
Charlotte Olympia the brand launched in 2008 and quickly established a playful, quirky aesthetic that tapped into the 21st-century woman’s increasing desire to have fun with their clothes – and in particular, their accessories. “You can afford to be that bit more playful with shoes, hats and bags,” Dellal says of the style that pervades her collections. “I’m always looking to emulate that old Hollywood look – from the ’40s and ’50s – when people had a different attitude to dressing. They would never shy away from a flamboyant hat or bold footwear. Accessories say a lot about a person; give ten different women the same accessory and they’ll all wear it in a different way.”
This mix of nostalgia and whimsy has won Dellal legions of fans across the globe, with everyone from Alexa Chung to Beyoncé coveting her designs. She also has ten standalone stores, including outposts in Beverly Hills, Bangkok, Dubai and Moscow. The brand owes much of its success to Dellal’s Kitty slippers, which were created as part of her 2010 To Die For collection and were, she tells me, inspired by an Agatha Christie novel – “I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan.” The cat motif soon became Dellal’s signature appearing on a range of products – from hats and tote bags to phone cases. “It was never intended to be what it became; it was popular and so I kept bringing it back,” she affirms.
The designer is one of fashion’s boundary-pushing figures, as displayed through a series of inspired collaborations and headline-generating Fashion Week presentations. Her list of past collaborators is a mixed bag, ranging from lingerie label Agent Provocateur to toymaker Mattel and Barbie – a project Dellal describes as “a childhood dream come true”.
Today she has unveiled a range of luggage in collaboration with Globe-Trotter, the Mayfair-based experts in luxury travel and leather goods. “I’m a big fan of the brand,” Dellal says of Globe-Trotter. “It taps into my love of a bygone era and the beautiful luggage people used when they travelled, back in a time when travel was an adventure and there was an art form to it.”
Dellal took three of the brand’s existing models – including the trademark suitcase in two sizes and a vanity case – and put the Charlotte Olympia stamp on them, adorning the pieces with a soft cream leopard print pattern and adding a silk spiderweb-patterned lining to the inside. In addition to this, and perhaps not surprisingly, the designer has added a shoe case, which again builds on an original Globe-Trotter aesthetic.
“I went through their archives and found a piece I could base my design on, and adapted it for a modern customer. Heels are higher now and flatforms are bigger; also, I wanted to accommodate more shoes,” she admits.
To coincide with the launch, Dellal has designed a capsule collection of embroidered slippers – ‘Wish You Were Here’ – inspired by travel. Designed to fit into her Globe-Trotter shoe case, each one bears a motif corresponding to a different destination, ranging from the uniquely distinctive Statue of Liberty for New York to Copacabana prints for Brazil, and the more general oceanic shell pattern reflecting Dellal’s love of the seaside.
Dellal’s passion for travel – the possible outcome of a peripatetic upbringing spent between Rio de Janeiro, Paris and London – is evident. She describes Rio as her “home away from home. I always celebrate it in my collections – and I love Japan.” She always travels with a hat – “whatever the season” – and won’t leave home without her sketch book and a red lipstick – “it makes me feel like myself”.
At February’s London Fashion Week, Dellal chose to present her A/W17 collection in cinematic style, inviting fashion’s finest to a screening of An Accessory to Murder at Curzon Mayfair Cinema. This thrilling film noir, directed by Dellal herself, was shot in black and white, using ’40s lights and a ’40s lens. For Dellal, authenticity was key: “these movies are my constant underlying inspiration, and if we were going to do this, I was sure we were going to do it properly.”
For a previous collection, inspired by Miss Chiquita Banana, Dellal presented a runway spectacular featuring technicolour chorus girls and models dressed as fruit. With this in mind, I wonder if she feels an increasing pressure to constantly come up with groundbreaking concepts in order to remain current. She believes there is an element of this but views it as a positive.
“I enjoy the challenge every collection brings. With accessories, we can be more creative as we’re not expected to do a runway show; although, increasingly I’m seeing designers breaking the mould with their ready-to-wear collections. It’s great; creativity drives creativity.”
Within the industry, she is inspired by Miuccia Prada – “she’s built a fantastic brand” – and Giambattista Valli, the only person she worked for before venturing out on her own. “He taught me to never let your standards down.”
When I ask Dellal ‘what’s next?’ she is suddenly coy. If one thing’s for sure, when it comes to Charlotte Olympia, we should expect the unexpected.